Motivation is that force that drives people to carry out any type of activity or to initiate and maintain all the projects that are proposed . This motivation acts both on a professional or academic level, such as starting a competition; and on a personal level, for example, starting a weight-loss diet.

To achieve these objectives, the person relies on a series of motivations that can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Throughout this article, we will explain what extrinsic motivation consists of, as well as the differences between it and intrinsic motivation and what stages the person goes through with this type of motivation.

Related article: “Motivation Types: The 8 Motivational Sources”

What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation refers to the type of motivation in which the reasons that lead a person to perform a certain job or activity are located outside of the person; in other words, they are subject to contingencies or external factors.

In this kind of motivation, incentives or reinforcements, both positive and negative, are external and beyond the person’s control. Therefore, it is conceived as extrinsic motivation all those types of prizes or rewards that we obtain or are given when we perform a certain task or work.

The example of external motivation par excellence is the salary that a person receives in exchange for doing his job . Another example may be those rewards or prizes that parents give to their children in exchange for their good academic performance.

Finally, another, less material, example is the praise and recognition a person can receive after successfully completing a task.

However, in most cases where the motivation is exclusively extrinsic, there is a decrease in performance regardless of the area referred to. Therefore, extrinsic motivation is not a good ally for long-term projects.

The external rewards keep the person away from the motivation that really matters: the intrinsic motivation . It is proven that when a person starts an activity or task motivated by internal factors and later on external rewards are added, efficiency and productivity decrease over time. The explanation is simple, something that starts out as the mere pleasure of performing an activity ends up being perceived as an obligation and is not enjoyed in the same way.

However, this does not imply that every extrinsic motivation is harmful. The feeling after receiving a reward or prize for a job well done is always pleasant and enjoyable, but it should not end up replacing the satisfaction or delight that the activity itself provides.

Differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

As mentioned above, there is another type of motivation other than the extrinsic one and that is the motivation that is born from within the person.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are completely different forms of motivation, but they have in common that both can be presented in a positive or negative way and are susceptible to exert both effects on the person’s performance.

The following explains what these types of positive and negative motivation consist of:

1. Positive motivation

In this type of motivation the person initiates, directs and sustains his performance with the intention of achieving some kind of reward . In the extrinsic motivation, it may be an economic reward or prize, and in the intrinsic one, the self-gratification or satisfaction that the task itself brings to the individual. These rewards act as behavioural reinforcers.

2. Negative motivation

In these cases the person initiates or maintains a behavior or activity with the objective of avoiding or avoiding a consequence that he or she considers unpleasant. When this negative consequence comes from the outside, it may be to avoid some kind of punishment, while when it comes from the inside it may be that what the person is trying to avoid is a feeling of frustration at a possible failure.

As for the main differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation has its origin in the person who carries out the activity and extrinsic motivation is incited by factors or agents external to him or her.

There are a series of factors that influence motivation, in the case of intrinsic motivation this is determined by internal agents such as interest, satisfaction, self-realization or internal needs . In addition, when motivation comes from within, the person is able to maintain this mood for longer, which is why this type of motivation is so important.

Meanwhile, in the extrinsic motivation the person does expect some kind of gratification, retribution or external recognition. Among the elements that give rise to this motivation are external pressure, the need for recognition or the need for social support.

Also, both forms of motivation can appear both together and independently and be used in any area where the person has to perform a behaviour, task or activity for a specific purpose. Either a productive end (production of a company) or a personal end (losing weight).

Phases of extrinsic motivation

According to a theory developed by researchers Deci and Ryan in 1985, there are a series of stages or stages through which a person can pass from a phase in which the motivation is purely external , to a final stage in which he is able to integrate and assume the purpose of his activity as his own.

However, these stages are not all compulsory. That is, a person can start in stage 3 and evolve or remain in one state constantly.

1. External motivation

In this first stage motivation is completely determined by external factors . The person has no control over it and performs the task only on external demand and in expectation of a reward.

2. Introjected motivation

In this second case the goal continues to be to meet a demand made from outside , however the retribution or satisfaction is internal. This motivation is related to self-esteem, to self-realization, but the person still does not have absolute control.

3. Identification-regulated motivation

In this third stage the person maintains his behavior or executes the task for reasons external to him . However, he or she has even more autonomy and sufficiency to make decisions about the reward.

4. Motivation for integration

It is the last stage in which motivation is practically intrinsic. In this stage the person incorporates the purpose as his own. However, it cannot be categorized as intrinsic since the activity is not carried out for the mere satisfaction of performing it. Even so, compared to the rest of the stages, this is the one in which the person obtains a better performance .