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Extrinsic Motivation: What, How & Examples (Complete Guide)

Extrinsic Motivation – Theory, Overview & List of 30 Extrinsic Examples

Extrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from external sources. For example, if a person needs money to pay their rent, they will be motivated to get a job and work to satisfy this need for money.

However, there is also an opposite side of the coin called intrinsic motivation which means you do something because it makes you feel good about yourself and not because someone is paying you or pressuring you into doing it.

The problem with extrinsic motivations is that once we have achieved our goal we stop working towards achieving anything else as there are no other rewards on offer.

In this article, you will discover the meaning of extrinsic motivation, what the theory is behind it, and different examples of extrinsic motivation.

What Is Extrinsic Motivation? Definition & Theory

Extrinsic motivation is the desire to do something because it will satisfy a want or need. It is the opposite of intrinsic motivation which is doing something without expecting any reward or external incentives.

Let’s have a look at some examples from both of these types of motivation.

Example 1 – Joanne needs a good-paying job so she can afford a nice apartment in town and eat out at fancy restaurants every weekend. She works hard for her job because she wants that nice apartment and does not want to be stuck in a small studio apartment any longer.

She has no interest in the actual work she is doing but enjoys the perks of being able to live well and enjoy herself when not working.

Example 2 – Josie loves having free time on her hands. She knows she will be rewarded with money if she works hard during the week, but she doesn’t like doing all of that work so chooses to find another job where the hours are less.

She would rather spend her time playing in a band, or volunteering at a charity shop. Josie has a lot of intrinsic motivation because she does things for personal satisfaction and not for any external reward.

Example 3 – Mike does some voluntary work with children after school every day because he loves being able to help them achieve what they want.

He is intrinsically motivated and enjoys it as well as getting great fulfillment out of achieving something himself.

30 Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

  1. Doing well at work because you can get a promotion
  2. Going to the gym because you want to look good in the eyes of others
  3. Working hard in high school so that you can go to college
  4. Taking out trash/recycling when people ask or nag you to do so
  5. Spending money on clothing, make-up/grooming products, and accessories because it makes you feel good about yourself
  6. Paying extra for organic food when there is no nutritional benefit because it’s what your friends do
  7. Following a celebrity or pop culture trend because it makes you feel like part of a group
  8. Buying designer clothes and accessories to make yourself look better than others
  9. Having children so that you can feel like a responsible adult 
  10. Doing well at school for your parents’/teachers’ approval
  11. Going into debt to buy unnecessary items just because they are shiny and new 
  12. Paying for meals for friends out of guilt for something they said
  13. Buying other people gifts when they didn’t deserve it (an apology gift)
  14. Doing all the chores at home so that people think highly of you as a homemaker
  15. Applying makeup, hair products, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, foundation, and lip gloss because these things make you look good
  16. Paying for an expensive gym membership so that you can work out in the nicest facilities
  17. Buying new clothing or accessories when it’s on sale
  18. Working hard at your job so that you get a bonus/raise/possible promotion
  19. Pushing yourself during sports practices so that the coaches notice how hard you are working 
  20. Being proud to show off your body by wearing short skirts and exposing more skin when people are looking (in some cultures this is acceptable)
  21. Wearing a tight T-shirt with messages about what kind of person you want others to think that you are
  22. Moving ahead faster in life because someone has helped pave the way for you and you don’t want to let them down
  23. Taking time to look good every day, putting on make-up, doing your hair and wearing nice clothes so that other people will notice how great you look
  24. Going out with friends because to get over your ex
  25. Being careful of what you say around certain people because they might be offended. 
  26. Trying to get up early because you don’t want to miss out on anything your friends are doing.
  27. Doing what your manager/co-worker tells you because it’s in line with company policy or procedure
  28. Going to work even though you are sick, for fear of getting fired
  29. Working hard at school or work so that people will take notice and think you’re smart
  30. Asking about someone’s private life just to gossip (even if they end up telling you too much)

Benefits and Advantages of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is important in our day-to-day lives because it provides us with the push we need to do things.

When we are motivated by extrinsic factors, it gives us a reason or sense of purpose and it also helps us feel satisfied. The problem comes when people only rely on extrinsic motivation, without any intrinsic factors.

Extrinsic motivation becomes crutches for people and this is usually why people develop addiction problems which are rooted in wanting an easy fix to all of their problems.

Extrinsic Motivation can also be used as a reward system after you have completed a task or achieved something.

For example, if you go to the gym and work hard for an hour, you will feel good about yourself afterward and maybe your trainer will reward you with praise.

This is the positive reinforcement that is required to keep people motivated to do what they need to do.

How and When To Use Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic means outside of yourself, or coming from the outside. This is the motivation that you get from wanting to fulfill a want or need as opposed to satisfying an internal desire for the sake of feeling good about it.

This is also known as Incentive Theory. An example of extrinsic motivation could be if a child’s mother says “You can watch a movie for an hour if you complete your work.”

That’s not intrinsic but it gives you something which motivates you to do so. Another example would be “You must complete your homework by midnight to watch tv”.

Again this isn’t necessarily intrinsic but since it’s appealing, and will give you some sort of reward, maybe watching your favorite comedy show, then we call this extrinsic motivation.

The extra “benefit” helps you to complete the task or action (which then satisfies your original want/need). You know when someone is using extrinsic motivation if they always have something to gain from doing it, such as money or a reward.

Extrinsic also includes punishment and competition which doesn’t feel good for us in the long run (it often leads us to make bad decisions under pressure) but it does help you get things done, so it has some benefits too.

Extrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

Educators should focus on helping students to discover intrinsic motivation and not just rely on extrinsic rewards. This is the best way to motivate students because it makes learning fun and exciting.

Having an interest in the subject you’re learning will help you achieve greater results. It’s a lot easier to learn if you are doing something for yourself, rather than being told what to do all the time, or being threatened with punishment if you don’t follow directions.

Extrinsic Motivation can be used as a quick fix but this isn’t very beneficial in the long run. Children need praise from their teachers after they have finished or completed a task (difficult ones).

They want to be recognized that they are achieving something, and it feels good to get praise for it.

Extrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

Extrinsic motivation is sometimes necessary for the workplace. For example, if you want a promotion so you can earn more money, then this is the external motivation that makes you work harder.

If your boss gives you recognition after your accomplishments, this is also extrinsic motivation because they are giving you something that helps to make you feel good about your work and motivates you to do better.

If you want to become a manager, you might need to go above and beyond what’s expected of you, such as extra work or volunteering for assignments. This is extrinsic motivation because it gives you something to help you achieve your goals.

Extrinsic Types of Motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes in many different forms including:

External Regulation: This means that you are motivated by external pressures and rewards. Your motivation is created by someone else, such as a parent or teacher.

Introjected Regulation: This is a type of extrinsic motivation that is created by your expectations. For example, if you want to lose weight and have a negative self-image about yourself, then the expectation to lose weight will motivate you to do so…but only until the extrinsic reward wears off.

Identification: This is usually focused on leaders or role models that you look up to. You try to model yourself after their behavior to emulate them and gain approval from others as well.

Integrated Regulation: This is the most internal and requires you to create a balance between your own inner beliefs and those of others. It means that you are motivated by external rewards but you also must have a belief in yourself, otherwise, there will be no internal need to accomplish anything.

How to Increase Extrinsic Motivation

There are some ways that you can use to increase extrinsic motivation. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Creating Awareness

If you know that certain tasks need to be done then it’s going to create a sense of urgency and motivation.

Your boss might lay down some heavy consequences if the work is not finished on time and this can trigger a lot of motivation, especially for smaller tasks.

Also, if you have some extrinsic motivation (such as a chance to win tickets to an upcoming event) then it will sometimes force people to complete certain tasks on time.

Studies have even shown that we are more likely to achieve our goals if we keep them visible in front of us all the time. So, make a list of your goals and place them somewhere where you can always remind yourself about them.

Enthusiasm is Infectious

If you can motivate others then it will also help you to stay motivated as well. So, if your significant other or close friends are working towards a common goal, then it might be helpful to encourage them when things don’t go according to plan.

While it’s important not to become too hard on someone else when they fail (because that just leads to negative feelings and thought patterns), it is also important not to make excuses for them either.

Other people’s emotions can get in the way of our feelings about something and this is called emotional contagion. It’s basically like the same mechanism that helps us empathize with others but at the same time makes us more sensitive to their moods in terms of how we feel as well.

This means that if someone is feeling excited about a goal, then you are more likely to share their internal feelings as well.

Good Example

Giving a good example is a good way to show someone else how to be motivated. If you are in a group of people that have common goals, then it can be very effective for everyone.

The term “monkey see monkey do” is quite applicable here. This means that you will be able to motivate others by showing them what it is you want to do.

This might include presenting your goals or just simply talking about how bad your old job was and why you were happy to quit.

Work With Positive Consequences

If you want to be motivated, then you need to have some positive consequences up ahead.

This might be something like having a certain amount of money saved that will help you live in your dream apartment or going on a vacation when your business takes off.

It also helps if the reward is seen as an earned privilege, not a right. It should feel good to do what you’re doing.

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: The Differences

If we compare intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation, we can see that extrinsic motivation always occurs outside of us, so if we feel like doing something because the result will be fun or satisfying for example, then this is intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation can be used to trick people into doing something which they don’t want to do (maybe you have an exam scheduled and you focus on the external reward of a good grade rather than how much you enjoy learning).

What I mean by this is that extrinsic rewards are very effective in the short run but it doesn’t motivate people in the long term. You might need some extrinsic motivation at times but what’s more important is gaining self-respect and internal gratification from your work.

For example, maybe you volunteer at a charity to get a certificate. This might be extrinsic motivation because you are being motivated by an external reward and it’s not something that gives you self-satisfaction (this is intrinsic motivation).

It doesn’t make you feel good about yourself so it isn’t motivating in the long run.

Extrinsic Motivation FAQ

What is the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation?

One of the main differences between these two types of motivation is that extrinsic motivation comes from external sources while intrinsic motivation comes solely from within yourself.

Can Extrinsic Motivation Lead to Intrinsic Motivation?

Yes, extrinsic motivation can lead to intrinsic motivation. With extrinsic motivations, a person will start with an external source of pressure or reward…but this might eventually motivate them to do what they want on their own.

This is why something called self-determination theory has been created to show how people who follow extrinsic motivations and eventually build up intrinsic ones are happier than others.

When is Extrinsic Motivation Most Effective?

When used appropriately, extrinsic motivation can be extremely effective.

For example, if you tell your child to clean their room as a punishment (and they don’t like cleaning their room), then this is an example of extrinsic motivation…they will do it because they want something on the outside.

Overall Conclusion Of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from external sources. People usually experience extrinsic motivation when they are overwhelmed with satisfying a need or want.

However, there is also an opposite side of the coin called intrinsic motivation which means you do something because it makes you feel good about yourself and not because someone is paying you or pressuring you into doing it.

By understanding the concept of extrinsic motivation, we are better able to understand one another and help ourselves become motivated in the right ways.

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