How do different types of rewards impact extrinsic motivation?

August 3, 2023

Extrinsic motivation, referring to the drive stimulated by external factors, plays a crucial role in our everyday lives. One influential factor that significantly affects this form of motivation is the type of rewards we receive. By better understanding the impact of various types of rewards on extrinsic motivation, we can delve into the intricacies of human behavior and productivity. Through examining both tangible rewards such as money and material possessions, and intangible rewards like recognition and praise, this exploration aims to shed light on how different types of rewards shape and influence our levels of extrinsic motivation.

Understanding Extrinsic Motivation

Before delving into the impact of different types of rewards on extrinsic motivation, it is important to understand what extrinsic motivation entails. Extrinsic motivation refers to the drive to engage in a particular activity or behavior in order to attain an external reward or avoid punishment. Unlike intrinsic motivation, which stems from an internal desire or interest in the activity itself, extrinsic motivation relies on external factors to fuel and sustain one’s drive.

Extrinsic motivation plays a significant role in various aspects of our lives, from education and work to personal goals and hobbies. Understanding how different types of rewards impact extrinsic motivation can provide valuable insights into how to effectively motivate individuals in different contexts.

The Power of Tangible Rewards

One common type of reward that impacts extrinsic motivation is tangible rewards, such as monetary bonuses, gifts, or prizes. These rewards have a visible and measurable value, making them highly appealing to individuals seeking external validation or tangible benefits. Tangible rewards have been widely used in various domains, including business, education, and sports, to incentivize desired behaviors and enhance performance.

Key Takeaway: Understanding the impact of different types of rewards on extrinsic motivation is crucial for effectively motivating individuals in various contexts. While tangible rewards like monetary incentives can initially boost extrinsic motivation, they may not lead to long-term engagement or satisfaction if intrinsic motivation is not also nurtured. Intrinsic rewards, such as autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose, play a vital role in shaping extrinsic motivation. Social recognition and praise also significantly impact extrinsic motivation. To optimize extrinsic motivation, rewards should be tailored to integrate both tangible and intrinsic elements, provide meaningful feedback and recognition, foster a supportive environment, promote goal-setting and progress tracking, and encourage autonomy and ownership.

The allure of monetary rewards

Monetary rewards, in particular, have been shown to have a significant impact on extrinsic motivation. Financial incentives, such as salary raises, performance bonuses, or commission-based structures, can serve as powerful motivators in the workplace. The promise of increased income or material benefits can drive individuals to work harder, meet targets, and strive for excellence.

The potential drawbacks

However, it is important to note that while tangible rewards can initially boost extrinsic motivation, they may not always lead to long-term engagement or satisfaction. Research has shown that once the novelty of the reward wears off, individuals may become less motivated or even lose interest in the activity if their intrinsic motivation is not also nurtured. Furthermore, over-reliance on tangible rewards can create a transactional mindset, where individuals only engage in the behavior for the sake of receiving the reward, rather than finding inherent value or enjoyment in the activity itself.

Intrinsic Rewards and Extrinsic Motivation

While tangible rewards have their place in motivating individuals, intrinsic rewards also play a crucial role in shaping extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic rewards are internal, psychological benefits that individuals experience as a result of engaging in a particular activity. These rewards can include a sense of accomplishment, personal growth, enjoyment, or satisfaction derived from the task itself.

The power of autonomy and mastery

Intrinsic rewards, such as the feeling of autonomy and mastery, can significantly impact extrinsic motivation. When individuals have a sense of control and autonomy over their work or activities, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated. Furthermore, when individuals feel a sense of mastery or improvement in their skills or knowledge, they experience a boost in intrinsic motivation, which can, in turn, enhance their overall extrinsic motivation.

The role of purpose and meaning

Intrinsic rewards also encompass the sense of purpose and meaning individuals derive from their actions. When individuals feel that their work or activities align with their values, goals, or a greater purpose, they are more likely to be motivated to engage in those behaviors. This sense of purpose can elevate extrinsic motivation by providing individuals with a deeper sense of fulfillment and satisfaction beyond external rewards.

Social Recognition and Extrinsic Motivation

In addition to tangible and intrinsic rewards, social recognition and praise can significantly impact extrinsic motivation. Humans are social beings, and acknowledgment from others can serve as a powerful motivator. Whether it is receiving praise from a supervisor, recognition from peers, or validation from friends and family, social recognition can fuel extrinsic motivation in various contexts.

The impact of positive feedback

Positive feedback and recognition can act as reinforcing factors, encouraging individuals to continue engaging in desired behaviors. When individuals receive praise or recognition for their efforts or achievements, they feel valued and appreciated, which can enhance their motivation to perform well and excel in their endeavors.

The power of competition

Competition is another aspect of social recognition that can impact extrinsic motivation. In competitive environments, individuals often strive to outperform others and be recognized as the best. The desire to win or be acknowledged as superior can drive individuals to put forth their best efforts and continuously improve their performance.

However, it is important to strike a balance when using social recognition as a motivator. Excessive competition or an overemphasis on external validation can create a toxic environment and undermine intrinsic motivation, leading to negative consequences such as increased stress, decreased collaboration, and reduced overall motivation.

Tailoring Rewards to Optimize Extrinsic Motivation

Understanding the impact of different types of rewards on extrinsic motivation allows us to tailor our approaches to motivation effectively. While tangible rewards can provide short-term boosts and external validation, they should be complemented with efforts to nurture intrinsic motivation. Here are some strategies to optimize extrinsic motivation through rewards:

  1. Combine tangible rewards with intrinsic rewards: By integrating opportunities for personal growth, autonomy, and purpose into the reward system, individuals are more likely to experience sustained motivation and engagement.
  2. Provide meaningful feedback and recognition: Regular feedback and acknowledgment of individuals’ efforts and achievements can foster a sense of value and appreciation, enhancing extrinsic motivation while also nurturing intrinsic rewards.
  3. Foster a supportive and collaborative environment: Encouraging teamwork, cooperation, and a sense of belonging can enhance social recognition and create a positive motivational climate.
  4. Promote goal-setting and progress monitoring: Setting clear goals, providing feedback on progress, and celebrating milestones can enhance extrinsic motivation by creating a sense of accomplishment and progress.
  5. Encourage autonomy and ownership: Allowing individuals to have a degree of control and decision-making power over their work or activities can boost intrinsic motivation, which, in turn, can positively impact their overall extrinsic motivation.

By considering the interplay between tangible rewards, intrinsic rewards, and social recognition, we can create tailored motivational strategies that optimize extrinsic motivation while also nurturing individuals’ intrinsic motivation and overall well-being.


What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation refers to the drive to engage in a behavior or task due to the expectation of receiving external rewards or avoiding punishment. These rewards can include tangible incentives like money, gifts, or recognition, as well as social rewards such as praise or approval from others.

How do rewards impact extrinsic motivation?

Rewards play a significant role in shaping extrinsic motivation. When individuals anticipate receiving rewards for completing a task, their motivation to engage in that task is often enhanced. Rewards can act as a form of positive reinforcement, strengthening the connection between the desired behavior and the expectation of a reward. However, the impact of rewards on extrinsic motivation can vary depending on the type of reward employed.

What are the different types of rewards?

There are two primary categories of rewards: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic rewards are intangible and internally generated, stemming from the inherent satisfaction and enjoyment derived from engaging in a particular activity. On the other hand, extrinsic rewards are tangible and externally provided, typically tied to the completion of a task or the achievement of a specific goal.

The impact of different types of rewards on extrinsic motivation can vary. Extrinsic rewards that are tangible and transactional, such as monetary bonuses, tend to have a stronger influence on extrinsic motivation. They provide individuals with a clear and immediate incentive to perform a task. In contrast, extrinsic rewards that are social or informational in nature, such as praise or constructive feedback, can have a more nuanced impact. These rewards can influence individuals’ beliefs about their competence or social standing, impacting their motivation to continue engaging in the behavior.

Can rewards have negative effects on extrinsic motivation?

Yes, rewards can sometimes have unintended negative effects on extrinsic motivation. When individuals become overly dependent on rewards, they may lose their intrinsic interest or enjoyment in the task. This phenomenon is known as the “overjustification effect.” If individuals start to perceive the task solely as a means to obtain rewards, their motivation can become contingent on the availability of rewards, leading to a decrease in intrinsic motivation and a potential reliance on external incentives to sustain their engagement.

Are there any alternative approaches to motivating individuals?

While rewards can be effective in driving extrinsic motivation, alternative approaches exist that focus on fostering intrinsic motivation. These include strategies such as providing autonomy and choice, promoting mastery and competence, and encouraging a sense of purpose or meaning in the task. By tapping into individuals’ innate psychological needs, these approaches can cultivate a more self-determined and long-lasting form of motivation that goes beyond external incentives. It is essential to strike a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators to effectively engage individuals in a sustained and fulfilling manner.

Copyright 2024 A B Motivation. All rights reserved.