Characteristics of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Before examining the characteristics of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation it will be helpful to differentiate these forms of motivation from interest. Interest refers to the liking and willful engagement in an activity (Schraw & Lehman, 2001). And the difference between personal interest, which is a relatively-stable personal disposition toward a specific topic or domain, and situational interest, which represents a temporary and situationally specific attention to a topic (Urdan & Turner, 2005)
Interest is not a type of motivation but rather an influence on motivation. Students who are interested in learning about a topic or improving their skills in a domain should display motivated behaviors, such as choice of the activity, effort, persistence, and achievement.
While it may seem that personal interest and intrinsic motivation bear some similarity to one another, personal and situational interest are not inherently linked with either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Students may be personally or situationally interested in a topic for intrinsic or extrinsic reasons. Although a goal of educators may be to develop students’ interest and intrinsic motivation in learning, in fact there are many reasons underlying students’ interests and not all of them reflect intrinsic motives.
It is tempting to think of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as two ends of a continuum such that the higher the intrinsic motivation, the lower the extrinsic motivation; however, there is no automatic relation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Lepper, Corpus, & Iyengar, 2005). For any given activity, an individual may be high on both, low on both, medium on both, high on one and medium on the other, and so forth. It is more accurate to think of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as separate continuums, each ranging from high to low.
Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are time and context dependent. They characterize people at a given point in time in relation to a particular activity. The same activity can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivating for different people. Jon’s English class is extrinsically motivating for Todd but intrinsically motivating for Lelia. As another example, assume that Scott and Rhonda play the banjo. Scott’s intrinsic motivation is high because he plays for enjoyment, whereas his extrinsic motivation is low. In contrast, Rhonda’s extrinsic motivation is high because she plays largely as a means to the end of playing well enough to earn money in a Dixieland band. Rarely does she play for intrinsic reasons.
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