This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 09 table of contents.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Psychological reactance relates to a classic distinction made by motivational psychologists: the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motives. An activity is intrinsically motivating if a person does it voluntarily, without receiving payment or other type of reward. An activity is extrinsically motivated if it is performed primarily for external reinforcement such as food or money.

What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? What did Green and Lepper demonstrate in their classic study?

In a classic article titled "How to Turn Play into Work," Green and Lepper (1974) showed how intrinsic motivation could be undermined by external reinforcement. Their subjects were small children who enjoyed playing with toys. In the experiment, adults gave them reinforcements for playing with some toys but not others. When left on their own, the children avoided the toys for which they had received reinforcement. Knowing that the adults wanted them to play with those toys took all the fun out of it. This is the complementary opposite of the forbidden fruit effect discussed on the previous page, in which forbidden toys became more attractive. (This also means the "reinforcement" from the adults was actually punishment, by definition.)

The same phenomenon can occur with athletes. Many of them start out playing for the joy of it. They are intrinsically motivated. As they advance in their careers, they take on obligations such as scholarships and commitments to a particular school or team. Sometimes this "turns play into work." Raedeke (1997) found that athletes are more likely to experience burn-out if they feel trapped by scholarships and other obligations, rather than playing for enjoyment of the sport.

What was the effect of required community service on students not inclined to serve?

Stukas, Snyder, and Clary (1999) found that mandatory community service programs, required in some high schools in the United States, had a negative effect on people not inclined to serve. "Students who initially felt it unlikely that they would freely volunteer had significantly lower intentions after being required to serve." The outside pressure (extrinsic motivating force) lowered their already-low intrinsic motivation to volunteer.


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