Does Intrinsic Motivation Fuel the Prosocial Fire? Motivational Synergy in
Predicting Persistence, Performance, and Productivity
Adam M. Grant
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Researchers have obtained conflicting results about the role of prosocial motivation in persistence,
performance, and productivity. To resolve this discrepancy, I draw on self-determination theory,
proposing that prosocial motivation is most likely to predict these outcomes when it is accompanied by
intrinsic motivation. Two field studies support the hypothesis that intrinsic motivation moderates the
association between prosocial motivation and persistence, performance, and productivity. In Study 1,
intrinsic motivation strengthened the relationship between prosocial motivation and the overtime hour
persistence of 58 firefighters. In Study 2, intrinsic motivation strengthened the relationship between
prosocial motivation and the performance and productivity of 140 fundraising callers. Callers who
reported high levels of both prosocial and intrinsic motivations raised more money 1 month later, and this
moderated association was mediated by a larger number of calls made. I discuss implications for theory
and research on work motivation.
Keywords: prosocial motivation, intrinsic motivation, persistence, job performance, work productivity
Why do employees go above and beyond the call of duty to
persist in performing their work effectively and productively?
Organizational scholars have begun to highlight prosocial motiva-
tion—the desire to benefit other people—as an important answer
to this question. Researchers have argued that prosocial motivation
facilitates enhanced persistence, performance, and productivity by
enabling dedication to a cause (Thompson & Bunderson, 2003) or
moral principle (Shamir, 1990), a commitment to the people who
benefit from one’s efforts (Grant, 2007), and a willingness to
accept and utilize negative feedback (Meglino & Korsgaard,
2004). Indeed, a number of studies using different conceptualiza-
tions and measures related to prosocial motivation suggest that
prosocial motivation is associated with higher levels of persis-
tence, performance, and productivity across various tasks, jobs,
and extrarole behaviors (e.g., Bing & Burroughs, 2001; Brewer &
Selden, 1998; Grant et al., 2007; Korsgaard, Meglino, & Lester,
1997; Naff & Crum, 1999; Rioux & Penner, 2001; see also Ilies,
Scott, & Judge, 2006).
However, several studies have returned less encouraging results,
suggesting that particular forms of prosocial motivation are not
significantly related to job performance evaluations (Alonso &
Lewis, 2001) or the performance of organizational citizenship
behaviors (Konovsky & Organ, 1996). One explanation for these
conflicting results is that researchers have overlooked an important
dimension along which prosocial motivation varies. Self-
determination theory suggests that prosocial motivation can be
based on different levels of autonomous regulation; the desire to
benefit others can be autonomously supported by feelings of
identification and value congruence or can be coerced by feelings
of pressure and obligation (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005; Ryan & Connell,
1989). This distinction may have critical implications for under-
standing whether and when prosocial motivation promotes persis-
tence, performance, and productivity.
In this article, I build on this core insight to develop and test a
contingency perspective on prosocial motivation. Drawing on self-
determination theory, I propose that prosocial motivation is most
likely to enhance persistence, performance, and productivity when
it is accompanied by intrinsic motivation. Two studies of firefight-
ers and fundraising callers provide support for the proposed mod-
erating role of intrinsic motivation, demonstrating a synergistic
interaction of prosocial and intrinsic motivations in predicting
higher levels of persistence, performance, and productivity. To-
gether, the studies advance existing knowledge about the boundary
conditions of prosocial motivation and fill a gap in self-
determination theory and research about the interactions of intrin-
sic motivation with other forms of regulation.
Intrinsic and Prosocial Motivations
Motivation is a foundational topic in psychology and orga-
nizational studies. Because it describes the reasons that drive
actions, an understanding of motivation is central to explaining
both individual and organizational behavior (e.g., Mitchell &
Daniels, 2003). Motivation refers to the psychological pro-
I am grateful to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research
Fellowship, the American Psychological Association Early Research
Award, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Lee
Hakel Scholarship for providing financial support for the preparation of
I also appreciate constructive feedback on drafts of this article from
Sabine Sonnentag, Jeff Thompson, Teresa Cardador, and members of the
Impact Lab, especially Justin Berg. For assistance with data collection, I
thank Grace Chen, Wes Clark, Christy Flanagan, Howard Heevner, David
Lapedis, and Dave McIntyre.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Adam M.
Grant, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, Campus Box 3490, McColl Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-
3490. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Applied Psychology Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association
2008, Vol. 93, No. 1, 48 –58 0021-9010/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.1.48
cesses that direct, energize, and sustain action (e.g., Latham &
Pinder, 2005) or “an inner desire to make an effort” (Dowling
& Sayles, 1978, p. 16).
Motivation researchers have long recognized that this desire to
make an effort can derive from different sources (e.g., Herzberg,
1966; Porter & Lawler, 1968; Staw, 1977). Early in the 20th
century, scholars and practitioners believed that external controls,
incentives, punishments, and rewards were necessary to motivate
persistence, performance, and productivity (see Heath, 1999;
Steers, Mowday, & Shapiro, 2004). The advent of the human-
relations movement paved the way for a new view of motivation.
Rather than assuming that employees dislike work, scholars began
to propose that work can be inherently interesting and enjoyable
(e.g., Herzberg, 1966; McGregor, 1960). This view is developed in
and represented by theories of self-determination and intrinsic
motivation (e.g., Deci, 1975; Deci & Ryan, 1985). Intrinsic moti-
vation refers to the desire to expend effort based on interest in and
enjoyment of the work itself (Amabile, Hill, Hennessey, & Tighe,
1994; Gagne´ & Deci, 2005; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Intrinsic moti-
vation is typically contrasted with extrinsic motivation—the desire
to expend effort to obtain outcomes external to the work itself,
such as rewards or recognition (Amabile, 1993; Brief & Aldag,
Prosocial motivation is the desire to expend effort to benefit
other people (Batson, 1987). Like intrinsic motivation (Amabile et
al., 1994), prosocial motivation has been conceptualized in both
traitlike and statelike terms. As a relatively enduring individual
difference, prosocial motivation is reflected in the personality trait
of agreeableness (Graziano, Habashi, Sheese, & Tobin, in press),
dispositions toward empathy and helpfulness (Penner, Dovidio,
Piliavin, & Schroeder, 2005), and values of concern for others (De
Dreu, 2006; Meglino & Korsgaard, 2004; Perry & Hondeghem, in
press; Schwartz, 1992). As a more temporary psychological state,
prosocial motivation involves a momentary focus on the goal of
protecting and promoting the welfare of other people, which is
typically prompted by contact with others who need help (Batson,
1987; Grant, 2007).
Differentiating Prosocial and Intrinsic Motivations
Because prosocial and intrinsic motivations have largely been
studied in separate literatures, researchers have made few attempts
to integrate understandings of the two motivations. What is the
relationship between the two motivations? On one hand, research-
ers have often assumed that prosocial motivation is a specific form
of intrinsic motivation. For instance, job design researchers have
classified opportunities to benefit others as intrinsic rewards
(Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1967) that increase intrinsic
motivation (Hackman & Oldham, 1976).
On the other hand, the two forms of motivation reflect different
scholarly assumptions about the drivers of motivation. Intrinsic
motivation takes a hedonic perspective by emphasizing pleasure
and enjoyment as drivers of effort, whereas prosocial motivation
takes a eudaimonic perspective by emphasizing meaning and pur-
pose as drivers of effort (Kahn, 1990; McGregor & Little, 1998;
Ryan & Deci, 2001; Waterman, 1993). Moreover, psychologists
have demonstrated that prosocial and intrinsic motivations involve
different reasons for expending effort. For intrinsically motivated
individuals, effort is based on interest and enjoyment; for proso-
cially motivated individuals, effort is based on a desire to benefit
others (Ryan & Connell, 1989). This basic distinction highlights
three important differences between the two forms of motivation:
self-regulation (autonomous vs. introjected/identified), goal direct-
edness (process vs. outcome), and temporal focus (present vs.
First, prosocial and intrinsic motivations involve different levels
of autonomy in self-regulation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). When intrin-
sically motivated, employees feel naturally drawn, or pulled, to-
ward completing their work. The decision to expend effort is based
on personal enjoyment and is thus fully volitional, self-determined
and autonomous (Kehr, 2004). When prosocially motivated, em-
ployees are more likely to push themselves toward completing
their work. The decision to expend effort is less autonomous, as it
is based more heavily on conscious self-regulation and self-control
to achieve a goal (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005). Prosocial motivation is
therefore characterized not as a state of pure intrinsic motivation,
but instead as a state of introjected or identified regulation. Em-
ployees are driven not by inherent interest in the work itself, but
rather by introjected goals of avoiding guilt and protecting self-
esteem or by identified goals of fulfilling core values and identities
(Ryan & Deci, 2000; Sheldon & Elliot, 1999; Sheldon & Houser-
Second, prosocial and intrinsic motivations differ in terms of
goal directedness. When intrinsically motivated, employees are
process focused—they see the work as an end in and of itself
(Amabile, 1993; Bono & Judge, 2003; Wrzesniewski, McCauley,
Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). When prosocially motivated, employ-
ees are outcome focused—they see the work as a means to the end
goal of benefiting others (Grant, 2007). Put differently, intrinsic
motivation is a paratelic state in which the work is inherently
enjoyable, whereas prosocial motivation is a telic state in which
the work is instrumental to a purpose or goal (Apter, 1984;
Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988).
Third, the previous distinction highlights that prosocial and
intrinsic motivations differ in terms of temporal focus. When
intrinsically motivated, employees are present focused—they are
concerned with the experience of performing the work itself
(R. W. Quinn, 2005). When prosocially motivated, employees are
future focused—they are concerned with achieving a meaningful
outcome upon completing the work (Batson, 1998).
To illustrate, consider the case of a university professor present-
ing a lecture to students. When intrinsically motivated, the teach-
er’s effort is based on enjoyment of the task of lecturing, which
provides joy and pleasure in the process of performing. When
prosocially motivated, the teacher’s effort is based on a desire to
educate students, which provides meaning and fulfillment in the
outcome of student learning. In summary, prosocial and intrinsic
motivations differ along at least three dimensions. Intrinsic moti-
vation involves autonomous self-regulation and a focus on a pro-
cess in the present. Prosocial motivation involves self-regulation
introjected or identified with values and a focus on an outcome in
the future. These distinctions suggest that the two motivations can
be understood as relatively independent. As such, it possible for
the two motivations to interact, a possibility that is central to the
INTRINSIC AND PROSOCIAL MOTIVATIONS
How do intrinsic and prosocial motivations interact to influence
persistence, performance, and productivity? Persistence refers to
the amount of time that employees invest in their efforts (e.g.,
Dweck & Gilliard, 1975; Sandelands, Brockner, & Glynn, 1988).
Performance refers to the degree to which employees’ behaviors
achieve organizational objectives (e.g., Beal, Cohen, Burke, &
McLendon, 2003; Campbell, 1990; McCloy, Campbell, & Cudeck,
1994; Motowidlo, 2003). Productivity describes an outcome of
performance—the quantity of output that results from performance
behaviors as well as external contextual and opportunity factors
(e.g., Blumberg & Pringle, 1982; Schmidt & Hunter, 1983).
In this section, I develop the hypothesis that intrinsic motivation
strengthens the positive association between prosocial motivation
and persistence, performance, and productivity. The central logic
underlying this hypothesis is that prosocial motivation takes on
different degrees of autonomous regulation depending on the level
of intrinsic motivation. Employees can be motivated to benefit
others because they want to help or because they feel that they
have to help (Cunningham, Steinberg, & Grey, 1980; Gagne´,
2003). As Ryan and Connell (1989, p. 757) explained, “A person
can have reasons for acting prosocially that can be variously
construed as external or introjected, or as outcomes of identifica-
tions.” When intrinsic motivation is high, prosocial motivation is
characterized by identified regulation: employees feel that com-
pleting their tasks is beneficial to their own self-selected goals, as
they enjoy the process of working and value the outcome of
helping others (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005). When intrinsic motivation is
low, prosocial motivation is characterized by introjected regula-
tion: employees do not enjoy the process of working, but they put
pressure on themselves to do so in order to help others (Ryan &
Accordingly, self-determination theory suggests that when in-
trinsic motivation is high, prosocial motivation will be positively
associated with persistence, performance, and productivity. When
intrinsic motivation is present, because employees enjoy the pro-
cess of completing their tasks, they will feel volition, autonomy,
and free choice in their efforts to benefit others, experiencing
prosocial motivation as identified regulation (Ryan & Connell,
1989). Thus, when intrinsic motivation is high, prosocial motiva-
tion will increase effort by providing an important outcome goal—
helping others—for employees to pursue (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005).
As a result, prosocial motivation will increase employees’ willing-
ness to invest time and energy in their tasks, persisting to perform
them effectively and productively. Indeed, recent research on
self-determination theory suggests that intrinsically motivated ef-
forts to benefit others enable employees to fulfill their basic
psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness
(Sheldon, Arndt, & Houser-Marko, 2003). Employees experience
autonomy in acting freely to benefit others, competence in suc-
cessfully helping others, and relatedness in connecting their ac-
tions to outcomes that matter in the lives of other people (Grant,
2007). Accordingly, when intrinsic motivation is high, prosocial
motivation is likely to promote high levels of persistence, perfor-
mance, and productivity.
On the other hand, self-determination theory suggests that when
intrinsic motivation is low, prosocial motivation will be less pos-
itively associated with persistence, performance, and productivity.
In the absence of intrinsic motivation, because employees do not
enjoy the process of working, they will feel pressured to benefit
others, experiencing prosocial motivation as introjected regulation
(Ryan & Connell, 1989; see also Cunningham et al., 1980). A core
premise of self-determination theory is that employees prefer to be
originators of their own behavior rather than pawns of the will of
others (deCharms, 1968; Deci, 1971; Deci, Koestner, & Ryan,
1999). The experience of pressure threatens employees’ abilities to
fulfill their basic psychological needs for autonomy (Ryan & Deci,
2000). Employees can respond to this pressure in one of two ways.
First, employees can escape the pressure by directly reducing their
engagement and effort levels (Bazerman, Tenbrunsel, & Wade-
Benzoni, 1998). This self-determined choice will enable them to
regain their feelings of autonomy at the expense of persistence,
performance, and productivity. Second, employees can succumb to
the pressure by expending additional effort to fulfill their obliga-
tions to help others. As employees feel pressured to contribute over
and above what they find interesting and enjoyable, their feelings
of autonomy will be threatened (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005), and they
will be more likely to experience stress and role overload (Bolino
& Turnley, 2005). These psychological costs will undermine em-
ployees’ capabilities to persist in performing their tasks effectively
and productively. Thus, when intrinsic motivation is low, prosocial
motivation is less likely to enhance persistence, performance, and
Hypothesis 1. Intrinsic motivation moderates the relationship
between prosocial motivation and persistence, performance,
and productivity. The higher the intrinsic motivation, the
stronger the positive association between prosocial motiva-
tion and persistence, performance, and productivity.
Overview of the Present Research
To test these hypotheses, I conducted studies in two occupa-
tions—firefighting and fundraising—in which I expected prosocial
motivation to be a psychologically meaningful variable. The first
study provides an initial test of the interaction between prosocial
and intrinsic motivations as a predictor of persistence (the number
of overtime hours worked by municipal firefighters). The second
study examines the interaction between prosocial and intrinsic
motivations as a predictor of the performance and productivity of
Participants and Procedure
Participants were 58 paid municipal firefighters (2 women, 56
men) at a fire department serving a community in the Midwest
U.S. Municipal firefighting is a complex job (e.g., Peterson, Bor-
man, Mumford, Jeannerete, & Fleishman, 1999). It requires ex-
tensive knowledge about service, safety, security, mechanics, med-
ical treatment, and construction, as well as strong skills in
coordination, critical thinking, problem-solving, monitoring, and
judgment and decision-making. The training chief allocated time
for firefighters to complete surveys during required monthly train-
ing sessions. I visited the organization, distributed consent forms,
and assured firefighters that their responses would be confidential
and anonymous and would be shared only in aggregate form
without any personally identifying information.
Unless otherwise indicated, all items used 7-point Likert-type
scales with anchors of 1 (disagree strongly)to7(agree strongly).
Prosocial and intrinsic motivations. I measured prosocial and
intrinsic motivations with items adapted from self-regulation
scales developed by Ryan and Connell (1989). An introductory
question asked, “Why are you motivated to do your work?”. The
surveys contained four items measuring each form of motivation.
The four items for prosocial motivation were “Because I care
about benefiting others through my work,” “Because I want to help
others through my work,” “Because I want to have positive impact
on others,” and “Because it is important to me to do good for
others through my work” (␣⫽.90). The four items for intrinsic
motivation were “Because I enjoy the work itself,” “Because it’s
fun,” “Because I find the work engaging,” and “Because I enjoy it”
Persistence. For the outcome measure, 2 months after the
surveys were completed, the training chief provided data on the
number of overtime hours that firefighters had worked in the
previous week. Overtime hours has been conceptualized as an
indicator of persistence, as it measures the amount of time that
employees invest in their work (Mitchell & Daniels, 2003). Fire-
fighters were allowed to sign up for overtime hours in advance,
thus demonstrating persistence.
An exploratory factor analysis using principal axis factoring
with maximum likelihood estimation and an oblique rotation ex-
amined whether the prosocial and intrinsic motivation items were
distinct. The analysis revealed the expected two-factor solution
(eigenvalues ⫽ 4.08 and 1.50, respectively), and the resulting
prosocial and intrinsic motivation factors were positively corre-
lated (r ⫽ .41, p ⫽ .001).
To test the hypothesis that the prosocial-intrinsic motivation
interaction would predict overtime, I followed the procedures
recommended by Aiken and West (1991; see also Cohen, Cohen,
West, & Aiken, 2003). I mean-centered the prosocial and intrinsic
motivation variables and multiplied the two centered variables to
create a continuous interaction term. I then conducted ordinary
least squares regression analyses predicting overtime from proso-
cial motivation, intrinsic motivation, and the interaction term. The
analysis showed that prosocial motivation did not significantly
predict overtime, ␤⫽.02, t(54) ⫽ 0.14, p ⫽ .89, but intrinsic
motivation did, ␤⫽.29, t(54) ⫽ 2.13, p ⫽ .04, as did the
interaction term, ␤⫽.35, t(54) ⫽ 2.47, p ⫽ .02. A hierarchical
regression showed that the addition of the interaction term in-
creased the variance explained in overtime significantly from r
⫽ .16) to r
⫽ .22 (f
⫽ .28), F(1, 54) ⫽ 6.09, p ⫽ .02.
Figure 1 displays the simple slopes for the relationship between
prosocial motivation and overtime at one standard deviation above
and below the mean of intrinsic motivation. Prosocial motivation
was positively associated with overtime when intrinsic motivation
was high (␤⫽.44) but was negatively associated with overtime
when intrinsic motivation was low (␤⫽⫺.53). Firefighters with
high levels of both prosocial and intrinsic motivations averaged
33.12 overtime hours per week, whereas all other firefighters
averaged 19.78 overtime hours per week. Thus, intrinsic motiva-
tion moderated (strengthened) the association between prosocial
motivation and overtime hours.
The results provided general support for the role of intrinsic
motivation in moderating the association between prosocial moti-
vation and persistence. Firefighters who reported high levels of
both prosocial and intrinsic motivations worked more overtime
hours 2 months later. Although these results are promising, they
are subject to at least three important limitations. First, the study
focused on a small sample of employees in one occupation, raising
questions about generalizability. Second, I was only able to obtain
one outcome measure (overtime hours), which raises questions
about applications to the domain of effectiveness. Does intrinsic
motivation moderate the association between prosocial motivation
and performance and productivity in a larger sample from a
Third, an alternative explanation for the results is that intrinsic
motivation is a reflection of job satisfaction. Whereas intrinsic
motivation is a specific desire to expend effort based on enjoyment
In light of the small sample size, I examined standardized dfbeta and
Cook’s D influence statistics to determine whether the interaction was
dependent on a few cases. First, I used standardized dfbetas to assess the
change in the interaction term’s regression coefficient caused by deleting
each case. After eliminating the standardized dfbetas with absolute values
greater than 2 ⫼公 n (Belsley, Kuh, & Welsch, 1980), or .26 in this sample,
the interaction term was still statistically significant in the positive direc-
tion. Second, I used Cook’s D to assess the multivariate change across
regression coefficients caused by deleting each observation. After I reran
the analyses excluding the three cases that exceeded the conventional
cutoff point (Fox, 1991) of 4 ⫼ (n⫺k⫺1), or 0.07 in this sample, the
interaction term was still statistically significant in the positive direction.
These analyses suggest that the interaction was robust even after eliminat-
ing influential cases.
Persistence (overtime hours)
Figure 1. Study 1 regression slopes for overtime hours.
INTRINSIC AND PROSOCIAL MOTIVATIONS
of the tasks themselves (Amabile, 1993), job satisfaction is a more
global attitude—an evaluative judgment about the extent to which
one’s overall work experiences meet one’s expectations or stan-
dards (Harrison, Newman, & Roth, 2006; Warr, 2007; Weiss,
2002). It may not be the experience of autonomous regulation and
self-determination provided by intrinsic motivation, but rather a
generally favorable job attitude, that strengthens the prosocial
motivation-behavior relationship. According to this perspective,
job satisfaction might lead employees to perceive other people in
their work environments in a more favorable light, increasing the
willingness of prosocially motivated employees to expend addi-
tional effort in order to benefit these people (e.g., George, 1991).
To address these three issues, I conducted a second study. I
examined intrinsic and prosocial motivations as predictors of the
performance and productivity of fundraising callers and measured
job satisfaction as an alternative explanation of the results.
Participants were 140 paid fundraising callers (71 women, 69
men) at a call center at a public university in the Midwestern U.S.
All callers worked the same number of hours and shifts and were
responsible for contacting prospective alumni donors in order to
persuade them to give money to the university. The callers thus
provided a service to university faculty, staff, and students, who
benefited from the funds raised, and to alumni, who were updated
on recent events and activities at the university. Callers accessed
alumni names and phone numbers from a computerized database
provided by managers. They were required to use a standardized
script to make their pitches, which instructed them to ask for
donations three times over the course of a single call before
hanging up and turning to the next call.
Managers provided time for callers to complete surveys during
their regularly scheduled shifts. I arrived at the organization,
distributed consent forms to the callers, and explained that re-
sponses would be confidential, reported only in the aggregate. I
then distributed surveys to the callers to measure prosocial moti-
vation, intrinsic motivation, and job satisfaction. One month after
callers completed their surveys, managers provided objective mea-
sures of their performance and productivity.
Unless otherwise indicated, all items used 7-point Likert-type
scales with anchors of 1 (disagree strongly)to7(agree strongly).
Prosocial and intrinsic motivations. Callers completed sur-
veys measuring prosocial motivation (␣⫽.91) and intrinsic mo-
tivation (␣⫽.93) using the same items as in Study 1.
Job satisfaction. Job satisfaction was measured with a four-
item scale developed by R. P. Quinn and Shepard (1974; see also
Eisenberger, Cummings, Armeli, & Lynch, 1997).
Performance and productivity. Managers in the call center
provided objective data for performance and productivity. Perfor-
mance was measured by the number of calls that callers made in a
1-week interval, which is one important element of performing the
job effectively. Productivity was measured by output, which was
defined as the amount of donation money that callers raised in the
same interval. Managers supplied both measures in a 1-week
interval 1 month after the survey data were collected. This week-
long interval was appropriate given that callers were drawing from
a common pool of prospective alumni donors, signifying that
different callers had similar opportunities to perform.
Means, standard deviations, reliability coefficients, and correla-
tions for the measures appear in Table 1. To ensure that the
constructs were distinct, I conducted confirmatory factor analyses
using EQS software (version 6.1; Bentler, 1995) with maximum
likelihood estimation procedures, following recommendations in
the measurement literature (e.g., Bentler & Dudgeon, 1996; Kline,
1998). A one-factor model displayed very poor fit with the data,
(20, N ⫽ 140) ⫽ 312.82, normed fit index (NFI) ⫽ .67,
nonnormed fit index (NNFI) ⫽ .56, comparative fit index (CFI) ⫽
.68, standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) ⫽ .168. In
contrast, the expected two-factor model displayed very good fit
with the data,
(19, N ⫽ 140) ⫽ 60.84, NFI ⫽ .94, NNFI ⫽ .93,
CFI ⫽ .96, SRMR ⫽ .040. Supporting the distinctiveness of the
prosocial and intrinsic motivation measures, a chi-square differ-
ence test showed that the model fit improved significantly from the
one-factor to two-factor model,
(1, N ⫽ 140) ⫽ 251.98, p ⬍
I conducted additional confirmatory factor analyses including
the four job satisfaction items to examine whether intrinsic moti-
Study 2 Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
Variable MSD12 3 4 5
1. Performance (calls made) 48.65 40.48 —
2. Productivity (dollars raised) 436.73 565.56 .58
3. Intrinsic motivation 3.76 1.54 .10 .19
4. Prosocial motivation 4.48 1.41 .08 .11 .55
5. Job satisfaction 4.90 1.34 .10 .18
Note. Coefficient alphas appear across the diagonal in parentheses.
p ⬍ .05.
p ⬍ .001.
vation was distinct from job satisfaction. A two-factor model with
the prosocial motivation items loading on one factor and the
intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction items loading together on
the second factor did not fit the data well,
(53, N ⫽ 140) ⫽
188.08, NFI ⫽ .84, NNFI ⫽ .85, CFI ⫽ .88, SRMR ⫽ .076. The
expected three-factor model displayed good fit,
(51, N ⫽ 140) ⫽
113.79, NFI ⫽ .90, NNFI ⫽ .93, CFI ⫽ .94, SRMR ⫽ .046, which
supported the empirical distinctiveness of intrinsic motivation and
job satisfaction. A chi-square difference test showed that the model
fit improved substantially from the two-factor to three-factor
(2, N ⫽ 140) ⫽ 74.29, p ⬍ .001.
Predicting Performance and Productivity
I used hierarchical ordinary least squares regression analyses to
examine whether the prosocial-intrinsic motivation interaction sig-
nificantly predicted performance and productivity, following the
same procedures as in Study 1. I mean-centered the prosocial and
intrinsic motivation variables and multiplied the two centered
variables to create a continuous interaction term. The results of
these analyses indicated that neither prosocial motivation nor
intrinsic motivation independently predicted performance or pro-
ductivity. However, the interaction between prosocial and intrinsic
motivations was a significant predictor of both performance and
productivity (see Table 2, first two columns). To facilitate the
interpretation of these results, I plotted the simple slopes for the
relationship of prosocial motivation with performance (see Figure
2) and productivity (see Figure 3) at one standard deviation above
and below the mean of intrinsic motivation. Prosocial motivation
was positively associated with performance when intrinsic moti-
vation was high (␤⫽.41) but not low (␤⫽.00). Prosocial
motivation was also positively associated with productivity when
intrinsic motivation was high (␤⫽.31) but not low (␤⫽⫺.20).
Callers with high levels of both prosocial and intrinsic motivations
averaged 51.82 calls and $510.58 in donations as compared with
an average of 40.26 calls and $308.10 in donations for the other
callers. Thus, intrinsic motivation moderated (strengthened) the
association between prosocial motivation and performance and
Mediated Moderation Analyses
I conducted supplementary analyses to examine whether perfor-
mance mediated the association between prosocial–intrinsic moti-
vation interaction and productivity, following the procedures for
mediated moderation recommended by Muller, Judd, and Yzerbyt
(2005). The first criterion, for the interaction between the moder-
ator and the independent variable to significantly predict the de-
pendent variable, was met by prior analyses showing that the
interaction between prosocial and intrinsic motivations signifi-
cantly predicted productivity. The second criterion, for the inter-
action between the moderator and the independent variable to
significantly predict the mediator, was also met by prior analyses
showing that the interaction between prosocial and intrinsic moti-
vations significantly predicted performance. The third criterion,
for the mediator to significantly predict the dependent variable
Performance (calls made)
Figure 2. Study 2 regression slopes for performance.
Productivity ($$ raised)
Figure 3. Study 2 regression slopes for productivity.
Study 2 Regressions for Performance, Productivity, and
␤ t(136) ␤ t(136) ␤ t(135)
.110 1.09 .090 0.92 .002 0.02
Intrinsic motivation .030 0.31 .130 1.36 .080 0.93
Performance .450 5.97
Note. The explained variance was r
⫽ .09 for performance (f
⫽ .11 for productivity in Step 1 (f
⫽ .12), and r
⫽ .41 for productivity
in Step 2 (f
p ⬍ .01.
p ⬍ .001.
INTRINSIC AND PROSOCIAL MOTIVATIONS
while controlling for the interactions between the moderator and
the independent variable and between the moderator and the me-
diator, was met by an additional regression analysis. Performance
significantly predicted productivity while controlling for the two
interaction terms (see Table 2, third column). Finally, the associ-
ation between the independent variable and the dependent variable
decreased significantly after entering the mediator, as the associ-
ation between the prosocial–intrinsic motivation interaction and
productivity decreased from ␤⫽.29, p ⫽ .001 to ␤⫽.09, p ⫽ .21
(see Table 2, second and third columns). A Sobel test using the
critical values recommended by MacKinnon, Lockwood, Hoff-
man, West, and Sheets (2002) showed that this decrease was
statistically significant, z’ ⫽ 3.68, p ⬍ .01. Thus, performance
mediated the relationship between the prosocial–intrinsic motiva-
tion interaction and productivity.
Job Satisfaction Analyses
Finally, I examined job satisfaction as an alternative explanation
for the results by conducting moderated regression analyses pre-
dicting the two dependent variables from the interactions of proso-
cial motivation with both intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction.
The results, which are displayed in Table 3, show that intrinsic
motivation, but not job satisfaction, interacted with prosocial mo-
tivation to predict both performance and productivity. Thus, it
appears that the specific experience of intrinsic motivation, rather
than the more general positive attitude of job satisfaction, is
responsible for the moderating patterns observed.
These findings build on and complement the results from Study
1, which showed that intrinsic motivation strengthened the asso-
ciation between prosocial motivation and persistence in firefight-
ing. Study 2 extended this key finding to the domain of effective-
ness, supporting the role of intrinsic motivation in strengthening
the association between prosocial motivation and performance
productivity in fundraising. Moreover, performance mediated the
interactive relationship between prosocial and intrinsic motiva-
tions and productivity, and the moderating pattern was unique to
intrinsic motivation—it did not hold for job satisfaction. The two
studies thereby provide convergent support for the role of intrinsic
motivation in strengthening the association between prosocial mo-
tivation and persistence, performance, and productivity.
A core question in motivation research concerns what drives
employees to persist in their tasks toward effective performance
and productivity. Although recent research has pointed to prosocial
motivation as an important answer to this question, little research
has examined its boundary conditions. I drew on self-
determination theory to propose that prosocial motivation is more
likely to predict persistence, performance, and productivity when it
is accompanied by intrinsic motivation. Across two field studies, I
found support for this hypothesis: intrinsic motivation strength-
ened the association between prosocial motivation and persistence,
performance, and productivity in firefighting and fundraising.
Although the two studies displayed consistent results for the
synergistic interaction between prosocial and intrinsic motivations,
an interesting discrepancy emerged between the findings for in-
trinsic motivation as an independent predictor of the outcome
variables. Intrinsic motivation independently predicted the number
of overtime hours that firefighters worked in Study 1 but did not
independently predict the performance and productivity of fund-
raising callers in Study 2. A plausible explanation for this discrep-
ancy is based on differences in the variety and complexity of the
work. Whereas the firefighters completed varied, complex tasks
that supported intrinsic motivation, the fundraising callers com-
pleted comparatively repetitive, simple tasks that offered limited
opportunities for intrinsic motivation. Firefighters experienced
higher levels of intrinsic motivation (M ⫽ 6.09, SD ⫽ 0.77) than
fundraising callers (M ⫽ 3.76, SD ⫽ 1.54), increasing the likeli-
hood that intrinsic motivation would influence their behaviors
(e.g., Steel & Ko¨nig, 2006). This interpretation is consistent with
evidence that intrinsic motivation is difficult to sustain in repetitive
tasks (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) and more likely to increase
effort in varied than repetitive tasks (Koestner & Losier, 2002).
The two studies also revealed a surprising trend: a negative
relationship between prosocial motivation and the outcomes of
persistence (Study 1) and productivity (Study 2) when intrinsic
motivation was low. A likely theoretical explanation for this trend
suggested earlier is that when intrinsic motivation is low, the
experience of pushing oneself to complete the task in the absence
of enjoyment leads to stress and overload (e.g., Bolino & Turnley,
2005). From this perspective, prosocial motivation without intrin-
sic motivation may deplete employees’ psychological resources
for self-regulation (Muraven & Baumeister, 2000), leading to
exhaustion and thereby decreased persistence and productivity.
This article helps to resolve conflicting results about the role of
prosocial motivation in persistence, performance, and productivity.
Together, the results for firefighters and fundraisers suggest that
prosocial motivation is most likely to contribute to these outcomes
when it is accompanied by high levels of intrinsic motivation. In
the absence of intrinsic motivation, however, prosocial motivation
may not be sufficient to enhance persistence, performance, and
productivity. These findings highlight intrinsic motivation as an
Study 2 OLS Regressions Predicting Performance and
Productivity With Job Satisfaction
␤ t(134) ␤ t(134)
Prosocial motivation .11 1.07 .08 0.84
Intrinsic motivation ⫺.01 ⫺0.07 .08 0.72
Prosocial Motivation ⫻
Job satisfaction .07 0.64 .09 0.89
Prosocial Motivation ⫻
.03 0.25 ⫺.05 ⫺0.45
Note. The explained variance was r
⫽ .09 for performance (f
⫽ .12 for productivity (f
⫽ .13). OLS ⫽ ordinary least squares.
p ⬍ .05.
p ⬍ .01.
important boundary condition for the benefits of prosocial moti-
vation, advancing existing knowledge about the conditions under
which prosocial motivation is likely to contribute to desirable
employee behaviors. These findings also accentuate the value of
conceptualizing prosocial motivation in terms of varying degrees
of autonomous regulation, rather than studying prosocial motiva-
tion as a unitary construct, as has been common in prior research.
For example, Rioux and Penner’s (2001) measure of prosocial
motives included items such as “To have fun with my coworkers,”
“Because I like interacting with my coworkers,” and “Because I
feel it is important to help those in need.” These items appear to
capture a relatively intrinsic or identified, rather than introjected,
form of prosocial motivation. In contrast, the items utilized here
allowed for prosocial motivation to vary independently with in-
trinsic motivation, making it possible to examine whether the
association between prosocial motivation and persistence, perfor-
mance, and productivity outcomes is contingent on intrinsic mo-
Further, by examining prosocial and intrinsic motivations in
tandem, this article offers two central contributions to self-
determination theory and research. First, the findings expand cur-
rent understandings of the interactions between intrinsic motiva-
tion and other forms of self-regulation, an important but largely
neglected issue in psychological and organizational research. Self-
determination theory has traditionally treated different forms of
self-regulation as mutually exclusive, with little attention to inter-
actions among them (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005). In contrast, I have
argued that employees experience prosocial motivation as a form
of identified regulation when intrinsic motivation is high and
experience prosocial motivation as a form of introjected regulation
when intrinsic motivation is low. The findings across the two
studies regarding the interactions between intrinsic and prosocial
motivations thereby provide new insights into the potential syn-
ergy between intrinsic and identified forms of self-regulation. It
appears that the combination of enjoying the process and valuing
the outcome can enable higher levels of persistence, performance,
and productivity. These results thus provide empirical support for
theoretical perspectives proposing that intrinsic motivation can
interact constructively with other forms of motivation (Amabile,
1993; Gagne´ & Deci, 2005; Staw, 1977).
The second contribution to self-determination theory lies in
integrating research on intrinsic and prosocial motivations.
Whereas researchers have primarily studied prosocial and intrinsic
motivations in separate literatures, I have taken conceptual and
empirical steps to clarify the nature of and relationship between
prosocial and intrinsic motivations. Conceptually, the theoretical
development differentiates between the two motivations in terms
of self-regulation (introjected/identified vs. autonomous), goal di-
rectedness (outcome vs. process), and temporal focus (future vs.
present). Empirically, the results demonstrate that the two moti-
vations are positively related but clearly distinguishable and that
they can thereby interact to predict important outcomes in organi-
zational life. This attention to prosocial motivation takes a step
toward contextualizing intrinsic motivation research. The vast
majority of intrinsic motivation research has been conducted in
laboratories with individuals working on isolated, independent
tasks (Ambrose & Kulik, 1999). As Shamir (1990, p. 321) wrote,
“A more social concept of intrinsic motivation is needed.” Con-
sistent with this recommendation, my research focused on individ-
uals working in social, interdependent contexts on tasks that af-
fected the welfare of other people. The examination of both
intrinsic and prosocial motivations in these contexts answers re-
cent calls to move beyond task-focused and self-focused motiva-
tion perspectives toward more other-focused, relational motivation
perspectives (Grant, 2007; Meglino & Korsgaard, 2004; Shamir,
Limitations and Future Directions
The studies are subject to several limitations that can be ad-
dressed in further research. First, although the use of temporally
delayed outcome variables strengthens causal inferences, to pro-
vide more conclusive evidence about causal relationships, it is
necessary for future research to experimentally manipulate proso-
cial and intrinsic motivations and/or utilize cross-lagged longitu-
dinal designs that measure motivations and outcomes together at
multiple time intervals. Second, I did not directly assess the
proposed mechanism for explaining the results—that intrinsic mo-
tivation influences whether prosocial motivation is experienced as
identified or introjected regulation. It will be important for future
research to investigate psychological mechanisms that mediate the
link between prosocial and intrinsic motivations and persistence,
performance, and productivity. For example, it may be the case
that when prosocial motivation is low but intrinsic motivation is
high, employees’ attempts to force themselves to engage in the
task lead to cognitive interference that undermines their abilities to
perform effectively (e.g., Bazerman et al., 1998; Beal, Weiss,
Barros, & MacDermid, 2005). This mechanism may complement
persistence in explaining the association between the interaction of
prosocial and intrinsic motivations and the outcomes of perfor-
mance and productivity. Third, I was not able to control for other
established predictors of persistence, performance, and productiv-
ity, such as conscientiousness, perceived job characteristics, and
positive affect; I suggest that future research include these types of
control variables to examine the relative contributions of intrinsic
and prosocial motivations to the outcomes of interest.
Finally, the use of self-report measures of prosocial and intrinsic
motivations at single points in time raises questions about whether
employees’ responses reflect enduring orientations, temporary
states, or both (e.g., Amabile et al., 1994). Assessing the two
motivations as both enduring orientations and temporary states
using experience-sampling and daily diary methodologies will
provide insight into this issue by illuminating the relative roles of
between-individual and within-individual variations in predicting
outcomes. Such designs will also help to adjudicate claims that
multiple motivations cannot coexist in the same moment (Apter,
1984; Kuhl, 1992). Also potentially worthwhile are implicit mea-
sures of the motivations, which may transcend some of the limi-
tations of explicit self-reports (Schultheiss & Brunstein, 2001).
Practical Implications and Conclusion
The findings across the two studies have important practical
implications. The results suggest that employees display higher
levels of persistence, performance, and productivity when they
experience prosocial and intrinsic motivations in tandem. Manag-
ers may draw on these findings to tailor selection and socialization
practices toward prosocial and intrinsic motivations. From a se-
INTRINSIC AND PROSOCIAL MOTIVATIONS
lection standpoint, managers may measure prosocial and intrinsic
motivational orientations to hire employees who display disposi-
tional tendencies to experience high levels of both motivations.
From a socialization standpoint, managers may design work con-
texts to cultivate both prosocial and intrinsic motivations. For
example, task significance is thought to enhance intrinsic motiva-
tion (Hackman & Oldham, 1976), but because task significance
provides opportunities to benefit others, it may simultaneously
enhance prosocial motivation (Grant, 2008). Similarly, empower-
ment interventions are thought to increase intrinsic motivation
(Thomas & Velthouse, 1990), but because they provide employees
with expanded opportunities to contribute and have an impact, they
may simultaneously increase prosocial motivation. Thus, the
knowledge that both prosocial and intrinsic motivations play a
significant role in persistence, performance, and productivity may
motivate managers to both select and socialize these motivations,
with the potential to increase effectiveness outcomes.
In conclusion, E. B. White wrote, “I arise every morning torn
between the desire to improve the world and the desire to enjoy it.
This makes it hard to plan the day” (Kennedy, 2006). In contrast,
the findings presented here suggest that employees who experience
the desire to both improve and enjoy the world are motivated to
act, persisting in completing their tasks effectively and produc-
tively. By suggesting that synergy between prosocial and intrinsic
motivations may enhance persistence, performance, and produc-
tivity, this article advances existing theory, research, and practice
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Received January 24, 2007
Revision received June 6, 2007
Accepted July 26, 2007 䡲