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 — Dr. Steven Reiss suggests we shouldn’t even make that distinction.
Reiss, a professor of Psychology at OSU, argues that a diverse range of human motivations can’t be forced into these categories of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Psychologists 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.
Reiss says, “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,” in a recent 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.
Money Can Be an Effective Motivator
“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.
Motivation by the Individual’s Desires
Dr. Reiss has made some keen discoveries and it’s going to make your life a lot easier…
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