Do intrinsic and extrinsic motivation relate differently to
, Robert Buch
, Antoinette Weibel
, Anders Dysvik
, Christina G.L. Nerstad
BI Norwegian Business School, Nydalsveien 37, 0484 Oslo, Norway
Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Pilestredet 35, 0166 Oslo, Norway
Institute for Leadership and Human Resource Management, Dufourstrasse 40a, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
Received 22 August 2016
Received in revised form 2 May 2017
Accepted 19 May 2017
Available online 20 May 2017
In most theories that address how individual ﬁnancial incentives affect work performance,
researchers have assumed that two types of motivation—intrinsic and extrinsic—mediate
the relationship between incentives and performance. Empirically, however, extrinsic
motivation is rarely investigated. To explore the predictive validity of these theories of
intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in work settings, we tested how both intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation affected supervisor-rated work performance, affective and continu-
ance commitment, turnover intention, burnout, and work–family conﬂict. In the course
of three studies (two cross-sectional and one cross-lagged) across different industries,
we found that intrinsic motivation was associated with positive outcomes and that extrin-
sic motivation was negatively related or unrelated to positive outcomes. In addition, intrin-
sic motivation and extrinsic motivation were moderately negatively correlated in all three
studies. We also discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the study and direc-
tions for future research.
Ó2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
The most important practical implication of our ﬁndings is that organizations should address intrinsic and extrinsic moti-
vations as separate motives. With respect to the employee outcomes we have investigated, organizations should focus on
increasing employees’ intrinsic motivation. Our ﬁndings do not imply that increasing extrinsic motivation is advanta-
geous to either individuals or organizations.
It is important that employees are invited to participate in decision-making, that managers listen to them and are able to
take their perspectives, that employees are offered choices within structures, and that they receive both positive feedback
when they take initiative and nonjudgmental feedback when they have problems.
Organizations should proceed with caution when applying coercive controls such as close monitoring, contingent tangible
incentives and comparing employees to each other, but have competitive base pay levels.
0167-4870/Ó2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
E-mail addresses: email@example.com (B. Kuvaas), firstname.lastname@example.org (R. Buch), email@example.com (A. Weibel), firstname.lastname@example.org
(A. Dysvik), email@example.com (C.G.L. Nerstad).
Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Economic Psychology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/joep
In the last 10 years, intrinsic motivation—or motivation without money—has become a fashionable topic in business
magazines. In this practice-oriented literature (e.g., Pink, 2011), authors have alleged that intrinsic motivation is linked to
various positive outcomes such as work engagement, task identiﬁcation, positive affect, and employee productivity in a con-
text in which traditional, top-down incentive systems have seemingly reached their limits. Hence, for practical reasons, it is
necessary to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Pinder, 2011). Intrinsic motivation is deﬁned as the
desire to perform an activity for its own sake, so as to experience the pleasure and satisfaction inherent in the activity
(Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989). Extrinsic motivation, in contrast, is typically deﬁned as the desire to perform an activity with
the intention to attain positive consequences such as an incentive or to avoid negative consequences such as a punishment
(Deci & Ryan, 2000). In the current study, to highlight the most relevant source of extrinsic motivation in the domain of work
(Gerhart & Milkovich, 1992), we conceptualize and measure extrinsic motivation as the degree to which work motivation is
contingent on the existence of tangible incentives. Most employers try to increase employees’ intrinsic motivation (for
instance, by providing job autonomy and constructive feedback, by highlighting the importance of the work tasks, or by pro-
viding competitive base wages) while also providing incentives intended to increase extrinsic motivation through salient
incentives that are contingent on performance or results. Thus, although intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can operate
simultaneously, extant research also suggests that either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is predominant (Gagné & Deci,
2005; Weibel, Rost, & Osterloh, 2010). The question we raise in the current study is about the consequences when employees
are more or less concerned about their pay vis-a-vis their tasks as they work.
Despite more than 40 years of research on the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and on their dif-
fering effects on employee outcomes, important questions remain unanswered about the relationship between the two types
of motivation and their respective roles and outcomes. On a more general level, there is an ongoing and somewhatpoliticized
debate about whether these two types of motivation both have positive effects or whether they relate negatively and have
differential effects. Historically, the majority of motivation researchers seemed to expect that both would have positive
effects and that the two types of motivation could be combined. Porter and Lawler (1968) for instance, drawing on expec-
tancy theory (Vroom, 1964), proposed that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation jointly and positively predicted work perfor-
mance and employee well-being. Behavioral modiﬁcation theorists also proposed (and demonstrated meta-analytically)
that the combination of tangible and intangible incentives can have a synergistic effect on performance (Stajkovic &
Luthans, 2003). The implicit assumption is that extrinsic motivation aroused by tangible incentives is positively related to
intrinsic motivation aroused by intangible incentives (such as social recognition). Other researchers, however, have argued
that the two main types of motivation are more likely to be negatively related. For instance, a meta-analysis of 128 labora-
tory experiments (Deci, Ryan, & Koestner, 1999) concluded that tangible incentives undermined intrinsic motivation; this
suggests that the association is negative. According to Deci and Ryan (2008), ‘‘If the effect of the extrinsic reward had
decreased intrinsic motivation, it would indicate that the two types of motivation tend to work against each other rather
than being additive or synergistically positive” (2008, p. 15). In a similar vein, a growing number of studies in the ﬁeld of
behavioral economics have provided evidence for a crowding-out effect: Tangible incentives and punishments have been
shown to reduce individuals’ willingness to perform a task for its own sake (e.g., Bowles & Polanía-Reyes, 2012; Frey,
1993; Frey & Jegen, 2001).
Despite this often-ﬁerce debate between the opposing positions, very few researchers have stringently tested how extrin-
sic motivation and intrinsic motivation relate, as extrinsic motivation is rarely measured. It is not sufﬁcient to assume that
tangible incentives necessarily induce extrinsic motivation, and, without empirical data on extrinsic motivation, this account
remains speculative. Furthermore, most of these ﬁndings are based on experiments that cannot be extrapolated to real-
world compensation systems or to the organizational ﬁeld as a whole, as the effects that real-life compensation systems have
on need satisfaction—and, hence, on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation—are highly variable and inconclusive (Gagné & Forest,
2008). In a recent meta-analysis, Cerasoli, Nicklin, and Ford (2014) reported a stronger positive association between intrinsic
motivation and performance when incentives were only indirectly tied to performance than when incentives where directly
tied to performance. Although such meta-analytic ﬁndings may clarify the previously controversial question of how extrinsic
incentives relate to intrinsic motivation, the relationship between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation remains
Furthermore, we lack knowledge on the relative contributions that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation make to employee
outcomes. A growing number of studies have demonstrated the hidden costs of tangible incentives. Such incentives can lead
to ﬁxed mind-sets (McGraw & McCullers, 1979), unbalanced preoccupations with those tasks that are rewarded (Kerr, 1975;
Wieth & Burns, 2014), impaired health and safety in the workplace (Johansson, Rask, & Stenberg, 2010), work stress (Ganster,
Kiersch, Marsh, & Bowen, 2011), and high turnover among salespeople (Harrison, Virick, & William, 1996). However,
researchers have limited knowledge about whether extrinsic motivation actually mediates such effects. In addition, although
there are some empirical studies demonstrating that intrinsic motivation has a positive association with affective commit-
ment (Kuvaas, 2006) and negative associations with both turnover intention (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2010) and burnout (Fernet,
Guay, & Senécal, 2004), we do not yet know whether such relationships change when both types of motivation are tested
concurrently. Hence, in this study, we aim to increase the knowledge of how extrinsic and intrinsic motivation relate to
various employee outcomes.
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 245
We intend to explore the predictive validity of theories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in work settings by investi-
gating these questions empirically. We investigate several employee outcomes, including behavior (work performance),
behavioral intention (turnover intention), attitudes (affective and continuance commitment), and well-being (burnout
and work–family conﬂict) to provide a broad perspective on the relationship between the two types of motivation and out-
comes. Work performance is important for employees with respect to both psychological and tangible incentives, but it is
also highly important for the organization as a whole (Sonnentag & Frese, 2002). The two types of organizational commit-
ment are relevant outcomes. Continuance commitment may be the result of an extrinsic or external regulation to obtain pos-
itive consequences and to avoid negative ones, but affective commitment is enhanced by shared values and autonomous
regulation (Meyer, Becker, & Vandenberghe, 2004). Finally, we investigate turnover intention and well-being because,
although extrinsic motivation can be positively related to work performance, it can be negatively related to these outcomes.
If that is the case, organizations must balance the potential positive and negative consequences of extrinsic motivation.
2. Theory and hypotheses
There has been surprisingly little research about whether intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are substitutes or comple-
ments or about how they predict employee outcomes when operating in combination (Gagné & Forest, 2008; Gerhart & Fang,
2014). In the following, we develop hypotheses based on self-determination theory (SDT) and models of behavioral eco-
nomics to explain how intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation relate, how each type of motivation relates to perfor-
mance, and how both type of motivation relate to other employee outcomes.
2.1. The relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
In the ﬁeld of organizational behavior, researchers in the tradition of SDT argue outspokenly for the difference between
intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for two reasons. First, when people are intrinsically motivated, ‘‘the correlates and conse-
quences are more positive in terms of the quality of their behavior as well as their health and well-being” (Deci & Ryan, 2000,
p. 243). Second, extrinsic motivation is negatively related to intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Therefore, according to
SDT, an incentive that actually strengthens extrinsic motivation will, at the same time, undermine intrinsic motivation. Fur-
thermore, given how the two types of motivation are deﬁned, it is difﬁcult to explain how and why intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation should be positively related. The actions of performing an activity to experience the pleasure and satisfaction
inherent in that activity and performing the same activity to procure positive consequences or avoid negative consequences
are logically incompatible because this creates a cognitive challenge, and individuals usually concentrate on the more salient
cue when acting (Ross, 1975).
Although intrinsic and extrinsic motivation may coexist for a given individual in relation to a given task, they are separate
motivational dimensions, and the inﬂuence of one will probably dominate (Deci & Ryan, 2008; Gagné & Deci, 2005). When a
job is inherently satisfying and its incentives are indirectly tied to performance, such as through competitive base pay,
employees will mainly think about their tasks as they work, and intrinsic motivation will probably dominate. When a job
is less inherently satisfying and its incentives are directly tied to performance or results, as with bonuses and commissions,
employees will be more likely to see the money as the main reason to do the work, so extrinsic motivation will likely dom-
inate. Finally, when a job is inherently satisfying and its incentives are directly tied to performance, the incentives will prob-
ably not change the employees’ behavior; therefore, they will neither increase extrinsic motivation nor reduce intrinsic
motivation. This conclusion is similar to the meta-analytical ﬁnding that unexpected tangible incentives do not affect intrin-
sic motivation (Deci et al., 1999). When, however, behavior is changed in the direction of the performance-contingent incen-
tive, it probably does so because the incentive is salient; as a result, extrinsic motivation will increase, and intrinsic
motivation will decrease. Dysvik, Kuvaas, and Gagné (2013) reported preliminary ﬁndings consistent with this account: a
negative association between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation across two study samples. As already mentioned, Cerasoli
et al. (2014) did not investigate extrinsic motivation, but the most plausible theoretical explanation for their ﬁndings is that
salient incentives directly tied to performance result in a motivational shift toward extrinsic motivation at the expense of
intrinsic motivation (e.g., Weibel et al., 2010).
Outside the ﬁeld of observational behavior, researchers from behavioral economics have also built models that distin-
guish extrinsic motivation from intrinsic motivation to understand their relationship and the effects they have on organiza-
tional outcomes (Frey & Jegen, 2001). More speciﬁcally, standard economic theories posit that individuals react in
predictable ways to price changes: If behavior is rewarded, more of the behavior is shown; if it is punished, less is shown
(Frey, 1992). This price effect is suggested to have no effect on preferences, as incentives do not alter intrinsic motivations.
This is often referred to as the separability assumption of standard economics (Bowles & Polanía-Reyes, 2012); extrinsic moti-
vation is (implicitly) assumed to be independent from intrinsic motivation.
A number of models in behavioral economics, however, suggest that these two types of motivation are not separable. For
instance, crowding theory argues that contingent incentives and punishments undermine intrinsic motivation for the
rewarded or punished behavior and that incentives’ overall effect on behavior is a function of both the positive effect that
incentives have on extrinsic motivation and the negative effect that incentives have on intrinsic motivation (e.g., Frey,
1997a, 1997b; Frey & Jegen, 2001; Frey & Osterloh, 2002). Similarly, goal-framing theory posits that individuals are guided
246 B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
and motivated by three overarching goals—gain (extrinsic) goals, hedonic (intrinsic) goals, and normative (prosocial) goals—
and that these goals compete for focal position, thus inhibiting each other’s effects on behavior (Lindenberg & Foss, 2011).
Another approach to theorizing a negative interaction between the two types of motivation is signaling theory (Benabou &
Tirole, 2003), which argues that tangible incentives have a signaling property. Incentives signal that the task at hand needs
additional reinforcement to be completed—presumably because it is not an enjoyable task; as a consequence, such incentives
undermine intrinsic interest in the task, thereby altering preferences (Benabou & Tirole, 2003). Thus, based on SDT and
behavioral economics models, we propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1. Intrinsic motivation is negatively related to extrinsic motivation.
2.2. Motivation and performance
Arguably, the most important outcome of motivation is individual performance. In this respect, intrinsic motivation is
posited to garner ‘‘the highest levels of effort” (Meyer et al., 2004, p. 996), as it has been linked to high energy levels
(Ryan & Deci, 2008) and persistence (Vallerand & Blssonnette, 1992). In addition, intrinsic motivation is positively associated
with enthusiasm and engagement (Van den Broeck, Lens, De Witte, & Van Coillie, 2013), thriving (Spreitzer, Sutcliffe, Dutton,
Sonenshein, & Grant, 2005), and well-being (Nix, Ryan, Manly, & Deci, 1999). All these positive-affect states are theorized to
energize employees and to focus their interest on their work in an integrative way. In addition to being positively related to
in-role performance in school, work, and physical domains (Cerasoli et al., 2014), intrinsic motivation has also been shown to
have positive associations with contextual work performance and creativity (Gagné & Deci, 2005). Accordingly, we hypoth-
esize the following:
Hypothesis 2a. Intrinsic motivation is positively related to overall work performance.
The relationship between extrinsic motivation and employee performance has received scant research attention, but the
empirical research on incentives and performance provides some guidelines. On the one hand, experiments show that
performance-contingent tangible incentives lead to higher performance in the case of simple and standardized tasks that
are easily measurable and attributable (e.g., Bareket-Bojmel, Hochman, & Ariely, 2014; Lazear, 2000). Furthermore,
Weibel et al.’s (2010) meta-analysis of experimental studies found that such incentives had not just a relatively strong pos-
itive effect on performance for uninteresting tasks but also a small but signiﬁcant negative effect for interesting tasks. Finally,
the meta-analysis of Jenkins, Mitra, Gupta, and Shaw (1998) demonstrated that contingent tangible incentives were posi-
tively related to performance for quantitative tasks but that they were unrelated to performance for qualitative tasks, pre-
sumably because quality is more difﬁcult to measure. On the other hand, other meta-analyses suggest a stronger positive
relationship between contingent incentives and performance quality than between those incentives and performance quan-
tity (Condly, Clark, & Stolovitch, 2003; Garbers & Konradt, 2014).
Probable explanations for these partially conﬂicting ﬁndings include the difference in how tasks are coded in the meta-
analyses and the different types of incentives that are investigated in the individual studies. More speciﬁcally, there are dif-
ferences in the size and timing of the incentives, in the difﬁculty of obtaining them, in the percentage of participants who
actually obtain them, in the degree of performance contingency, and in the salience of the incentive. The potential effects
of the incentives on motivation, however, are mostly assumed for salient and contingent incentives. Accordingly, when pre-
dicting and understanding effects of ﬁnancial incentives on performance, it is probably not sufﬁcient to investigate the mod-
erating effect of task type; the extent to which the ﬁnancial incentive is salient or contingent on performance or results
should also be investigated (Cerasoli, Nicklin, & Nassrelgrgawi, 2016; Cerasoli et al., 2014; Pazy & Ganzach, 2009). Thus,
whereas highly contingent and salient incentives can increase extrinsic motivation (Gagné & Forest, 2008; Kuvaas, Buch,
Gagné, Dysvik, & Forest, 2016), relatively less contingent or less salient incentives such as base pay have been found to relate
positively to intrinsic motivation (Kuvaas, 2006; Kuvaas et al., 2016) and to organization-based self-esteem (Gardner, Van
Dyne, & Pierce, 2004). Hence, extrinsic motivation that results from highly contingent and salient incentives should increase
performance only when the measurable and attributable aspects of the work are good indicators of work performance. A
recent study of salespeople, for instance, showed that the amount of money received in contingent and salient incentives
over a 2-year period was positively related to an increase in work effort (Kuvaas et al., 2016). However, the effect of extrinsic
motivation is less clear for cognitively complex or interesting tasks that have a higher potential for intrinsic motivation
(Ariely, Gneezy, Loewenstein, & Mazar, 2009; Weibel et al., 2010) and for cases in which more subjective performance mea-
sures are used to capture employees’ work-based, contextual, or creative performance (Deckop, Mangel, & Cirka, 1999).
Accordingly, extrinsic motivation seems to have ambiguous effects on overall work performance. This is partly attributed
to the multitasking effect: In a context of strong tangible incentives, employees will concentrate on those tasks that are
directly incentivized and neglect those that are not (Gibbons, 2005; Holmström & Milgrom, 1991). In addition, the positive
affective states associated with intrinsic motivation (e.g., enthusiasm, engagement, thriving, and well-being), which energize
employees to focus on performing the task well, are not present when those employees engage in tasks mainly to obtain
positive outcomes. On the contrary, extrinsic motivation is typically associated with psychological distress and lower levels
of well-being (Gagné et al., 2010; Vansteenkiste et al., 2007), which may decrease focus and prevent employees from fully
engaging in a task.
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 247
Hence, for three reasons, we propose that extrinsic motivation is either nonsigniﬁcantly related or negatively related to
overall work performance. First, as shown above, ﬁndings from the research on incentives and overall work performance
have been equivocal and mixed. Second, most jobs in contemporary organizations are not easily measurable, and the less
measurable aspects often always count more than the aspects that are more easily measurable (Murphy, 2008). Third, as
we argued above, extrinsic motivation might be negatively related to intrinsic motivation—the latter of which is a robust
predictor of overall work performance (Cerasoli et al., 2014). In support of our claim, a meta-analysis of educational research
found a positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and school achievement and a negative relationship between
extrinsic motivation and school achievement (Taylor et al., 2014). We believe that similar ﬁndings will be observed in the
domain of work and therefore hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 2b. Extrinsic motivation is nonsigniﬁcantly related or negatively related to overall work performance.
2.3. Intrinsic motivation and other employee outcomes
In addition to increasing performance, intrinsic motivation energizes an extensive variety of behaviors, affects, emotions,
and attitudes—the main rewards for which are the experiences of autonomy and effectance (Cho & Perry, 2012; Deci & Ryan,
1985; Lemyre, Treasure, & Roberts, 2006). Because intrinsic motivation is linked to positive affect, emotions, and attitudes, it
also protects employees against stressors and negative emotions (e.g., Gagné et al., 2010; Lemyre, Roberts, & Stray-
Gundersen, 2007; Ryan & Deci, 2008; Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2007). Gagné et al. (2010), for instance,
found that intrinsic motivation had positive associations with optimism, job satisfaction, affective and normative organiza-
tional commitment, and self-reported psychological health and well-being; they also found that intrinsic motivations had
negative associations with psychological distress and turnover intention. Negative associations with unfavorable outcomes
have also been demonstrated for turnover intention and emotional exhaustion (e.g., Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2008, 2010; Grant &
Sonnentag, 2010). Furthermore, intrinsic motivation has been associated with lower job burnout (Fernet et al., 2004). Finally,
when individuals have to perform multiple roles—such as spouse, parent, and worker—a conﬂict between work and family
may occur (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Employees who are intrinsically motivated experience control over their own behav-
ior and are therefore more likely to be able to balance their work and family lives (Senécal, Vallerand, & Guay, 2001). Hence,
we hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 3a. Intrinsic motivation is positively related to affective commitment.
Hypothesis 3b. Intrinsic motivation is negatively related to (a) burnout, (b) work–family conﬂict, (c) continuance commit-
ment, and (d) turnover intention.
2.4. Extrinsic motivation and other employee outcomes
Extrinsic motivation involves a perceived contingency between speciﬁc behaviors and desirable consequences such as
tangible incentives (Gagné & Deci, 2005). Extrinsically motivated employees act to avoid undesired outcomes and to procure
desirable outcomes, which is likely to reduce their satisfaction because, due to their need for autonomy, they will feel
coerced or seduced by external contingencies (Gagné & Deci, 2005). As a result, extrinsically motivated employees are more
likely to experience negative psychological states associated with their work, which in turn may make them susceptible to
burnout (Lemyre et al., 2007). In addition, recent evidence in the ﬁeld of behavioral economics has shown that strong exter-
nal contingencies lead to anxiety and to ‘‘choking under pressure” reactions (Ariely et al., 2009; Kamenica, 2012).
Negative psychological states and attentional narrowing are likely to be related to a number of unwanted outcomes. First,
the perceptions of unwanted pressure and the absence of positive emotions are both positively correlated to burnout
(Schaufeli, Bakker, & Van Rhenen, 2009), as pressure raises demands and as the absence of positive emotions prevents
resources’ buffering effect. Second, attentional narrowing and negative affect (as well as the previously discussed multitask-
ing effect) may cause a shift in focus from affective commitment to continuance commitment, as employees are more likely
to focus on the transactional, contingent aspects of their jobs than on the relational, affective ones (Iverson & Buttigieg,
1999). Gagné et al. (2010), for instance, found that extrinsic motivation was negatively associated with affective commit-
ment and positively associated with psychological distress and continuance commitment. Third, perceptions of pressure
and focusing effects may also affect employees’ broader lives. For instance, Vansteenkiste et al. (2007) observed that an
extrinsic work-value orientation had negative associations with job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and life happiness and pos-
itive associations with work–family conﬂict and turnover intention. Finally, when employees are extrinsically motivated,
they experience less control over their behavior, thus becoming more susceptible to burnout (Fernet & Austin, 2014;
Lemyre et al., 2007). We therefore hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 4a. Extrinsic motivation is negatively related to affective commitment.
248 B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
Hypothesis 4b. Extrinsic motivation is positively related to (a) burnout, (b) work–family conﬂict, (c) continuance commit-
ment, and (d) turnover intention.
3.1. Samples and procedure
We conducted three studies to test our hypotheses. In Study 1, we distributed questionnaires to the employees and store
managers of 106 gas stations located in Norway. Through the employee questionnaire, we collected data on control variables
and measures of intrinsic and extrinsic work motivation, and the store manager questionnaire consisted of a measure of
employee work performance. The participants returned the questionnaires using postage-paid envelopes. All the gas stations
belonged to the same chain, and all operated convenience stores. We received complete responses from 557 employees and
106 store managers (response rates of approximately 46% and 74%, respectively). The ﬁnal matched sample consisted of 552
employees and 78 store managers. Of the employees, 57.2% were women, and 42.8% were men; their organizational tenure
varied widely: 31.2% had less than a year of experience, 37% had between 1 and 2 years, 21.4% had between 3 and 5 years,
and 10.5% had more than 5 years.
In Study 2, we administered two Web-based questionnaires to 22,893 employees who were members of a ﬁnance-sector
trade union in Norway. There was a time lag of 3 weeks between the administration of the two questionnaires to reduce the
potential inﬂuence of common-method bias (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). The ﬁrst questionnaire included
measures of intrinsic and extrinsic work motivation and questions related to the control variables; the second questionnaire
consisted of measures of the dependent variables. At Time 1, we received complete responses from 6571 employees (a
response rate of 28.7%), and at Time 2, we received complete responses from 4518 employees (a response rate of 68.8%).
The matched ﬁnal sample for Study 2 was N= 4518 (19.7% of the initial sample). Of these, 57.2% were women, and 42.4%
were men (another 0.4% did not reveal a gender). The mean age of the respondents was 48.4 years, and their mean organi-
zational tenure was 12.8 years. Most respondents were employed in the banking (68.3%) or insurance (24.5%) sectors, and
relatively few were employed on a temporary basis (2.4%) or had managerial responsibilities (8.2%).
In Study 3, we surveyed employees and their immediate supervisors in two organizations located in Norway: a medical
technology organization (Organization 1) with 805 employees and an organization in the ﬁnancial industry (Organization 2)
with 1300 employees. Prior to administrating the Web-based questionnaires, the human resource departments in both orga-
nizations informed their respective employees and supervisors about the study and encouraged them to participate. We
received complete responses from 349 employees and 45 supervisors from Organization 1 (response rates of approximately
43% and 66%, respectively). From Organization 2, we received complete responses from 480 employees and 58 supervisors
(response rates of approximately 37% and 28%, respectively). The sample consisted of 829 employees and 103 supervisors,
resulting in a matched sample that included supervisors’ ratings of 271 employees’ work performance. Of the 829 total
employees, 48.1% were women, and 51.9% were men. The mean age was 44.66 years (SD = 9.93), and the reported mean
organizational tenure was approximately 13 years (SD = 9.62).
All of the items were scored on 5-point Likert scales ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree) unless other-
3.2.1. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
In Study 1 (
= 0.89), Study 2 (
= 0.91), and Study 3 (
= 0.88), we measured intrinsic motivation with the six-item intrin-
sic work-motivation scale that Kuvaas (2006) introduced and that Kuvaas and Dysvik (2009) developed further. We chose
this measure because it taps into the core of the widely used construct deﬁnition (Deci et al., 1989): the motivation to per-
form an activity in order to experience the pleasure and satisfaction inherent in that activity. We measured extrinsic work
motivation in Study 1 (
= 0.75), Study 2 (
= 0.76), and Study 3 (
= 0.71) using the four-item scale that Dysvik et al. (2013)
used; this measure taps into the extent to which motivation at work is contingent upon the existence of tangible incentives.
The items used to measure extrinsic and extrinsic motivation are presented in Appendix A.
3.2.2. Work performance
In Study 1 (
= 0.95) and Study 3 (
= 0.92), we obtained supervisor ratings of employees’ work performance on the basis
of responses to a 10-item scale (Dysvik & Kuvaas, 2011), including items such as ‘‘He/she puts a great deal of effort into car-
rying out his/her job.”
3.2.3. Organizational commitment
In Study 2, we used the six-item scales that Meyer and Allen (1997) developed to measure affective commitment
= 0.82) and continuance commitment (
= 0.77) to the organization. Sample items include ‘‘I really feel as if this
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 249
organization’s problems are my own” (affective commitment) and ‘‘Right now, staying with my organization is a matter of
necessity as much as desire” (continuance commitment).
In Study 2, we measured burnout (
= 0.95) using the 14-item scale that Shirom (1989) developed; this scale asks
employees to report how often they have experienced particular feelings at work recently. This is a sample item: ‘‘I have
no energy for going to work in the morning.” The items were scored on a 7-point scale from 1 (almost never) to 7 (almost
3.2.5. Work–family conﬂict
In Study 2, we measured work–family conﬂict (
= 0.85) using the four-item scale that Gutek, Searle, and Klepa (1991)
developed, which includes items such as ‘‘On the job I have so much work to do that it takes time away from my personal
3.2.6. Turnover intention
We assessed turnover intention in Study 2 (
= 0.92) and Study 3 (
= 0.92) using the ﬁve-item scale that Kuvaas (2008)
used previously. This is a sample item: ‘‘I often think about quitting my present job.”
3.2.7. Control variables
In Study 1, we controlled for organizational tenure and for potential sociodemographic differences such as gender
(1 = women;2=men) to rule them out as alternative explanations for the observed relationships between intrinsic work
motivation, extrinsic work motivation, and work performance. The gas stations were geographically dispersed, so we also
controlled for geographic location, which might have been associated with cultural differences (or other unobserved effects).
In Study 2, as in Study 1, we controlled for gender (1 = women;2=men) and organizational tenure; additionally, we con-
trolled for employment condition (1 = temporary employment; 2 = permanent employment), education (measured on an
ordinal scale ranging from 1 = elementary school to 5 = university degree), pay level (measured on an ordinal scale from 1
to 7, where 1 represented under 200,000 NOK (approximately USD 23,868) and 7 represented above 700,000 NOK (approxi-
mately USD $83,583), and managerial responsibility (1 = no managerial responsibility;2=managerial responsibility) because
of their potential associations with work motivation and employee outcomes. Similarly, in Study 3, we controlled for gender
(1 = women;2=men), organizational tenure, employment condition (1 = temporary employment;2=permanent employment),
pay (measured on an ordinal scale from 1 to 7, where 1 represented under 250,000 NOK (approximately USD 29,835) and 7
represented above 500,000 NOK (approximately USD 59,670), and managerial responsibility (1 = no managerial responsibility;
2=managerial responsibility). In Study 3, we also controlled for organizational afﬁliation using a dummy variable.
To test whether the measured items would conform to the a priori hypothesized data structure, we treated the data as
categorical and performed a conﬁrmatory factor analysis (CFA) using the weighted least squares adjusted for means and vari-
ance estimator in Mplus (Muthén, du Toit, & Spisic, 1997) and cluster-robust standard errors. We used hierarchal linear mod-
eling to explore the associations intrinsic and extrinsic motivation had with work performance (Study 1); affective
commitment, continuance commitment, turnover intention, burnout, and work–family conﬂict (Study 2); and work perfor-
mance and turnover intention (Study 3). This procedure allowed us to portion out the variance in the employees’ responses
that was attributable to multiple employees working at the same gas station (Study 1), in the same organization (Study 2), or
for the same leader (Study 3); our goal was to examine only the individual-level variance. The intraclass correlation coefﬁ-
cients (ICC; Hofmann, Grifﬁn, & Garvin, 2000) for work performance (ICC = 0.05 in Study 1 and ICC = 0.28 in Study 3), affec-
tive commitment (ICC = 0.09 in Study 2), and turnover intention (ICC = 0.03 in Study 2 and ICC = 0.19 in Study 3) conﬁrmed
the appropriateness of this method.
In Study 1, a three-factor CFA model with factors representing intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and work per-
formance achieved a good ﬁt with the data,
(167) = 707.21, p< 0.01; RMSEA = 0.077; CFI = 0.98; TLI = 0.98, in terms of the
frequently used rules of thumb (e.g. Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, & Tatham, 2006). In Study 2, a seven-factor CFA model with
factors representing intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, affective commitment, continuance commitment, burnout,
turnover intention, and work–family conﬂict achieved a similarly good ﬁt,
(924) = 6300.17, p< 0.01; RMSEA = 0.031;
CFI = 0.96; TLI = 0.96. The same applied to Study 3, for which a four-factor CFA model representing intrinsic motivation,
extrinsic motivation, work performance, and turnover intention achieved a good model ﬁt,
(269) = 510.36, p< 0.01;
RMSEA = 0.04; CFI = 0.98; TLI = 0.98. In addition, all factor loadings were statistically signiﬁcant, with mean standardized
loadings of 0.82 (Study 1), 0.76 (Study 2), and 0.81 (Study 3), thus providing conﬁrmation of the constructs’ convergent valid-
ity (Anderson & Gerbing, 1988). The scales had good internal consistency in all studies, with Cronbach’s alphas ranging from
250 B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
0.71 to 0.95. Tables 1–3 contain descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations for the variables in Study 1, Study 2, and
Study 3, respectively. In support of Hypothesis 1, the correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was negative
in all three studies (r=0.20, p< 0.001 in Study 1; r=0.12, p< 0.001 in Study 2; and r=0.10, p< 0.01 in Study 3). In addi-
tion, the factor correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from the CFA reported in Appendix A was 0.16
The results of the hierarchical linear modeling analyses for Studies 1, 2, and 3 are presented in Tables 4–6, respectively.
The analyses revealed that intrinsic motivation had positive associations with work performance (
= 0.15, p<0.001 in Study
= 0.17, p<0.01 in Study 3) and affective commitment (
= 0.39, p<0.001), providing support for Hypotheses 2a and 3a.
Intrinsic motivation also had negative associations with burnout (
=0.29, p<0.001), work–family conﬂict (
p<0.001), continuance commitment (
=0.20, p<0.001), and turnover intention (
=0.33, p<0.001 in Study 1;
=0.32, p<0.001 in Study 3), providing support for Hypothesis 3b. In line with Hypothesis 2b, we found a negative asso-
ciation between extrinsic motivation and work performance in Study 1 (
=0.10, p<0.05) and no association with work
performance in Study 3 (
=0.02, n.s.). In support of Hypothesis 4a, extrinsic motivation was negatively related to affective
commitment in Study 2 (
=0.10, p<0.001). Finally, in line with Hypothesis 4b, we found that extrinsic motivation had
positive associations with burnout (
= 0.10, p<0.001), work–family conﬂict (
= 0.11, p<0.001), continuance commitment
= 0.10, p<0.001), and turnover intention (
= 0.10, p<0.001 in Study 1;
= 0.19, p<0.01 in Study 3).
The purpose of this study was to investigate the simultaneous associations that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation have
with various employee outcomes. In line with SDT within the ﬁeld of organizational behavior and with crowding theory,
goal-framing theory, and signaling theory from behavioral economics, we found a negative association between extrinsic
and intrinsic motivation in all three studies. We also consistently found that intrinsic motivation was positively associated
with positive outcomes (work performance and affective organizational commitment) and negatively associated with neg-
ative outcomes (continuance commitment, turnover intention, burnout, and work–family conﬂict). Extrinsic motivation, by
contrast, was negatively related or unrelated to positive outcomes and was consistently positively associated with negative
5.1. Implications for theory and practice
Our ﬁndings are in line with SDT. Speciﬁcally, the negative relationship between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
observed in our study contributes to SDT by providing empirical support for one of its most important assumptions: that
these motivational dimensions are separate and negatively related (Deci & Ryan, 2008; Gagné & Deci, 2005). This is a novel
ﬁnding because most research on the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has not investigated extrinsic
motivation and has instead inferred extrinsic motivation from various measures of external regulations, such as the exis-
tence or degrees of tangible incentives. The observation that extrinsic motivation is not associated with positive outcomes
in our study is a further contribution to SDT. These ﬁndings are also novel because past studies of extrinsic motivation in
work settings have often been inconsistent with SDT. Recently, SDT researchers have attempted to measure four to six sub-
types of motivation to provide measures of autonomous and controlled motivation and have reported several results that are
inconsistent with SDT (see e.g., Gagné et al., 2014; Gillet, Gagné, Sauvagère, & Fouquereau, 2013; Kyndt, Raes, Dochy, &
Janssens, 2013; Tremblay, Blanchard, Taylor, Pelletier, & Villeneuve, 2009; Van den Broeck et al., 2013). We still endorse
future attempts to develop better, more ﬁnely grained measures for the subtypes of autonomous and controlled motivation,
but the existing measures seem to confuse rather than clarify the roles of the subtypes.
Descriptive statistics, correlations, and scale reliability for Study 1.
Mean SD 123456789
1. Location 1 0.57 0.50
2. Location 2 0.26 0.44 0.67
3. Location 3 0.10 0.29 0.37
4. Location 4 0.08 0.27 0.34
1.43 0.50 0.05 0.05 0.01 0.02
6. Tenure 2.11 0.97 0.15
7. Intrinsic motivation 3.29 0.77 0.06 0.04 0.04 0.01 0.07 0.08 (.89)
8. Extrinsic motivation 2.78 0.81 0.03 0.02 0.00 0.09
9. Work performance 3.64 0.76 0.01 0.02 0.00 0.01 0.15
Notes. N = 552.
1 = women; 2 = men.
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 251
Descriptive statistics, correlations, and scale reliabilities for Study 2.
Mean SD 12345678910111213
2. Education 3.47 1.02 0.14
3. Tenure 12.81 11.58 0.03
4. Employment condition
1.99 0.09 0.01 0.02 0.06
5. Pay level 4.42 1.22 0.34
6. Managerial responsibility
0.08 0.28 0.05
7. Intrinsic motivation 3.91 0.78 0.03
8. Extrinsic motivation 3.21 0.90 0.04
9. Affective commitment 3.57 0.82 0.00 0.09
10. Continuance commitment 2.93 0.84 0.04
11. Turnover intention 2.17 1.15 0.04
12. Burnout 2.62 1.04 0.08
0.00 0.03 0.03 0.11
13. Work-family conﬂict 2.42 1.04 0.00 0.08
0.01 0.00 0.08
1 = women, 2 = men.
1 = temporary employee, 2 = permanent employee.
1 = no managerial responsibility, 2 = managerial responsibility.
252 B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
The relatively small effect sizes for the associations between extrinsic motivation and employee outcomes suggest that
the negative effects of extrinsic motivation are modest; however, they are almost uniform. Our data are consistent with the
widely held belief that intrinsic motivation has a greater inﬂuence on performance than does extrinsic motivation, and they
refute the hypothesis that ‘‘if there is an undermining effect on intrinsic motivation, it is usually dominated by the positive
effect of PFIP (pay-for-individual-performance) on extrinsic motivation” (Gerhart & Fang, 2014, p. 47). Nevertheless, we do
not suggest that extrinsic motivation cannot positively inﬂuence work performance. If extrinsic motivation is the key to the
association between incentives and performance, extrinsic motivation should increase performance—as measured in quan-
titative terms (Cerasoli et al., 2014; Jenkins et al., 1998)—for uninteresting experimental tasks (Weibel et al., 2010). Accord-
ingly, extrinsic motivation can be a potent motivator where there is little potential for intrinsic motivation and when it is
relatively easy to monitor and measure results and outcomes. Kuvaas et al. (2016), for instance, found a small positive asso-
ciation between extrinsic motivation and increased sales effort, but they also found a positive relationship between extrinsic
motivation and increased turnover intention (which is in line with the ﬁndings of the present study). This small increase in
work effort may be outweighed by the increase in turnover intention. In addition, it is important to acknowledge that many
jobs have become less routinized, less strictly deﬁned, and more multidimensional (Cascio, 1998) and that many others can
be automated or performed in countries with lower labor costs.
The most important practical implication of our ﬁndings is that organizations should address intrinsic and extrinsic
motivations as separate motives. At least with respect to the employee outcomes we investigated in the present study,
Descriptive statistics, correlations, and scale reliabilities for Study 3.
Mean SD 1 2 3 4 56 7 8 91011
1. Organization 1.47 0.50
1.52 0.50 0.04
3. Education 4.82 1.19 0.19
4. Tenure 12.75 9.62 0.18
5. Employment condition
1.01 0.08 0.06 0.08
6. Pay level 6.30 1.17 0.11 0.26
7. Managerial responsibility
1.22 0.42 0.09 0.14
8. Intrinsic motivation 3.94 0.69 0.13
0.05 0.05 0.06 0.01 0.14
9. Extrinsic motivation 3.23 0.84 0.10 0.02 0.03 0.07
10. Work performance 3.99 0.63 0.18
0.09 0.07 0.05 0.09 0.13
11. Turnover intention 2.53 1.18 0.03 0.02 0.16
0.01 0.04 0.07
Notes. N = 829 (n= 271 for work performance).
1 = women, 2 = men.
1 = temporary employee, 2 = permanent employee.
1 = no managerial responsibility, 2 = managerial responsibility.
Work motivation and work performance: HLM results for Study 1.
Variables Work performance
Location 2 0.04
Location 3 0.03
Location 4 0.02
Intrinsic motivation 0.15
Extrinsic motivation 0.10
Individual level residual variance (
Group level residual variance (
Standardized coefﬁcients are shown. We used the equation sug-
gested by Hox (2010) to derive the standardized coefﬁcients:
Standardized coefﬁcient = (unstandardized coefﬁcient standard
deviation of the explanatory variable)/standard deviation of the
1 = women, 2 = men.
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 253
organizations should do whatever they can to increase employees’ intrinsic motivation. Our ﬁndings do not imply that
increasing extrinsic motivation is advantageous to individuals or organizations in terms of these outcomes. At a more global
level, according to SDT, this means satisfying employees’ needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence, which will
enhance their intrinsic motivation (e.g., Gagné & Deci, 2005). At a more practical level, it is important that employees are
invited to participate in decision-making, that managers listen to them and are able to understand their perspectives, that
employees are offered choices within structures, and that they receive both positive feedback when they take initiative and
nonjudgmental feedback when they have problems (Stone, Deci, & Ryan, 2009). In addition, organizations should be careful
when applying coercive controls such as close monitoring and contingent tangible incentives, compare employees to each
other, but offer competitive base pay (Stone et al., 2009).
Work motivation and employee outcomes: HLM results for Study 2.
Affective commitment Continuance commitment Turnover intention Burnout Work-family conﬂict
0.01 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.00
Pay level 0.04
0.03 0.00 0.01 0.11
0.01 0.00 0.02 0.04
Intrinsic motivation 0.39
Extrinsic motivation 0.10
Individual level residual variance (
Group level residual variance (
0.20 0.10 0.16 0.12 0.04
We used the equation suggested by Hox (2010) to derive the standardized coefﬁcients: Standardized coefﬁcient = (unstandardized coefﬁcient standard
deviation of the explanatory variable)/standard deviation of the outcome variable.
1 = women, 2 = men.
1 = temporary, 2 = permanent.
1 = no managerial responsibility, 2 = managerial responsibility.
Work motivation and employee outcomes: HLM results for Study 3.
Work performance Turnover intention
Organization .00 .00
Education .03 .23
Pay level .09 .09
Intrinsic motivation .17
Extrinsic motivation 0.02 .19
Individual level residual variance (
Group level residual variance (
) .09 .23
Notes.N= 829 (n= 271 for work performance).
We used the equation suggested by Hox (2010) to derive the standardized coefﬁcients:
Standardized coefﬁcient = (unstandardized coefﬁcient standard deviation of the explana-
tory variable)/standard deviation of the outcome variable.
1 = women, 2 = men.
1 = temporary, 2 = permanent.
1 = no managerial responsibility, 2 = managerial responsibility
254 B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258
5.2. Limitations, Strengths, and research opportunities
The main limitations of this study are the cross-sectional designs of Study 1 and 2 and the potential sample-speciﬁcity of
our ﬁndings. We collected data from a gas station chain, members of a ﬁnancial-industry trade union in Norway, and
employees from the ﬁnancial and medical industries. Even though we do not have detailed information about the types
of tasks our respondents were performing at the times of data collection, based on our ﬁndings, it is probably fair to conclude
that these tasks went beyond what can be relatively easily measured in terms of quantiﬁable results or outcomes. Accord-
ingly, the generalizability of our ﬁndings are limited to such or similar tasks.
Unfortunately, we were not able to obtain data on supervisor-rated performance for employees in the ﬁnancial industry.
We did, however, collect self-reported work performance and organizational citizenship behavior, and we found that both
were positively associated with intrinsic motivation and that neither was signiﬁcantly associated with extrinsic motivation.
This was not reported in the data analysis, however.
Because we wanted to investigate the perhaps most relevant source of extrinsic motivation in the domain of work, we
used a measure of extrinsic motivation that exclusively focuses on tangible incentives. As there are several other sources
of extrinsic motivation in most work settings, including deadlines (Amabile, DeJong, & Lepper, 1976), evaluations (Smith,
1975), and surveillance (Lepper & Greene, 1975), future work could develop new and broader measures.
We were not able draw conclusions about causality from these data. However, we are reasonably conﬁdent that common-
method bias did not affect our ﬁndings. In Study 1 and 3, we assessed work performance using supervisor ratings to ensure
that the data on the dependent variables came from a source other than the employees (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, & Podsakoff,
2012). Furthermore, the time lag between the two surveys in Study 2 should have reduced any potential common-method
bias (Podsakoff et al., 2003). This and the fact that we tested our hypotheses in three relatively large samples represent
important strengths of our study.
Prior research has shown that the relationship between intrinsic motivation and performance is weaker when incentives
are directly tied to performance and stronger when they are indirectly tied to performance (Cerasoli et al., 2014). In the
future, researchers could investigate whether this moderation effect is actually explained by an increase in extrinsic moti-
vation by testing the interaction of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in terms of work performance. In addition, researchers
could investigate whether extrinsic motivation explains the ﬁnding that extrinsic incentives and performance quantity have
a stronger relationship than do intrinsic motivation and performance quantity (Cerasoli et al., 2014) by testing the simulta-
neous relationships that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation have with both performance quantity and performance quality.
Furthermore, as the negative associations between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were small across the three samples,
future research could investigate non-linear relations between the two.
A ﬁnal potentially fruitful avenue for future research would be to investigate the association between base pay and
extrinsic motivation. For the samples in which we controlled for base pay, we found small but signiﬁcant negative correla-
tions between pay and extrinsic motivation. According to SDT, competitive base pay can contribute to satisfying employees’
needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness; therefore, it can also reduce extrinsic motivation—perhaps particularly
because of high satisfaction regarding the need for autonomy (Gagné & Forest, 2008). If a sufﬁcient number of studies have
included both base pay and extrinsic or controlled motivation, a meta-analysis would be very useful.
Appendix A. Supplementary factor analyses for intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
IM1: The tasks that I do at work are themselves representing a
driving power in my job
0.84 0.76 0.03
IM2: The tasks that I do at work are enjoyable 0.93 0.87 0.01
IM3: My job is meaningful 0.88 0.79 0.01
IM4: My job is very exciting 0.91 0.88 0.03
IM5: My job is so interesting that it is a motivation in itself 0.91 0.90 0.01
IM6: Sometimes I become so inspired by my job that I almost
forget everything else around me
0.63 0.64 0.00
EM1: If I am supposed to put in extra effort in my job, I need
to get extra pay
0.57 0.07 0.50
EM2: It is important for me to have an external incentive to
strive for in order to do a good job
0.78 0.07 0.79
EM3: External incentives such as bonuses and provisions are
essential for how well I perform my job
0.74 0.07 0.73
(continued on next page)
B. Kuvaas et al. / Journal of Economic Psychology 61 (2017) 244–258 255
Appendix A (continued)
EM4: If I had been offered better pay, I would have done a
0.72 0.12 0.64
N= 6571 (we used all available Time 1-data from Study 2).
The two-factor CFA model with factors representing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation achieved a good ﬁt with the data (
(34) = 802.74, p< 0.01;
RMSEA = 0.061; CFI = 0.97; TLI = 0.97). All factor loadings were statistically signiﬁcant. Thefactor correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivationwas
0.16 (p< 0.001).
A supplemental one-factor CFA model performed substantially worse (
(35) = 12937.27, p< 0.01; RMSEA = 0.245; CFI = 0.55; TLI = 0.43).
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