Extrinsic Motivation

We have two sons and in those early years of parenting, when we tried to get them to do what we thought was best, we used to define a difference between a bribe and an incentive. We’d tell them (and ourselves) that a bribe was something dangled to get a person to do something not necessarily good for them, and an incentive was something dangled to get a person to do something positively beneficial for them.

In either case, the “dangler” was usually a tangible reward used as a motivator. This is about as extrinsic as it gets – where somebody else both sets the goal and provides the reward for achieving that goal. Both the goal setter and rewarder, and the actual reward are all external to the person whose behavior is trying to be encouraged.

In the very long article, Trait intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, academic performance, and creativity in Hong Kong college students, published in the September/October 2002 issue of the Journal of College Student Development, the authors state that:

Factors that can turn off intrinsic motivation and promote extrinsic motivation include surveillance, competition, and rewards that do not provide performance feedback, such as paying a person for completing a task irrespectively of the quality of his or her work. [bold highlighting by me]

Is extrinsic motivation effective? We probably all know people, including ourselves, who at some point or other have used extrinsic motivation in order to get something accomplished. Stay tuned for the next post: Rebuttal to Extrinsic Motivation


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