Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Intrinsic motivation doesn’t exist

11.05.2005


While some psychologists still argue that people perform better when they do something because they want to – rather than for some kind of reward, such as money -- Steven Reiss suggests we shouldn’t even make that distinction.



Reiss, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University , argues that a diverse range of human motivations can’t be forced into these categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Psycholgists say intrinsic motivations are those that arise from within – doing something because you want to – while extrinsic motivations mean people are seeking a reward, such as money, a good grade in class, or a trophy at a sporting event.

“They are taking many diverse human needs and motivations, putting them into just two categories, and then saying one type of motivation is better than another,” said Reiss, who outlines his argument in the current issue of the journal Behavior Analyst.


“But there is no real evidence that intrinsic motivation even exists.”

The issue is more than academic, Reiss said. Many sports psychology books, and books advising how to motivate students and business people, tout the value of intrinsic motivation and warn that extrinsic rewards can undermine people’s performance.

The argument is that people should do something because they enjoy it, and that rewards only sabotage natural desire.

Reiss disagrees.

“There is no reason that money can’t be an effective motivator, or that grades can’t motivate students in school,” he said. “It’s all a matter of individual differences. Different people are motivated in different ways.”

Reiss has developed and tested a theory of motivation that states there are 16 basic desires that guide nearly all meaningful behavior, including power, independence, curiosity, and acceptance. Whether you agree there are 16 desires or not, he said there is not any way to reduce all of these desires to just two types.

In addition to trying to fit all motivations into two types, Reiss said proponents of intrinsic motivation are also making value judgments by saying some types of motivation are better than others.

“For example, some people have said that wealth and materialism lead to inferior quality happiness, but there is no real proof of that,” he said.

“Individuals differ enormously in what makes them happy – for some competition, winning and wealth are the greatest sources of happiness, but for others, feeling competent or socializing may be more satisfying. The point is that you can’t say some motivations, like money, are inherently inferior.”

In the article, Reiss points to some of the problems he sees with the theories and studies connected to intrinsic motivation. One problem is that people who tout the value of intrinsic motivation have several different definitions for what that means, and these definitions change depending on circumstances.

One common definition, for example, is that intrinsic motivation is that which is inherently pleasurable, while extrinsic motivation is not. For example, the argument is that children are naturally curious and enjoy learning for the joy it brings them. Grades, they argue, are an extrinsic reward that fosters competition and makes learning less pleasurable.

However, Reiss said his research has found people show a wide range of curiosity – some people are very curious and enjoy spending a great deal of time learning on their own. However, many people are not very curious and don’t enjoy learning for its own sake.

“There are many children for whom the important reward to them is the grades they get, the competition among classmates,” Reiss said. “This goes against what some psychologists say, who think competition is bad and a non-competitive attitude is good, and that learning and curiosity are intrinsic values that everyone shares. They are pushing their own value system on to everybody.”

Another way of defining intrinsic motivation is the means-end definition, which says intrinsic motivation is doing what we want, whereas extrinsic motivation is doing something to get something else. For example, some might argue that children playing baseball are intrinsically motivated by the joy of playing, while a professional baseball player is extrinsically motivated, by money and championships.

But Reiss said this definition confuses means and ends. A child playing baseball may be satisfying his need for physical exercise, while the professional player is satisfying his parental instinct by providing a good income for his family.

For children and professionals, baseball is a means to two different ends.

Reiss also criticized many of the studies which proponents say prove the existence of intrinsic motivation, and how it can be undermined by extrinsic rewards.

For example, many studies have purportedly shown how people who enjoy doing a specific activity – such as children who enjoy drawing – do that activity less after they are offered rewards. But when the results show the subjects continue the activity even after the rewards are offered, the researchers have argued that this just shows the subjects expect to get a reward and no longer are intrinsically motivated.

“The results are always turned around to prove their hypothesis.”

Also, researchers have assumed that rewards simply make people less interested in the intrinsic joys of an activity. But Reiss said many of these studies haven’t considered the possibility that the negative effect of rewards has nothing to do with intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Instead, rewards may cause some people to pursue an activity less because of the negative feelings they cause, such as performance anxiety. Avoiding an activity because of performance anxiety related to a reward is not the same as avoiding it simply because the reward undermines intrinsic motivation.

“Too many studies that supposedly prove intrinsic motivation have serious flaws in logic, or too many important uncontrolled variables,” he said. “There needs to be more scientific rigor.”

Steven Reiss | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Sibling differences: Later-borns choose less prestigious programs at university
14.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ
09.11.2017 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>