Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation



We all have  those days at work, where you feel so engaged that you’d do it even you weren’t being paid to do it. And there are some days you think there isn’t enough money in the world to make you do this, why are you bothering. And that in a nutshell, is the difference between being intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

Extrinsic motivators are either carrots or sticks, which unless you are a donkey, come in the form of money, awards, a nice certificate recognising your achievement, or some kind of grading relative to your peers (number one mum) or on the stick side – losing privileges, paying fines, being shouted at or being socially ostracised.

We are kitted out with a whole range of emotions, that are keyed in to external motivators and the most powerful negative emotions that can drive behaviour are fear and shame. On the flip side, positive external motivation fits with pride and greed.

Intrinsic motivation – doing something because you love doing it, the satisfaction of doing something well, that feeling of being in full flow, competing against yourself to improve your performance at something, even if it doesn’t come with plaudits and accolades, just that sense of enjoyment and pleasure that comes from within. Intrinsic motivation attaches itself to emotions like joy, fun and love.

I’m not making a moral or ethical argument for intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation, just an effectiveness one. We know that both forms of motivation can be effective in driving behaviour, especially learning behaviour, but when we rely only on extrinsic motivation, “you must complete this e-learning by 10am on the 30th August (or else)” it’s likely to cause resentment and unhappiness. If you could in some way make the learning fun and utilise intrinsic not extrinsic motivation to encourage the learner to engage, it would be more fun for everyone. That’s where Serious Games come in, game based learning creates effective intrinsic reward mechanics and progressive challenge, to give learners a sense of achievement, whilst practicing the hard bits and improving performance.

Tim Laning

Business developer

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games? Let’s discuss what serious games can do for you.


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