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The actions of any human being are the consequences of certain impulses that might be born as an internal incitation or initiated as an impetus from the outside. Both motivational forces are essentially strong; however, they are radically different in postulates underpinning their very core. While intrinsic motivation should be an incentive for one’s actions, extrinsic motivation also proves to be effective in a number of cases. In certain situations due to satiation effect it has the potential of adversely affecting intrinsic motivation, the psychology of particular human actions, creativity potential, effectiveness, resulting in impaired self-esteem, impaired self-determination, and generalized motivation deficit. However, it is widely considered that detrimental effects of the application of extrinsic motivation will not occur if the reward is task-noncontingent, and unexpected (as opposed to expected).

Intrinsic motivation embodies the quintessential innate propensity of humans to engage in events and activities that appear interesting for them, and by doing so, to develop, grow, widen their capabilities and expand potential framework of valuable experience (Sansone & Harachiewicz, 2000). Intrinsic motivation and its peculiarities are largely discussed within the scope of such theories as Competence Motivation Theory dwelled upon by Susan Harter, Cognitive Evaluation Theory supported by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and the Flow Theory introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.      

In general all existing theories that concern intrinsic motivation were greatly influenced by the works of Robert White who suggested the term “effectance motivation” to refer to inherently pleasurable feelings that motivate humans. Competence Motivation Theory argues that intrinsic motivation is boosted when one manages to master the task and one’s perceived competence is increased (Abuhamdeh, 2008). According to Cognitive Evaluation Theory, the essential elements of intrinsically-motivated behavior are perceived-competence and perceived self-determination.

According to Csikszentmihalyi and his Flow Theory, there are three key features that promote the “flow” of any experience: clear set of goals, immediate performance feedback, and optimal challenges. The clear set of goals is crucial in setting the direction and purpose to one’s behavior. It helps to structure one’s experience. Immediate performance feedback helps to adjust behavior to the constantly changing activity demands. Optimal challenges are the ones that are neither too easy nor too difficult to handle. According to Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” model, the main goal to achieve is a healthy balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills applied to the action. As a result, attention is channeled from stimuli unrelated to the task at hand to the very task, and the attentional involvement applied to the task allows for the maximum of enjoyment and engagement in the activity. On the other hand, attentional involvement can be also present in an extrinsically-motivated activity. It is mentioned by Abuhamdeh and Csikszentmihalyi (2012) that this term refers to the degree to which one’s attention is devoted to certain activities. While attentional involvement is considered to be inherent in intrinsic motivation behavior, it is not defined with exclusively positive properties and connotations, but rather both positive and negative experience.

The efficiency of intrinsic motivation lies in the fact that it promotes two quite significant relationships. It strikes a positive relationship between a balance of challenges, skills, and enjoyment, as well as advances the positive relationship between competence valuation and enjoyment. It is of vital importance to mention that competence valuation, or the importance one places on succeeding in carrying out the activity, influences enjoyment by making individuals appreciate their level of competence (Abuhamdeh & Csikszentmihalyi, 2012). On the other hand, extrinsic motivation can lead to a similar result. Rewards can convey feedback that affirms people’s competence.

Unlike intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation stems from external factors and leverages, such as obligation, grades, pay, rewards, approval, punishment and reprimand, etc.  From the behavioral point of view on human nature, behavior is strengthened by positive consequences and reinforcements. One basic approach to distinguishing intrinsic from extrinsic motivation consists in identifying a set of incentives for performing a task that would differ from a traditional set of drives. Deci and Ryan argue that intrinsic motivation is based on the organismic needs to be competent and in control, as well as a need for attachment. Traditional intrinsic incentives also include curiosity and desire for stimulation. According to the chart of the four types of motivation created by Alexander Kjerulf, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can stem from positive and negative incitation. Positive incitation presupposes motivation towards a goal, while negative incitation is a motivation that stems from desire to avoid certain tasks.

Another key approach towards the differentiation between the two types of motivation consists in identifying the kinds of inferences that people make about their involvement in an activity. Self-perception that one is engaging in performing a task for a reward in the form of a feedback about one’s competence and quality of performance presuppose intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, self-perceptions about engaging in an activity for a reward as an incentive to perform and carry out actions involve extrinsic motivation. Modern psychological approaches quite often consider extrinsic motivation to be of detrimental influence on a number of concepts connected to the performance activities and psychological perception of results. Extrinsic motivation and reward might sometimes diminish the intensity of intrinsic motivation. This can be explained by the Overjustification Hypothesis. The latter argues that when individuals are offered a reward to perform an activity which is already appealing to them, they tend to discount the role of originally present intrinsic motivation. In addition, behavioral approach dwells upon the so-called “satiation”, a concept mistakenly considered to be the detriment of rewards on intrinsic motivation. Satiation presupposes a decline in the tendency to perform an activity after repeated performance. It usually dissipates given a long interval following the reinforcement performance is provided.  Moreover, further differentiation between reward contingencies provides with specific cases when intrinsic motivation is affected by extrinsic. The following types are distinguished: task-noncontingent (simple participation), task-contingent (completion of target activity), performance-contingent (high-quality performance). Because task-contingent rewards do not require doing the task, it is not expected that they would appear as controlling to the task. Thus, intrinsic motivation is predicted to remain the same.

Thus, extrinsic motivation should not always be avoided due to the fear of reducing intrinsic motivation, creativity or self-motivation. Evidence suggests that rewarded effort stimulates an increase in industriousness. Increasing the degree of quality and performance gives rise to a subsequent vigor, resilience, and perseverance in performing other activities. Moreover, reward for working hard at being creative may produce a generalized increase in the very level of creativity of a person. Extrinsic motivation can prove to be efficient in the following situations: when there is no intrinsic interest in the activity the reward system may be applied so that interest will develop, when basic skills are lacking, extrinsic motivation might be applied at first.

Natural inclination towards intrinsically initiated behavior is a significant propensity of human psychology. It is of vital importance for development, high-quality performance and well-being of a person. Extrinsic motivation can work sequentially in order to elaborate a self-regulatory system and increase the likelihood that individuals will aim at self-regulating processes to make an uninteresting activity more appealing. Its detrimental effects will not occur if the reward is task-noncontingent and unexpected, as well long interval following the reinforcement performance is provided to avoid satiation.

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