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Intrinsic Motivation – What is it? Characteristics and Importance

Definition of intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to reflect a behavior arises from within the individual because the action, activity, interest, is naturally satisfactory to the person. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior to gain external rewards or avoid punishment.

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What is intrinsic motivation?

In the field of psychology, intrinsic motivation differentiates between internal and external rewards. Therefore, the authors define it as the process that occurs when one acts without any evident external reward. One simply enjoys an activity or looks at it as an opportunity to explore, learn and update one’s potential.

There are several activities that fall into this category. For example, you can plant a garden, paint a picture, play a game, write a story and read a book spontaneously.  This may or may not produce something or be rewarded in some way. Instead, you can also do these activities for pleasure, or satisfaction.

Why is Intrinsic Motivation important?

When you do an activity for pure pleasure, you do it because you are intrinsically motivated. Likewise, the motivation to participate in the behavior comes entirely from within rather than from a desire for some kind of external reward such as prizes, money or acclaim.

Of course, this does not mean that intrinsically motivated behaviors do not come with their own rewards. These rewards involve the creation of positive emotions within the individual.

Activities can generate such feelings when they give people a sense of meaning such as participating in volunteer and church events. They can also give a sense of progress when they see that their work is achieving something positive, and of competence when they learn something new and the person becomes more skilled at a task.

This theory is used in the labor field to increase productivity by weighing the actual quality of work performed against intrinsic factors, even when extrinsic rewards are given as bonuses. Therefore, if you are doing something that seems rewarding, interesting and challenging, you are more likely to come up with novel ideas and creative solutions.

Intrinsic motivation is an important issue in education, because teachers and instructional designers strive to develop learning environments that are intrinsically rewarding. Unfortunately, many traditional paradigms suggest that most students find learning boring, so they must be extrinsically pushed into educational activities whose extrinsic motivation is grades.

Definition of intrinsic motivation

How to use motivation? 

There are factors in the workplace that can be used as indicators of increased intrinsic motivation in employees, and these include

The Challenge: People are more motivated when they pursue goals with personal meaning and when the achievement of the goal is possible but not necessarily certain. These objectives can also be related to their self-esteem when performance information is available.

Curiosity: Internal motivation increases when something in the physical environment attracts the individual’s attention (sensory curiosity). It also occurs when something in the activity stimulates the person to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).

Control: People want control over themselves and their environment and want to determine what they are after.

Cooperation and Competence: Intrinsic motivation can increase in situations where people gain satisfaction from helping others. It also applies to cases where they are able to compare their own performance favourably with that of others.

Recognition: People enjoy having their achievements recognized by others, which can increase internal motivation.

Intrinsic motivators are a bit complicated because, the kind of internal motivation that drives one staff member may not do anything for another staff member. Intrinsic motivation in sports, for example, relates to aspects such as competitiveness, strength, energy and health benefits – mental, emotional and physical – that are gained from being active, being part of a team and doing something that is enjoyed showing that, everything is good. But, it is known that, not everyone likes to sweat on a field, a track or a circuit or make efforts to be in shape.