Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: Time for Expansion and Clarification
Edwin A. Locke
University of Maryland
Université du Québec à Montréal
Edwin A. Locke, Dean’s Professor of Motivation and Leadership, Robert H. Smith
School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, USA; Kaspar Schattke, Assistant
Professor in Work and Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychology, Université du
Québec à Montréal, Canada.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kaspar Schattke,
Université du Québec à Montréal, Département de psychologie, CP 8888, Succ. Centre-Ville,
Montréal, Québec, H3C 3P8, Canada, Email: email@example.com. Tel: +1-514-
987-3000 ext. 5387.
© 2018, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record
and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not
copy or cite without authors' permission. The final article will be available, upon
publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/mot0000116.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 2
The goal of this paper is to provide a long overdue clarification and upgrade to what has been
called the intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy in the realm of motivation. We argue that the concept of
intrinsic motivation should be limited to refer to the pleasure gained from an activity, divorced
from any further elements. It means liking the doing. The term has been confounded with a
different type of motivation, which is properly labeled achievement motivation and which refers
to competition against some standard of excellence (subconscious or conscious). Achievement
motivation means wanting to do well. One can like doing something and not care about how well
one does it. Conversely, one can strive to do well even if one does not like an activity. The third
type of motivation, known as extrinsic, has been focused heavily on the effect of withdrawing a
monetary incentive. We argue that this focus is far too narrow and that extrinsic motivation should
be generally defined as doing something as a means to an end. It means doing something now in
order to get something later. Nor should money be regarding as “controlling” since people
routinely make many choices in the realm of money. We suggest a research program on the three
types of motivation, their possible interrelationships, and their outcomes. We hope to spark a
discussion and invite comments on this paper.
Keywords: intrinsic motivation; extrinsic motivation; achievement motivation; work motivation;
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 3
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: Time for Expansion and Clarification
Going as far back as 1918 (Woodworth, 1918 and noted by Rheinberg & Engeser, 2018) it has
been generally assumed that there are two basic types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. In
this conceptual article we argue that the traditional dichotomy is seriously inadequate particularly
with regard to applications to work and organizational psychology. We recommend a trichotomy,
which would include achievement motivation as well as clearer definitions of intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation. Both the expansion and clarifications have applied implications and
applications for future research. Our ultimate goal is to motivate a discussion and a research
program about the differences and the similarities of the three types of motivation and their
The Concept of Motivation
We start by suggesting that the terms “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” themselves are somewhat
problematic when applied to humans. Intrinsic conventionally means inside the entity and
extrinsic means outside the entity or object. This makes sense at the physical (including
inanimate) level, but a human consciousness is always interacting with the environment
(observing, evaluating, choosing) and thus factors pertaining to motivation have both an internal
and an external aspect. Consequently, Schultheiss and colleagues (2009, p. 268) have called
motivation “a natural linchpin between the person and the situation”, between internal and
Motivation at the internal level means having desires or aversions. It means wanting or
fearing. One cannot be motivated if one is an empty organism as the behaviorists used to imply.
Motivation orients, energizes, and selects behavior towards anticipated goal states (Heckhausen
& Heckhausen, 2018; McClelland, 1987; Rheinberg & Vollmeyer, 2018). Thus, one can say that
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 4
all motivation involves people wanting to get or avoid something. Ordinarily we want or fear
something in the environment, although some desires are psychological such as wanting to
reduce anxiety. The ultimate source of the values that cause these wants are varied but there must
be an internal locus in some form to motivate action, even as external conditions play a role.
Consider an extreme case of situational influence: a person confronts you on the street with a gun
and demands your money. This represents obvious, external coercion but a normal person will
give over the money because they want safety. Of course, one may choose values out of
conformity but passively chosen values can still motivate action. Values differ in importance
within and between people and related to this, commitment to any given values varies along a
continuum. (Motivation, as we all know and will be noted later, can be conscious and/or
Selected Concepts Related to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Aristotle. Aristotle identified a distinction in his Nicomachean Ethics between pleasure
as an essential element of an activity and pleasure that stems from outside the activity (see
Schneider, 1996). Presumably he was referring to what we would call intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation though he did not use those terms.
Woodworth. As noted, Woodworth (1918) first used the terms intrinsic and extrinsic in
psychology. The former referred to an “activity running by its own drive” (p. 70) and the latter to
an activity “driven by some extrinsic motive” (p. 70). He postulated that an extrinsic motive
would focus attention on the reward and distract attention from and absorption in the activity,
making intrinsic motivation less likely. He also argued that motivation for an activity might
change during its pursuit in the sense that one might start for extrinsic reasons but find the main
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 5
pleasure in its pursuit later (for an overview see Rheinberg & Engeser, 2018). Woodworth did
not include achievement motivation in the discussion.
Bühler. Bühler (1922) differentiated pleasure from doing or creating something
(“Funktionslust” and “Schaffenslust”) and the pleasure of having completed an activity or by
gaining satisfaction from the result (“Endlust” or “Befriedigungslust”). The first implies intrinsic
motivation and the second implies achievement motivation but Bühler did not use these terms.
Drive Reduction Theories. Classical drive-reduction theories (e.g., Freud, 1952; Hull,
1943; Spence, 1956, 1960) argued that people were driven to reduce the discrepancy between a
desired (goal) state and their current (goal) state, which were energized by a general drive or
need deprivation. The reduction of this drive was perceived as pleasurable (for an overview see
Heckhausen, 2018). The modern version of this is control theory (see Carver & Scheier, 1981).
However, the primary goal of action cannot be simply to remove discrepancies between wants
and reality as such, which logically would have to include abandoning goals. Life and thriving
demand that (at least some) goals are actually attained. Therefore, discrepancy reduction can
only be a correlate of goal directed action, not its primary cause (cf. Bandura & Locke, 2003).
Moreover, focusing on discrepancy-reduction is misguided in another way: it implies that all
motivation is negative, that is, aimed psychologically at reducing pain or discomfort. Of course,
some motivation is negative, but it cannot be the whole story since obviously people must and do
work for positives (Bandura & Locke, 2003).
Self-Determination Theory. Deci and Ryan’s (2000) self-determination theory (SDT)
conceptualizes intrinsic motivation as inside the person but not as an interaction with an activity.
Furthermore, SDT explicitly confounds intrinsic motivation (enjoying the task) and achievement
motivation (pursuing goals and challenges), when describing intrinsic motivation as “the inherent
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 6
tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one's capacities, to explore,
and to learn” (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 70). To add further confusion, extrinsic motivation can be
inside or outside the self, depending on the degree of self-determination by which goals are
sought. Self-determined goals reflect one’s value systems (integrated regulation) or one finds
them important (identified regulation). Less self-determined goals are chosen because one feels
an inner pressure to seek them (introjected regulation) or because they are based on external
demands (external regulation). The more self-determined one’s goals are, the more they satisfy
the three basic human needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy. The theory includes
elements of determinism. Volition (autonomy) is viewed as a need, whereas we view it as an
axiom (Locke, 2018). Nor do we view money incentives as controlling as SDT often does. We
argue that people have the power, by thinking, to choose their own goals and that external
demands or incentives, in line with our previous definition of motivation, must work through the
value standards that one has chosen or accepted.
Means-Ends Fusion Theory. Kruglanski and colleagues (2018) introduced a theory not
based on human needs in contrast to SDT: the Means-Ends Fusion Theory (MEF). The theory
accepts the intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy but posits that intrinsic motivation is a result of the
perceived fusion of the activity (means) to achieve a goal (end) with the goal itself. The authors
point out that any activity can be experienced as intrinsically or extrinsically motivated
depending on how similar the activity and the goal are perceived. They posit a continuum from
extrinsic (i.e., means and ends are completely separate) to intrinsic motivation (i.e., means and
ends are completely fused) rather than two qualitatively different types of motivation. For
example, the activity of running is perceived as very close to a fitness goal because running “is
subjectively experienced as (the attainment) of fitness” and therefore intrinsically motivated
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 7
(Kruglanski et al., 2018, p.167). But what this actually implies is that intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation can work together. The authors also claim that “the attainment of any goal is
satisfying by definition” (Kruglanski et al., 2018, p. 171). There is merit to this (e.g., goal setting
theory; Locke & Latham, 1990) but there are exceptions. Goals that do not integrate with one’s
underlying values and subconscious motive dispositions may lead to less emotional well being
(Brunstein, Schultheiss, & Grässmann, 1998), less life-satisfaction (Hofer, Busch, Bond, Kärtner,
Kiessling, & Law, 2010), and even psychosomatic symptoms (Baumann, Kaschel, & Kuhl,
The 3-C Model. This model is based on McClelland’s (1985) Motive Disposition
Theory. Kehr (2004) proposed that intrinsic motivation is enhanced when there is a
correspondence between implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) motives. In other words,
when people enjoy what they find important at both levels, they will be intrinsically motivated,
which makes the pursuit of the activity less effortful because no volitional regulation (i.e., self-
regulation, will-power) is needed (Kehr, Strasser, & Paulus, 2018). Intrinsically motivated here
means motivated by ones implicit motives. The motivation type is actually classified in terms of
individual differences in the strength of three motives for achievement, power, and affiliation.
Each of the above models make some contribution in its own way but none of them make
a clear distinction between the three types of motivation which we propose. We argue that
intrinsic, achievement, and extrinsic motivation are three distinguishable forms of motivation.
There are particularly relevant at work, although we believe they are also relevant to other life
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 8
We suggest confining the meaning of intrinsic motivation to liking or wanting an activity
for its own sake divorced from any specific outcome level. The enjoyment is in the doing; the
doing can range from passive to active. An example of the more passive form lies in the field of
art (defined broadly to encompass all of its forms, e.g., music, books, TV, movies, shows etc.)
where the pleasure is from contemplating or experiencing the art work. (For an explanation of
the critical, motivational role of art in life, see Rand, 1969). On the more active side, intrinsic
motivation can encompass hobbies, for example walking, cycling, gardening, cooking, games,
stamp collecting, etc. At work, active intrinsic motivation involves liking a certain type of work
or specific tasks, for example selling, analyzing, inventing, computing, programming,
coordinating, managing, experimenting, problem solving, or acting. It means liking a specific
type of job content, for example banking, sports, restaurant management, machining, repairing,
construction, law, medicine, teaching and subcategories within each (teaching math, etc.).
Traditionally, these would be called interests (which some researchers distinguish from intrinsic
motivation, e.g. Krapp, 1999). Although that term may seem emotionally mild, interests can
range from mild to passionate.
People can prefer different aspects of any activity and likings may come and go over
time. The goal in intrinsic motivation is pleasure and enjoyment from the action or experience. In
some form the activity makes one feel good, relaxed, happy, contented, and joyful. If activities
have a further goal than just the pleasure of engaging in them, then they are not purely intrinsic.
(We will talk about mixed motivation later).
We believe that it is an error to assume that simply because people like doing something
that they will necessarily attain a high level of skill at it. Pure intrinsic motivation involves doing
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 9
things for fun and the goal is not to improve as such. For example, the first author plays tennis
with other players his age. All of them have obvious weaknesses in their games. Not one of them
takes lessons in order to improve. For them the fun is in the playing and the exercise. They
definitely prefer winning but that is not their primary. While doing the same thing a lot may
improve skill up to a point, skill building and improvement is not the essence of intrinsic
motivation – it is not the reason why one engages in the activity. To get to a high level of skill at
anything requires another form of motivation, achievement motivation, which unfortunately has
been almost universally confounded with intrinsic motivation (see Pinder’s 1998 discussion of
McClelland pioneered research on achievement motivation in the 1950s (McClelland,
Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1953). He viewed its essence as competition with a standard, as a
striving for excellence in some form. The authors agree with this formulation. The issue is not the
doing or enjoyment of the activity as such but doing well and/or doing better than before, in
other words improvement. Note, however, that improvement, if it occurs, may be enjoyed but the
activity that leads to the improvement may or may not be. For example, a person may work hard
to succeed in the law profession but not really enjoy being a lawyer. Achievement motivation
can be conceptualized on different levels.
Dispositions and Traits. For McClelland, the achievement motive was subconscious
(implicit) and measured, as noted earlier, by projective tests, especially the Thematic
Apperception Test, which involved guided story telling based on pictures, which are then coded
for achievement imagery (e.g., Pang, 2010). He viewed it as most relevant to entrepreneurship
and it is in fact related to entrepreneurial occupational choice and performance (Collins, Hanges,
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 10
& Locke, 2004), though there are exceptions (Locke, 2015). Collins and colleagues also found
that conscious self-reported achievement motivation, based on trait scales, had the same effect.
However, the conscious and subconscious measures seem unrelated (no covariance, mediation or
moderation, Köllner & Schultheiss, 2014; Spangler, 1992).
Subconscious or implicit need for achievement has been found to be related to other types
of actions (e.g., Brunstein & Maier 2005; Spangler, 1992; Wegner & Teubel, 2014), particularly
after initial failure (Schattke, Taylor, Brandstätter, & Kehr, 2014). It may be related to
performance in professional service firms (cf. Spangler, Tikhomirov, Sotak, & Palrecha, 2014).
Quasi-traits. In recent years a quasi-trait approach has been proposed that includes what
are called learning and performance orientations (reviewed by Morisano, 2013). Both are
achievement related. Quasi traits are general but may also be framed in terms of specific
situations (e.g., learning in school). In a learning or mastery orientation (LO) the focus is on
acquiring new knowledge and skills, whereas performance orientation (PO) stresses doing well
on the task in some way.
There has been considerable confusion regarding PO because it has been measured in
quite different ways (Morisano, 2013) such as focus on success in order to impress others,
competition, or simply doing well, and the different conceptualizations can lead to very different
results. For example, “impress through success” goals can lead to setting very easy goals, which
would lead to low performance according to goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990, 2013).
However, when the focus is on simply doing well, the combination of learning and performance
orientations seems to lead to the best performance, especially when the measures focus on an
“approach” rather than an “avoid” orientation, that is, seeking success rather than avoiding
failure (Morisano, 2013).
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 11
States. Conscious, state achievement motivation is task and situationally specific and is
most logically related to goal setting (Locke & Latham, 1990, 2013). In goal setting theory,
performance attainment is based on the type and level of task-specific goal that is set in addition
to various moderators (task knowledge, commitment, feedback). Performance is best if the
standard is specific and challenging and there is high commitment, relevant knowledge or skill,
and feedback showing progress in relation to the standard. Assigned goals work best if they are
accepted or committed to. This is most critical when goals are hard (Klein, Cooper, & Manahan,
2013). Satisfaction comes from goal success or the perception of progress toward one’s goal, not
just from taking action (Locke & Latham, 1990). Specific goals can be set for learning as a
means of improving task performance, in combination with performance goals, through
acquiring new or upgraded skills (Masuda, Locke, & Williams, 2015; Seijts, Latham, &
Woodwark, 2013). At a deeper level, performance improvement and goal achievement based on
one’s own efforts is a source of pride (Mento, Locke, & Klein, 1992). Achievement satisfaction
and pride, of course, give pleasure but the source is not just from action but action that leads to
Morisano and colleagues (2010) found, contrary to the usual goal assumptions, that if
college students were made to reflect at length on their life goals in writing, their college
performance improved even if their list of goals did not include academics. This finding clearly
requires additional research studies.
Goals and goal orientations may be aroused through subconscious priming (Chen &
Latham, 2014; Latham, Brcic & Steinhauer, 2017). They work like conscious motivation but
regulate action separately (Friedman, 2013). However, there is mounting evidence that priming
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 12
effects have some conscious mediators. Latham and colleagues (2017) found that primed goal
difficulty was partly mediated by consciously, self-set goals.
Self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), which is also a state theory, pertains to the confidence that
one can execute a course of action to bring about certain performance outcomes. Self-efficacy
plays critical and multiple roles in achievement related action. Aside from main effects, it affects
self-set goal level and goal commitment, it is affected by assigned goals, affects the response to
feedback, and leads to the use of better task strategies (Locke & Latham, 1990, 2013).
A note about flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 1996). The essential elements of flow appear
to be the experience, based on feedback from the current task that indicates smoothly running,
goal-directed progress on a valued activity and during which one loses track of time. The goal
must be clear so that one is not focused on other non-goal actions and one must feel up to the
challenge rather than being preoccupied with self-doubt. Csikszentmihalyi states that flow
appears particularly (but not exclusively) during “autotelic” activities, which people pursue for
the sake of doing it. In this sense, flow resembles intrinsic motivation and, consequently, Kehr
(2004, p.490) called flow “a special case of intrinsic motivation”, which also means that not
every intrinsically motivated or autotelic activity automatically leads to flow. Baumann and
Scheffer (2011) also see flow as a “state of intrinsic motivation in which people get fully
immersed in difficult tasks for the sake of the activity itself” (p. 267). In addition, these authors
proposed a “flow motive” as the disposition to seek flow in the achievement domain but others
have also discussed flow in contexts that are not achievement-related (Schiepe-Tiska & Engeser,
2012). Despite its clear relationship to intrinsic motivation, it is important to note that the
experience of flow shares many characteristics of achievement motivation such as clear goals
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 13
and goal progress, challenge, perceived skills, and feedback. These elements are all part of goal
setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990) and also self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1997).
Flow is a pleasant experience that does not occur all the time because in life everything
does not always go smoothly. Sometimes one fails, feels stymied, needs help, needs a new plan,
and has to persist in the face of failure, which all break the flow. All his requires self-efficacy,
goal commitment (Bandura, 1997; Locke & Latham, 1990, 2013), and often hard thinking. Flow
should be more likely to occur as one becomes more and more skilled on a task that one
performs repeatedly so long as boredom does not set in.
There have been many confusions regarding extrinsic motivation. For example, it has
been tied into the demonization of money on the grounds that it causes problems because of the
capitalist system, (e.g., see Kasser, Cohn, Kanner & Ryan, 2007, and Locke’s, 2007, rebuttal).
Ironically, both Communists (Marxists), who are atheists, and religionists condemn money
making. The Communists claim that making a profit is evil (the exploitation theory) and
Christians claim that love of money is the root of all evil. (An exception was Calvinism, which
claimed that making money was proof of God’s grace).
Money has also been viewed (e.g., by Deci, 1975 and others) as controlling, an extension
of the idea of environmental determinism endemic to behaviorism. However, money cannot
control action unless one values it in a given circumstance in some way and the means of gaining
it. Money (specifically paper money) is only inanimate matter; it is a tool of exchange.
Consequently, it is not the money per se that motivates people but the value significance of the
money because nothing can motivate an empty organism. Further, people have the capacity to
choose their values (Locke, 2018b) and therefore money can have many different meanings for
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 14
people, which can be beneficial or detrimental for people’s psychological health (Thibault
Landry, Kindlein, Trépanier, Forest, Zigarmi, Houson, & Brodbeck, 2016). For example, money
can be seen as a means of gaining material goods, as a status symbol, as a means of supporting
one’s loved ones, as providing security for the future, as allowing freedom of choice in one’s
actions, as a backup in case of emergencies, as a way to relieve self-doubt and more (Srivastava,
Locke, & Bartol, 2001).
In psychology, the main focus has long been on what happens when money is given for
performing a task and is then withdrawn, aside from the fact there are a many moderators of this
phenomenon (e.g., Cerasoli, Nicklin, & Ford, 2014). (There have been bitter, conflicting meta-
analyses of this literature, which will not be discussed here, e.g. Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996;
Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999; Cameron, Banko, & Pierce, 2001; Cerasoli et al., 2014).
Obviously, in a real work setting you do not get paid and then have it suddenly withdrawn.
Failing to attain a bonus can be discouraging but this does not eliminate one’s salary unless one
quits the job. Employees do not work for nothing. Not getting paid would lead to a very high
turnover rate! The fundamental issue, as some have acknowledged (Thibault Landry, Gagné,
Forest, Guerrero, Séguin, & Papachristopoulos, 2017) is how to design effective incentive
systems, which is a very complex matter (Weibel, Wiemann, & Osterloh, 2014).
We believe that research on the motivational effects of money has been far too narrowly
focused, not only with respect to the issue of money itself, but with respect to the issue of
extrinsic motivation in general. So what would be the best way to define extrinsic motivation?
We would define extrinsic motivation as involving means-ends relationships; it is doing
something in order to get some future value (or avoid some future disvalue). Because humans
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 15
need to live long range, acting for the future is not only not inferior to other forms of motivation,
as is sometimes suggested, but is essential to happiness and survival (e.g., see Locke, 2018a).
A critical point needs emphasis here: extrinsic does not mean outside the person but
rather outside the task; it pertains to what value a chosen activity can lead to (Rheinberg &
Engeser, 2018). Of course, achieving goals can lead to future benefits but the core of
achievement motivation is the pleasure one gets from task performance, improvement, or
Because so much human action, to varying degrees, is taken as a means to an end, it
encompasses any number of action-outcome possibilities (i.e., instrumentality) relationships.
These include, for example, choice of food and drink (what makes your body function well and
free of damage), physical activity (exercise), health management, (e.g., brushing one’s teeth,
getting checkups, taking medication), psychological counseling (increased self-esteem, lowered
depression and anxiety), education (gaining knowledge and skill), saving and investment
(financial security), developing friendships and romantic relationships, having and raising
children, pursuing a career, etc.
We argue that money itself needs to be seen in a much broader framework than worrying
simply about whether, under some circumstances, it is harmful to intrinsic motivation. It is said
that money cannot buy happiness, but to an extent it can (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2008; Smith,
2003). The former found that income, up to a certain level, was related to life happiness both
within and between cultures. Smith points out, that humans need material goods to survive and
money is one’s means of getting them. Further, money buys time, which means that one can
avoid things one likes doing less and spend more time doing things one likes more. Money
supports autonomy in the sense that it allows more choices in life. Money expands options.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 16
Money makes life less precarious. Money provides resources for creating wealth through trade.
Honest wealth creation is a spiritual process in the sense that it requires the best use of one’s
rational faculty (Locke, 2008).
Srivastava and colleagues (2001) found in two studies that there were many self-reported
motives for seeking money. Subjective well-being was associated with wanting money for:
security, family support, getting just compensation for efforts, pride, leisure activities, starting
one’s own business, and supporting favorite charities. These “positive” motives as a group were
related positively to subjective well-being among both student and entrepreneurial samples. Two
“negative” motives, social comparisons and alleviation of self-doubt as a group were negatively
related to subjective well-being in both samples. The rated importance of money was not directly
related to subjective well-being but was correlated with negative motives. Thus, it matters what
you seek money for and why you seek it. (See, for example, Rand’s famous money speech, e.g.,
“[Honestly earned] money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and will not
redeem your vices”; Rand, 1957, p. 384).
The money issue does not end there. In life, including career selection, job hunting and
job selection (when the job could possibly be gotten) or is offered, there are virtually always
trade-offs between money and other values, for examples, location, commuting, housing,
opportunities for learning and self-development, job security, the organization’s reputation,
company culture, family considerations (spouse’s career, children’s schooling) travel, life style,
saving, stress, hours of work, etc. It is grossly misleading to say that one is controlled by the
money offered—people make choices that involve money and other values based on their
personal value hierarchy virtually every day and have the power to determine and change that
hierarchy. Therefore, “controlled by money” can only mean that it is very near the top of one’s
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 17
value hierarchy and unaffected by other values or moral principles. In reality, monetary values
can always be weighed against non-monetary values (e.g., self-esteem, moral character, romantic
love). Furthermore, character can affect one’s ability to earn money. To the degree that one is
pro: reason, honest, independent in thinking, productive in work, and pro-justice, one’s earning
potential is enhanced (Locke, 2008).
Table 1. Summary of the Trichotomy of Motivation
Liking or wanting an
activity for its own
Recurrent concern for
a standard of
Doing something in
order to get some
Pleasure form the
Meeting a standard,
Attainment of valued
Inside the activity,
the pursuit of action
In the improvement,
in the challenge
Outside the activity,
in the consequences
Happiness during the
pursuit of action
Pride in achievement,
success, or progress
Example of a
Valuing the good
Enjoyment of one’s
Precise execution of
Training to win a
bout or a tournament.
learning. Having fun
at expressing oneself
Improving one’s skill
Learning for a new
job. Relate better to
for a study program.
Reflect likes and
Match task with
goals to company
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 18
Extrinsic motivation, when it leads people to think, plan, and act long range, should help
to prevent or lower stress and put one on the road to life happiness insofar as that is in one’s
control. Of course, there are caveats. If one’s value choices are based on impressing others or
overcoming self-doubt by showing off (Locke & Kenner, 2016), one has surrendered control of
one’s life and may experience a life of not so quiet desperation. Table 1 summarizes our
trichotomy of motivation.
We end this section with a trick question: which of the three types of motivation is best?
We think the most likely answer is: an integration among all three tied into one’s idealized life
style. What could be better than loving the work (and other things) that you are doing, doing it
well by a rational, personally relevant standard, and gaining long term life benefits as a result of
your efforts and choices? Although the three types can be identified and discussed separately and
can vary independently, they can relate to one another in various ways. Below we suggest
Interrelationships between Types
Mutual facilitation. Intrinsic motivation does not guarantee high achievement but it may
contribute to it. People who like an activity are usually anxious to spend more time on it and that
may facilitate some skill development. Achievement motivation, at the same time, may facilitate
intrinsic motivation because people tend to like things they are good at. Bandura (1997) has
noted that higher self-efficacy can lead to higher intrinsic motivation. Achievement motivation
can tie into extrinsic motivation. By propelling people to perform at a high level, it increases the
chances that one will be successful in some form, which may help them make money and gain its
associated rewards and benefits. Circling back, money can provide leisure to purse activities that
one loves but which do not bring income (e.g., travel). Completing the circle, intrinsically
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 19
motivated activities can provide ideas for turning the activity into a money-making business
which then involves achievement.
Compensation. Sometime people do not have and perhaps cannot get careers or jobs that
they love, or even like. Nevertheless, they can try to do a good job (achieve some excellence)
and take pride in it. It is often said that many or most lawyers hate their careers. But they can get
some satisfaction (happiness) and pride in being good lawyers. Further, they can make enough
money to allow them to pursue other ends in their leisure time. Thus, achievement and extrinsic
motivation can compensate to a degree for the lack of intrinsic motivation. Going in the other
direction, people can accept less achievement and lower salaries to give them more time to
pursue things they love doing, for example the lawyer who loves painting. The fun of painting
can help make up for the lack of pleasure in the other realms.
Conflict. The compensation issue implies that people can be in conflict about their wants.
They may want a high salary plus lots of free time but cannot get both. The usual reason for such
conflicts is conflicting value hierarchies; they want A and B but cannot have both and do not
want to give up either. This can be caused by family obligations: they need money for the
children’s education but can only get it by working 70 hours a week and giving up painting.
Conflict resolutions of this type require hard (creative) thinking and communication with
significant others who are involved, directly or indirectly. It usually means rethinking one’s
priorities. The existence of possible interrelationships between the three types of motivation is
shown in Figure 1.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 20
Figure 1 – Possible interrelationships between the different types of motivation.
Practical Applications for Organizations
How, specifically, could organizations apply these concepts?
Intrinsic Motivation. Look for employees who like or think they would like the type of
work available in your organization. Explain vividly the main tasks involved in the job. Give
work samples. Find out what previous experiences they have had that are similar to the open job.
Encourage affect-focused visualization of task and goal pursuits related to the intended job (Job
& Brandstätter, 2009). Place them in a job that matches their interests. Give them variety in order
to let new interests develop. Encourage them to grow the job around themselves. Make them
aware of new task opportunities. Encourage them to reflect on their likes and dislikes.
Achievement motivation. Make clear that there are standards of performance. Make
those transparent. Provide sufficient means to attain them. Support the required skill
development. Goals can be self-set (within limits) and/or be assigned. Fun and games in
•Liking or wanting an
activity for its own sake
•Competition with a
standard of excellence
•Doing something in order
to get some future value
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 21
organizations have to lead to results. Provide objective feedback about attainments or progress.
Encourage learning from mistakes. Goals in real life settings should be challenging but not
impossible (see Locke & Latham, 1990, Appendix D guidelines). The definition of challenge
should reflect business conditions, employee skills, and organizational resources. Stretch goals
do not have to be fully reached, but can be assigned to stimulate creative thinking (Kerr &
Lepelley, 2013). The appropriate time span depends on the context. Proximal goals can be tied to
distal (longer term) goals. Group (mutually shared) goals are effective (Kramer, Thayer & Salas,
2013) especially if they motivate knowledge exchange and intellectual stimulation. Build self-
and team-efficacy through training. Use learning goals when employees need to acquire new
skills (Seijts et al., 2013), though, it may be possible to combine them with performance goals
(Masuda et al., 2015).
Extrinsic Motivation. Give employees opportunities for self-development. Help them
upgrade their skills. Allow autonomy commensurate with trust in skill and ethics. Make goals as
meaningful as possible and provide a rationale for imposed goals (Güntert, 2015). Emphasize a
higher purpose by relating goals to the vision of the organization (Rawolle, Kehr, & Glaser,
2008). In addition to market sensitive base pay, recognize merit based on fair and objective
judgements (e.g., see Bock, 2015). Facilitate career progress. Encourage and support retirement
and life planning. Try to help coordinate the job with family responsibilities (e.g., flexible
schedules, work at home policies).
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 22
A Recommended Research Program
Frequently when presenting a conceptual paper, scholars are urged to formulate a theory
consisting of propositions deduced from other theories. We have chosen not to follow this
tradition. The first author has been a long-time fan of the inductive method, which means
building theory from accumulated evidence rather than building a theory in advance (cf. Locke,
2007; Locke & Latham, 1990). In our view, premature theorizing cuts off the discovery process.
In science there is an enormous amount of trial and error; if one knew what was going to be
discovered, no experiments would be needed at all. Trial and error can be guided by a
hypothesis, but a hypothesis does not necessarily have to be guided by a wider theory. There can
even be studies done with no hypotheses. The impetus can be: “Let’s see what will happen if I do
this.” In science, we need to “try stuff” in order to identify conditions and processes. Moreover,
trying will lead to new and creative ideas, albeit inevitably also to some failures, which should be
viewed as learning experiences.
Our view of replication is that exact replication of single studies, though useful, is
insufficient by itself (Locke, 2015). If you replicate one study 100 times, you still have only one
study. To be able to generalize across tasks, subjects, procedures, measures, and time you need
deliberate replication with variation (e.g., see Locke & Latham, 1990). This allows the discovery
of moderators (interactions) and causal mediators.
We recommend a research program on the three types of motivation described. It would start
simply with question asking. Here are some suggestions:
What are some concrete examples of the different type of motivation based on people’s
personal experiences? What are some intrinsically pleasurable activities that you have
experienced? What are examples of times you have attained excellence or succeeded in
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 23
reaching performance goals? What things do you do mainly for future benefits? What
types of attainments are most important to you?
Could questionnaires be constructed to measure people’s experiences in each category?
Should the questions be general or tied to specific life domains (e.g., work, family)?
Should both types of scales be developed?
Should there be attempts to use projective as well as conscious, self-report measures in
these realms? If so, which types?
How do scores on each type of scale correlate with various outcomes (e.g., life, family,
financial, career attainments, self-esteem and satisfaction)?
Does it matter how people weight the three types of motivation? Are there individual
How can or do the three types of motivation combine? Is the best job, career, or life when
one gets pleasure from all three types or are there exceptions?
Do people experience conflicts between the types? If so, why? How do people try to
reconcile them? How does that work?
Do some types compensate for failings in other types? How do people process this? Are
their different profiles that lead to the same outcome (e.g., life satisfaction)?
Have we overlooked other influential types of motivation (e.g., power lust)?
This is by no means a complete list. We do not suggest an a priori theory as we do not
want or can anticipate the research people will come up with. This is what inductive research is
all about (Locke, 2007).
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 24
Intrinsic motivation has often been inappropriately glorified, seen as somehow superior
(even morally superior) whereas extrinsic motivation, specifically wanting to make money, has
often been inappropriately demonized in the popular and scientific literature. Furthermore, the
debate about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has almost entirely ignored a third, crucial type,
namely achievement motivation, which has often been confused with intrinsic motivation. The
concepts have also suffered from definitional problems. We suggest that all three types of
motivation are independent, yet related concepts (all are sources of pleasure) that can mutually
facilitate, compensate, or be in conflict with one another. We have proposed some guiding
questions for a future research program and we hope that this will spark the discussion about the
three types of motivation, their differences and communalities. In the end, a personally satisfying
combination of intrinsic, achievement, and extrinsic motivation, we predict, is optimal for a
fulfilled and happy life.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation 25
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