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Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Differences & Examples

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

The key difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is that intrinsic motivation comes from internal enjoyment and interests, while extrinsic motivation is fueled by external factors such as rewards or fear of punishment.​1​

Intrinsically motivated individuals are inspired by their interests, passions, or the inherent enjoyment of the task.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when external factors influence actions, such as financial incentives, praise, grades, or penalties.

However, intrinsic and extrinsic do not represent where the motivation comes from because motivation from within can be extrinsic, too.

For example, wanting to get good grades may come from within a student because they want to go to college. Even though this is an internal desire, the student still acts on extrinsic motivation because they do it for a separable reason other than enjoying the activity.

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Types Of Motivation

In psychology, there are three different types of motivation:

  • intrinsic motivation
  • extrinsic motivation
  • amotivation

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is engaging in an activity because it is enjoyable.

You may find it fun or challenging.

You are doing the activity for its own sake, not because you’ll get obvious external rewards or extrinsic motivators. The feeling from doing the task itself is the reward.

Think about what you do in everyday life that you engage in for its pure enjoyment.

If you are reading this article out of interest and curiosity and enjoy learning more about the topic, then you are intrinsically motivated.

Volition plays a crucial role in this type of motivation, as your enjoyment drives you to engage in activities purely for the joy they bring, without any external incentives.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to doing something not because you enjoy it but because you want to earn extrinsic rewards or avoid punishment. 

External motivation is the exact opposite of intrinsic motivation.

Using extrinsic motivation to drive human behavior is pervasive in daily life.

You are extrinsically motivated if you read this article because you need the information to prepare for an exam or write a paper. That’s an extrinsic goal.

You may look for this information not because you’re interested but because of academic pressures to get a good grade in school.


Amotivation is a state of lacking the motivation to engage in an activity.

A noticeable absence of motivation or inspiration leads to reduced effort, lack of interest, or task abandonment.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation examples

Examples of intrinsic motivation Examples of extrinsic motivation
Practicing tennis for funPracticing tennis to win a game
Playing the piano because you enjoy making musicPlaying the piano because you want to avoid being nagged
Reading a novel for pleasureReading a novel to write a book report
Volunteering because you enjoy helping othersVolunteering because you want others to like you
Watching a movie for the excitementGoing to a movie to chaperone
Studying because you enjoy learning about the topicStudying because you want good grades to please your parents
Working hard because you enjoy being good at itWorking hard because you want to earn a bonus
Taking a walk to relaxTaking a walk to lose weight
Playing with your child to feel connectedPlaying with your child to prevent tantrum
Saying thank you because you appreciate other’s helpSaying thank you because you want to follow social rules
Learning a new language because you enjoy learning new thingsLearning a new language to work in another country
Cooking because you like creating new dishesCooking because your family is hungry
Making craft because you enjoy being creativeMaking crafts to sell for money
Smiling because you feel good doing itSmiling because you feel socially obligated
Working hard because a positive work environment energizes youWorking hard because financial incentives will be given.
Doing chores because you enjoy organizing your homeDoing chores because you want to earn an allowance

Which is better

Different motivations can substantially affect the quality of the action and outcomes, even though they can generate similar motivated behaviors.

Research shows that when people are intrinsically motivated, the quality of their actions is better, leading to better performance, especially in the long term.

They are more passionate, show better engagement, and have a stronger sense of personal commitment.

Intrinsic motivation fuels persistence in overcoming challenges and enhances creativity, leading to innovative solutions and sustained effort.​2​

Although intrinsic motivation seems to be better, extrinsic motivation is also valuable when an intrinsic motivator is not present.

There are times when extrinsic motivation acts like an intrinsic equivalent.

A person can internalize the reason for an action because it aligns with their values, leading to an internal drive that mirrors the effects of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can coexist

Sometimes, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can co-exist even though they are the opposite of each other.

For instance, you can study psychology because you enjoy learning about this topic and want to get good grades.

Therefore, you study very hard because of both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives.

You have both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons to learn.

Intrinsic motivators

The Self-determination Theory, a well-structured model proposed by Deci & Ryan at the University of Rochester, suggests that three psychological needs are intrinsic motivators.​3​

These motivators are essential for human motivation and well-being.

These human needs are pivotal in fostering a person’s development and satisfaction.

1. Autonomy

People can only be intrinsically motivated when they feel they have the autonomy to choose their goals and the direction they want to take.

Children need to feel they are choosing to do something because they want to, not because they have to.

This means making a “free choice” without feeling forced or uninterested (free from motivation).

It’s not just about aiming for a reward or a separable outcome but doing things that truly matter to them.

2. Sense Of Competence

One of the biggest intrinsic motivators is a sense of competence, especially when tied to new skills development.

When a person completes a difficult task or masters a new skill, they feel accomplished and are more likely to do it again.

Engage in a new challenge that is difficult enough so that is exciting but not too hard that it is deterring.

Reaching goals, especially challenging ones, adds to experiences that boost intrinsic motivation.

3. Relatedness

Human beings are wired to seek connections with others.

Relatedness is one of the most potent psychological needs.

It refers to how well one feels connected, secure, respected, and cared for by others.

Positive social interactions and relationships are both basic needs and intrinsic motivators.

Overjustification effect

Researchers have found evidence that intrinsic motivation decreases when individuals are given external motivators (e.g., monetary rewards) to engage in initially enjoyable activities (e.g., solving puzzles).

If they are subsequently offered the opportunity to do it without a reward, they will be less likely to engage.

This phenomenon is called the overjustification effect.

The overjustification effect happens when an external force over-justifies the reasons for engaging, which used to be its reward.​4​

It underscores the delicate balance between intrinsic and extrinsic factors in human motivation and the potential outcome of their interplay.

Four types of extrinsic motivations

There are four different types of extrinsic motivation.

They are external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, and integrated regulation.

1. External Regulation

External regulation is the most basic type of extrinsic motivation.

External factors and tangible rewards such as money, grades, or praise drive it.

Individuals are motivated to perform a task to receive a reward or avoid punishment.

The behavior is not self-determined as external factors regulate it.

The individual does not enjoy the task but performs it to get the reward or avoid adverse outcomes.

This type of motivation is often temporary and can diminish once the reward is obtained.

2. Introjected Regulation

Introjected regulation involves performing a task to avoid guilt or anxiety or to boost one’s ego.

It is still considered an extrinsic motivation because the behavior is not performed for the inherent enjoyment of the task but to achieve some internalized external rewards.

In this type, self-regulation is low.

Individuals are often motivated by obligation, guilt, or shame.

They have introjected the values and regulations but have not entirely accepted them as their own.

3. Identified Regulation

Identified regulation occurs when individuals identify with the value of behavior and accept it as their own.

This type of extrinsic motivation is more self-determined than external and introjected regulation.

Individuals perform the task because they see its importance and value, even though they might not find it enjoyable.

The behavior is motivated by personal goals and values, indicating a higher self-regulation level than the previous types.

4. Integrated Regulation

Integrated regulation is the most autonomous or self-determined form of extrinsic motivation.

It occurs when a person fully accepts and agrees with the reasons behind their actions, making those reasons a part of who they are.

It’s like a child learning spelling because he understands it will help him read story books, a goal he cares about.

In integrated motivation, people do things because they believe those things are important and align with their own values and goals, even though there’s a separate outcome or reward.

It’s a mix of doing something because you have to and want to, making the task feel more personal and meaningful.

How to motivate effectively

Psychologists Lepper and Greene did a series of studies to understand the nuanced interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic types of motivation.

Here are tips on motivating effectively.

Address underlying reasons for amotivation

Individuals need reasons or intentions to act.

Finding a clear and achievable goal is the first step in overcoming amotivation.​5​

If there is resistance, engage in self-reflection to understand the root causes.

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can also prevent you from being motivated.

Example: Jane has been feeling unmotivated to exercise. She sets a clear goal to lose weight and identifies that her lack of motivation stems from the monotony of her workout routine. By switching to different exercises and focusing on her health benefits, she overcomes her amotivation.

Allow autonomy

Intrinsic motivation is preferred when motivating people, especially children, for better performance.

Giving individuals a choice and control over their actions can instill a sense of autonomy, which is crucial for developing intrinsic motivation.​6​

Example: A teacher wants to increase students’ interest in reading. Instead of assigning specific books, she allows students to choose their reading material from a curated list. This autonomy boosts their interest and engagement in reading.

Develop competence

Lacking the skills or abilities to complete a task can significantly impede motivation.

Evaluate if the task is too difficult or easy.

New skills can be developed by engaging in appropriately challenging tasks. 

The tasks should be neither too easy nor too difficult, striking a balance that allows the person to feel challenged without being overwhelmed. 

An optimal level of difficulty can foster a sense of competence.

Example: John struggles with coding, leading to a lack of motivation. He starts with small coding projects that are challenging yet achievable. As he completes each project, his skills and confidence grow, enhancing his motivation.

Establish a connection or belonging

Creating environments where people feel understood, supported, and valued by peers can motivate them intrinsically.

Participating in a community with shared goals can help people feel more connected and belong.

Example: Sarah feels isolated at her new job. Her manager creates team-building activities where employees share their experiences and collaborate on projects. This fosters a sense of community, making Sarah feel valued and motivated.

Leverage integrated regulation

When intrinsic motivation is lacking, integrated regulation can be a powerful tool to enhance motivation. 

This involves helping the individual recognize the personal value and relevance of the task. 

Begin by aligning the task with their core values and goals. 

Make the benefits of the task relatable, emphasizing how it contributes to their personal or professional development. 

Internalizing these benefits makes the individual more engaged and motivated, even without intrinsic motivation.

Example: Alex lacks intrinsic motivation to complete his professional development courses. His mentor helps him see how these courses align with his career goal of becoming a manager. Recognizing the courses’ value, Alex becomes motivated to complete them, seeing them as steps toward his larger career aspirations.

Also see: What motivates your child to learn


  1. 1.
    Ryan RM, Koestner R, Deci EL. Ego-involved persistence: When free-choice behavior is not intrinsically motivated. Motiv Emot. Published online September 1991:185-205. doi:10.1007/bf00995170
  2. 2.
    Ryan R, Deci E. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemp Educ Psychol. 2000;25(1):54-67.
  3. 3.
    Deci EL, Vallerand RJ, Pelletier LG, Ryan RM. Motivation and Education: The Self-Determination Perspective. Educational Psychologist. Published online June 1991:325-346. doi:10.1080/00461520.1991.9653137
  4. 4.
    Tang SH, Hall VC. The overjustification effect: A meta-analysis. Appl Cognit Psychol. Published online October 1995:365-404. doi:10.1002/acp.2350090502
  5. 5.
    Leroy N, Bressoux P. Does amotivation matter more than motivation in predicting mathematics learning gains? A longitudinal study of sixth-grade students in France. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Published online January 2016:41-53. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2016.02.001
  6. 6.
    Gillet N, Vallerand RJ, Lafrenière MAK, Bureau JS. The mediating role of positive and negative affect in the situational motivation-performance relationship. Motiv Emot. Published online July 21, 2012:465-479. doi:10.1007/s11031-012-9314-5


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