Internal and External factors of Motivation

The purpose of this essay is to critically evaluate the role of internal and external factors in relation to motivation. Within this essay several explanations of the definition of motivation will be provided. A description of the biological basis of motivation and it influences will be put forward. Also a portrayal of the sociocultural and psychological influences of motivational will be given. A link will be provided showing the relationship between optimal arousal, drives and motivation. The factors that contribute to help motivate, and affect behaviour will be provided. Differing approaches to motivation and factors that influence it, will be demonstrated. Primarily this essay will critically analyse intrinsic and external factors relating to motivation and will offer clarification of these terms. There will also be a discussion about the prosed negative effects of extrinsic motivators on intrinsic motivation. Towards the end some practical examples of proper use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation will be provided. Several theories and examples will be provided and relevant references will be included to back up, support and strengthen all arguments presented.

Motivation is often described as being the thing that provides the necessary drives to induce an individual to meet a specific need or goal, or to resolve a situation that threatens a need or goal. Carlson and Buskist (1997) describe motivation as being “a general term for a group of phenomena that affect the nature, strength, or persistence of an individuals behaviour”(p.415). Wordnet (n.d p.1) defines motivation “the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behaviour”. There are said to be four different kinds of motivation, positive, intrinsic, negative and extrinsic (Kohn, 1999).

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Psychologists study motivation because they want to understand why people do things. Motivation is split up into four categories when studied psychological they are; A person with a need, the persons goal-orientated behaviour, the goal objective and the ways the goal is attained. Psychologists endeavour to find out the reasons behind all types of behaviour. Why do similar people react and behave completely differently in similar situations and why do people react differently at different times. Things like what lies behind the compulsion some people have to use drugs, which motivation are innate and which are learned and taught. Also how do more basic things like thirst, hunger and sex affect our behaviour and emotions.

Instincts that come from the ID aspect of personality formed some of the earliest and most basic theories of motivations (Weiten, Lloyd, Dunn and Hammer, 2009). The ID aspect of personality governs the primary biological needs as characterised in the two lowest levels of Maslow’s (1943) heirachy of needs theory they are safety, security, food, water, oxygen and reproduction (Bourne & Russo, 1998). These needs are physiological survival needs which are based on biological forces which in turn create a drive for and individual to satisfy the need. Bourne & Russo (1998) go on to describe the emotional nature of motivation, they explain that emotion does not necessarily create goal orientated behaviour but it may energise our behaviour.

According to Carson and Buskist (1997) needs can be varied strong motivators. For example, people have been known to kill other people for food. There are basic regulatory behaviours within everyone which controls behaviours to make sure the body gets what it needs. Examples of this would be things like hunger and eating, swimming to the surface to get air. This process is called homeostasis. The needs is when brain receives the signal that something is lacking and the brain creates the drive to make the individual carry out the necessary behaviour to satisfy the need and restore an optimal level of arousal. Although the social/cultural basis of motivation can hamper this, for example, in a struggling family parents may decide to feed their children before themselves thus psychologically overcoming their biological need for the psychological satisfaction of knowing their children are fed.

Often it is found that the level of efficiency to which an activity is carried out sometimes depends largely on the level of arousal or anxiety that is present in the nervous system, this theory is called the drive theory was first theorised by Donald Hebb (1955, as cited in Avery & Baker,1990). Hebb proposes that if there is an optimal level of arousal then no further stimulation will be sort. Furthermore, if the arousal level falls we will then be motivated to seek more stimulation to increase the level of arousal back to the optimum level. The key here is often balance.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation needs balance too, to create the most powerful long lasting motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from an inner desire to achieve, the only reward is from the inside there are no tangible rewards or incentives. Conversley, extrinsic motivation often has an element of tangible reward. This usually comes in the form of a pay rise, trophy or simply the approval of another. An example of the difference here would be a circumstance where an individual is playing in a sporting team to achieve a scholarship for a university, this would be extrinsic motivation. Comparatively if an individual was playing a sport because they love that sport its intrinsic motivation, even if this individual achieves a scholarship as well. Another point to make in this circumstance is that the individual who was extrinsically motivated may not continue to play their sport once their study is finished as with the intrinsically motivated individual would more than likely continue until their loves for the sport dwindled, which may never actually happen as long as there is intrinsic motivation to continue. Conversley, if after many years of playing their loved sport, their doctors tells them to stop for medical reasons then they would be extrinsically motivated to stop. Bourne & Russo (1998) explain that …incentives pull from without while drives push from within” (p. 340).

Weiten, et al(2009) explain about Maslow’s(1968) heirachy of needs theory which states that a satisfied need is no longer a motivator. But theoretically, if there is a strong intrinsic motivator then there should always be motivation. For example the Pope cannot go any higher in his field but continues to be intrinsically motivated by what he is trying to do. Even though there is no more extrinsic motivation left the intrinsic factors that drove the behaviour may still be present and extremely valid.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation relates to positive and negative motivation as Kohn (1999) demonstrates, the best and most effective type of motivation is positive and intrinsic. Positive and extrinsic would be a when an individual wants to reach a goal solely because of an external reward, yet once that reward is removed efficiency and motivation diminishes. Negative extrinsic motivation relates to an individual not wanting to perform a task but being forced to by an external source for example a boss threatening the individuals job security if the task is not performed. Lastly, negative intrinsic motivation is something you have to do but don’t want to for example go to the dentist.

There has been some controversy over the years to do with weather or not extrinsic rewards undermines intrinsic motivation, this stems from Deci, Koestner, and Ryan’s (1999) statement that “tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation” (pp. 658-659). Deci proposed that if an individual had intrinsic desire to do something and was then given an extrinsic incentive then the individuals perception of why they were doing it could be somewhat tainted thus taking from the original motivation. This was argued by many but particularly by Eisenburger, Pierce and Cameron (1999) who retorted that Deci et al’s statement was mistaken and strongly urged that more applied.

Many of Deci’s critics note that in comparison to laboratory studies some applied studies have found a positive effect between extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation. However, it is reasonable to assert that an extrinsic reward can hamper and intrinsic motivator if the two clash. For example if a person who has a genuine intrinsic motivation to lose weight is given and extrinsic motivator to eat junk food i.e.. to go to the local McDonald’s restaurant with co-workers to attain social acceptance. Then probability predicts the strength of the intrinsic may be defeated by the extrinsic reward of acceptance from others. Furthermore, if a positive extrinsic motivator was attached, for example, the individuals boss was to imply that if they could manage to lose weight then they may have a higher chance of being recommended for a higher position within the company, the individual may have a stronger drive to follow through with their original motivation this would then be a situation where the extrinsic reward is supplementing the intrinsic motivation. It is still apparent that more research needs to be done in respect to this.

To get the best result in regards to motivation there are many things that should be considered and factored into a balanced equation. It is evident from Kohn’s (1999) research that the most effective types of motivation is positive and intrinsic, often in this situation the individual may not need any further arousal to achieve a perfect outcome. If in a situation where a person is facing negative intrinsic motivation then a positive extrinsic reward may be highly regarded and may make the difference in the outcome of the task. If an individual wanted to add extra incentive to another persons motivation at any time they may want to use a positive extrinsic motivator, the only time when it may not be appropriate would be when the person is positively intrinsically motivated already. Although depending on the level of arousal there could still be room for a further incentive.

Throughout this essay a critical analysis of internal and external factors relating to motivation has been performed. Within this essay several explanations of the definition of motivation have been provided. A description of the biological basis of motivation and its influences were put forward. A brief portrayal of the sociocultural and deeper look psychological influences of motivational was given. A link was provided showing the relationship between optimal arousal, drives and motivation. Some factors that can contribute to help motivate, and affect behaviour was discussed. Some examples of when and how different types of internal and external, positive and negative motivation can and should be used were provided. Primarily this essay analysed intrinsic and external factors relating to motivation. The essay clarified these terms and looked at some grey areas of research to do with external motivations and their effect on internal motivation. Towards the end some practical uses of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation will be provided. Several theories and examples will included and relevant references were used to back up, support and strengthen all arguments.


Avery, G., & Baker, E. (1990). Psychology at work (2nd ed.). Sydney: Prentice Hall.

Bourne, L. E., & Russo, N. F. (1998). Psychology behavior in context. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Carlson, N, R., Buskist, W.(1997) Psychology: The Science of Behavior.(5th Ed.)Needham Heights, M.A. Allyn and Bacon

Deci, E.L., R. Koestner, and R.M. Ryan, (1999a). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological

Bulletin, 125: 627-668.

Eisenberger, R., Pierce, W.D., and Cameron, J. (1999). Effects of reward on intrinsic motivation-Negative, neutral, and positive: Comment on Deci, Koestner, and Tyan (1999). Psychological Bulletin, 125, 677-691.

Kohn, A. (1999) Punished by Rewards. Boston, Houghton Mifflin.

Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Wordnet, (n.d) Motivation, retrieved March 03, 2010,


Weiten, W., Lloyd, M. A., Dunn, D. S., & Hammer, E. Y. (2009). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

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Pippa McFall 167021 p1

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