Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Explained with Examples

Editorial Team

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation is an important factor when it comes to production. How well we tackle issues and get things done in our daily life is influenced by how motivated we are. The same also applies to the office or work settings. Employees need to stay motivated to give their all.

It is worth noting that there are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. In this article, we look at both, complete with examples to help you know more about them and how to leverage them for optimum production, be it in your organization or workplace.

We will tackle each of them separately and then round up the article with a detailed comparison. Let’s get started.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation comprises two words whose definitions can help us clearly understand what it means. Intrinsic means originating from within or occurring naturally, whereas motivation is a reason for behaving in a certain way.

Intrinsic motivation, therefore, arises from within. It is the act of doing something without expecting any reward. It normally comes up when someone enjoys doing an interesting activity and not because he/ she is pressured into it or promised an incentive.

For example, you can choose to watch a show because you find watching enjoyable and are interested in the movie genre. This is different from watching a show because you have to write a summary and prepare a report based on the occurrences.


People have tried to explain intrinsic motivation and how it works, explaining several proposed theories. Some experts believe that we all act in certain ways because of an external reward, either money, incentives, acknowledgment, or status. Under this school of thought, the reward is often the activity itself in intrinsic motivation.

However, most experts agree that intrinsic motivation came up as a result of people’s needs and drives. People were inwardly motivated to pursue biological needs such as thirst, hunger, and sex to stay alive and live a healthy life.

The same also applies to physiological needs such as autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which must be pursued and satisfied for a fulfilling life. This theory agrees that intrinsic motivation helps us engage in activities that we consider challenging, enjoyable, and interesting or bring about internal rewards rather than external ones.


It is important to note that we are all motivated differently, given that human beings are inherently different. Do not expect that another person will be inwardly motivated to do the same task as you.

For example, you may have picked up reading because your thirst for knowledge drives you and you find it interesting, whereas someone else will only read if he/ she is expected to write a report on or sit for a test.

To help you understand how intrinsic motivation works, let us take a look at some of the factors that promote intrinsic motivation:

  • Challenge– Humans love challenges since we have an innate desire to prove ourselves. Therefore, whenever we are challenged, we find ourselves pushing ourselves harder towards achieving the set goals.
  • Curiosity– This stems from the desire to know something. We, as human beings, experience an inward push to explore and find out more about something without expecting any reward to satisfy our curiosities.
  • Competition– We always feel challenged whenever we face competitions. This challenge, therefore, puts on us the pressure of performing well or beating our opponents, giving us the inward push.
  • Cooperation– As humans, we normally have an innate desire to belong, feel wanted, and valued, which is normally achieved through cooperating with others. We also feel satisfied when our input makes the achievement of a common goal possible.
  • Control- We always want to be a step ahead of things and control what happens in our lives, which involves making decisions for the best outcome. Our desire for control, therefore, gives us the inward push necessary to achieve it.
  • Fantasy– The last factor is vision, which involves using both mental and virtual images for behavioral stimulation. Most virtual games have leveraged this factor to keep players motivated by demanding that they perform a given action to access another level.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

There are several examples that we can give when it comes to intrinsic motivation. These are normal life experiences that we are internally motivated to perform without much thought.

  • Learning a new programming language because you enjoy programming instead of doing it to increase your client base.
  • Picking up a sport because you enjoy it rather than pursuing it professionally and get awarded.
  • Learning French or any other language because you are adventurous and not because the job you are eyeing wants you to be fluent in it.
  • Drawing because you enjoy it, not because you want to make some money off the final product.
  • Jogging every morning because it clears your mind and not because you are preparing for a tournament.
  • Becoming a volunteer because you feel like helping others and not to build your resume.
  • Playing instruments because you love music, not because you are preparing for a band audition.
  • Exercising regularly because you enjoy pushing your body, not because you want to lose weight or get a ‘vacation’ physique.

These are just but a few examples of intrinsic motivation. Now that you understand what this type of motivation is, we ought to inform you how you can get better at practicing it.

How To Improve / Better Intrinsic Motivation

  • Have Fun

The most obvious way of leveraging intrinsic motivation is to have fun while doing activities. Ensure that you look for fun in given tasks and activities to make them more engaging and self-rewarding, even if they are not as interesting as you would want.

  • Challenge Yourself Always

Challenging yourself by setting attainable goals will give you the inward push needed for the activities you engage in. ensure that these goals are focused on bettering yourself and not some external rewards.

  • Be Helpful

You can better intrinsic motivation if you help someone in need, be it a friend stuck somewhere or a colleague. Remember, as we mentioned, one of the factors that fuel intrinsic motivation is collaboration.

Other practices include focusing on your value to find meaning, drafting a list of everything you have always wanted to do and randomly doing them whenever you are free or feeling unmotivated, taking part in competitions and focusing on your performance other than winning or visualizing one of your best moments after completing a previous task before starting on a new one.

Extrinsic Motivation

We have covered most of the things you need to know about intrinsic motivation, and therefore, this part of the article is dedicated to the second type-extrinsic motivation. Unlike the first one, extrinsic motivation does not arise from within.

Someone who is extrinsically motivated is driven by an external reward, which may take different forms. This can either be tangible such as money and incentives, or intangible such as praise. Extrinsic motivation is, therefore, based on external rewards.

This is normally the case in office settings. Several employees work diligently to be paid at the end of the month or at an agreed time. Their source of motivation is, therefore, money, which is an external reward. That does not, however, mean that there are no cases of intrinsic motivation in workplaces.

Extrinsically motivated people do not care if the job is rewarding or not, explaining why many people spend a huge part of their life in a job they do not like. It is classified as operant conditioning, where a person is made to act in a certain way because of a given reward, either external or psychological.

This type of motivation is normally used to motivate people to do various things, especially in the job setting. Working diligently to get promoted after some time is extrinsic motivation; you are not after an internal reward but an external one.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

We have mentioned a few examples right to this moment. However, here are some more:

  1. Taking part in a sport to gain trophies.
  2. Shopping in a given place consistently to get customer loyalty points.
  3. Engaging in an activity for money
  4. Buying a product to get another one free
  5. Reading to pass exams or write a report based on the content.
  6. Helping others to obtain praise and well wishes from those around you.
  7. Engaging in activities to get famous
  8. Diligently finishing your classwork for good grades.
  9. Engaging in an activity to gain fame or avoid judgment

In short, doing anything for an external reward is a classic example of extrinsic motivation.


We all know that extrinsic motivation is based on an external reward and not inward-driven like intrinsic motivation. The main question that therefore arises is whether it is effective or not. Well, just like intrinsic motivation, it can more effective for some than others.

Not all situations are also suited for extrinsic motivation. Some people find it easy to consistently deliver high-quality work based on the assurance of an external reward, whereas others are more motivated by the value they bring.

To be effective, this type of motivation should be used in circumstances where the reward is sparingly used, ensuring that it does not lose its impact. Remember, where it is the main driving force behind production, the reward can easily lose its value when over given, which brings us to the overjustification effect.

The Overjustification effect occurs when an activity that one enjoys is overly-rewarded, leading to a loss of interest. It, therefore, brings about a decrease in intrinsically motivated behaviors when the external reward is discontinued. People rewarded every time they do something may fail to engage in intrinsically motivated activities once the rewards go.

Extrinsic motivation can also make activities that were initially done for fun become work or obligations due to an external reward. They must therefore be used well and with the right caution, lest everything changes.

All in all, providing an external reward can be a good way of making people stay motivated in a given task, especially when dealing with something difficult or boring.

Extrinsic Motivation Best Practices

Extrinsic motivation should be used where external rewards motivate behavior. Here are, therefore, some of the situations that necessitate the use of extrinsic motivation:

  • To build people’s interest in an activity.
  • Where people do not have the right skills to get started on a task
  • To act as a short-term motivator, especially when aiming to meet a given purpose.
  • To keep people’s motivation at an all-time high when working on long-term projects.

However, note that the rewards should be given sparingly and to perform a task. The provision should stop once a given purpose has been met or the necessary skills needed for an activity established.

Differences Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The main difference between these two lies in their origin. Intrinsic motivation arises from within, i.e., internally, whereas extrinsic motivation is brought about by the promise of an incentive or external reward.

The effectiveness of these two also differs. Intrinsic motivation is more effective, given that it arises out of passion, challenge, or any other inward factor. It is usually more fulfilling and has a personal touch. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, cannot be effective in all situations. It can also create the overjustification effect, and the external rewards may lose their value if overused.

Therefore, people should strive to be intrinsically motivated when going about different activities instead of focusing on external rewards. In case extrinsic motivation is needed, the rewards should be given sparingly to avoid losing value.


Be it intrinsic or extrinsic; motivation plays an important role in production. Organizations should therefore strive to ensure that their employees are properly motivated for maximum output. Also, employers should put measures in place to make the employees intrinsically motivated instead of overly relying on external rewards to give them the necessary push.