What Defines Extrinsically Motivated Behavior? - NinjAthlete Skip to content

What Defines Extrinsically Motivated Behavior?

Extrinsic motivation plays a significant role in our daily lives, pushing us to engage in behaviors primarily driven by external rewards or to avoid negative outcomes.

When we talk about motivation, it can generally be categorized into two primary types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Both of these motivational forces play critical roles in our decision-making processes and drive our behaviors.

However, they derive from different sources and can have distinct effects on our actions.

In this article, we will delve deep into understanding extrinsic motivation, providing you with clear examples of this type of behavior and explaining its implications.

Understanding Motivation: The Basics

Before we dive into extrinsically motivated behaviors, let's establish a clear understanding of what motivation is.

Simply put, motivation is the reason behind our actions, the desire that drives us to do something.

While intrinsic motivation comes from within and is usually related to personal interests, satisfaction, or inherent joy, extrinsic motivation comes from outside factors, often driven by rewards or external pressures.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior driven by external rewards or pressures.

These rewards can be tangible, like money or gifts, or intangible, like praise or recognition.

On the flip side, the pressures can include avoiding punishment or negative outcomes.

The key is that the motivation comes from an external factor, rather than an internal interest or passion.

Examples of Extrinsically Motivated Behavior

To further understand extrinsic motivation, let's take a look at some common examples:

Working for a Paycheck

Perhaps the most obvious example, many people work jobs they might not necessarily enjoy because they need to earn money.

Their primary motivation in this situation is the external reward of a paycheck.

Studying to Avoid Punishment

A student might not be interested in a particular subject but will study it rigorously to avoid getting a bad grade, which could lead to punishment from parents or teachers.

Competing for a Trophy

In sports, while many athletes do love the game, the desire to win a trophy or medal can be a significant extrinsic motivator.

Engaging in Social Media for Likes

Posting pictures or updates on social media to receive likes, shares, or comments is a behavior driven by the external validation that these platforms offer.

Participating in Loyalty Programs

Joining a loyalty program to earn points and avail discounts or free items is another example of extrinsically motivated behavior.

Implications of Extrinsic Motivation

While extrinsic motivation can be powerful and effective in the short term, it comes with its own set of implications:

Dependence on External Rewards

Over-reliance on external motivators can result in a lack of self-driven initiative. Once the reward is removed, the motivation might wane.

Potential for Reduced Intrinsic Motivation

Overemphasis on external rewards can sometimes overshadow or even decrease one's intrinsic motivation.

This phenomenon, known as the "overjustification effect," means that if someone is rewarded for an activity they initially enjoyed, they might end up attributing their behavior solely to the reward, diminishing their intrinsic interest.

May Encourage Shortcuts

If the goal is primarily to achieve an external reward, individuals might take shortcuts or engage in unethical practices to attain that reward.

Striking a Balance

It's essential to understand that extrinsic motivation is not inherently bad.

In many scenarios, it can be the catalyst for initiating a behavior or pushing through challenging tasks.

The key is to strike a balance. If used appropriately, extrinsic motivators can work in tandem with intrinsic motivators, leading to more sustainable, long-term engagement and success.


Extrinsic motivation plays a significant role in our daily lives, pushing us to engage in behaviors primarily driven by external rewards or to avoid negative outcomes.

Recognizing extrinsically motivated behaviors helps us understand our motivations better and, when used judiciously, can lead to better decision-making and a more fulfilled life.

Remember, it's not about choosing one type of motivation over the other but about finding the right balance to drive meaningful and lasting behaviors.

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