The Four Forms of Motivation: Extrinsic, Identified, Intrinsic, & Introjected

6 Minute Or Less Read Time
The Four Forms of Motivation: Extrinsic, Identified, Intrinsic, & Introjected

Are your motivations for striving intrinsic, introjected, identified, or extrinsic?

Motivation's Four Forms

Four different types of motivation drive people to accomplishing their goals, desires, and making them high performing in all areas of life. These motivation forms originate externally or internally, are defined by action or non-action, and can be categorized as extrinsic (external source, action), identified (external source, non-action), intrinsic (internal source, action), and introjected (internal source, non-action). Understanding these different forms of motivation are important both for the individual and for organizations seeking higher performance or goal achievement.

Externally Internally

Extrinsic (external source, action)
Example- bonuses, gifts, awards, etc.

Intrinsic (internal source, action)
Example- pride in a task's completion.

Identified (external source, non-action)
Example- Feeling or desiring accomplishment of a task like rebuilding a car or finishing a project at work.

Introjected (internal source, non-action)
Example- seeking positive reinforcement such as wanting to appease parents or avoiding negative reinforcement such as displeasing parents.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is an external influence that impels people to act or behave in a specific way such as accomplishing a task or job but can also be a personal goal such as losing weight. External influences include rewards, promotions, prizes, etc. Where a teacher might reward a student with a prize for winning a debate, an individual might reward themselves with a new album for sticking to a diet.

The problem with extrinsic motivation stems from proneness to expectation. Consistently applied rewards tend to be expected as part of the effort, not as a reward for the effort. Creating standards for rewards become vital to maintaining their motivational effect, which means creating criteria that is fair but challenging.

Extrinsic motivation also tends to lack meaningfulness. The effect of reward motivation can be inconsistent and often does not work. If compensation worked consistently, offering bonuses for doing specific jobs would always garner individuals for those jobs and make them perform to expectation. Yet, human resources still struggle to fill positions with the most productive, creative people.

Self-application forms another problem with extrinsic motivation in which individuals may have difficulty creating rewards for themselves for goal achievement. People are often instructed to create goals, such as losing a pound a week to increase health, and reward themselves when this goal is accomplished. This tying of extrinsic motivation is problematic for a variety of reason but most importantly because the person can override or bend the standards for accomplishment. If you you lost three-quarters of a pound instead of a pound, you might decide to reward yourself anyway, thus rendering the standards arbitrary. Depending upon the person, extrinsic motivation may be difficult to apply.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to an internal motivation, which is subjective but believed to occur as a result of actions aligning with values or with pleasure for performing a task. This type of motivation, though subjective, can be accessed in a variety of ways such as providing rewards that reflect value such as “employee of the month” or giving out a coffee mug printed with “best salesmen.” The key to understanding internalized motivation is the relation to a person’s values or desires. People tend to place higher value on the boss saying things like “Good job,” then being given a bonus at the end of the year. However, intrinsic motivation is subjective and can be difficult to balance and utilize depending on the workforce and what appeases the staff or individuals.

One person may feel a sense of pride desire to work harder to receive a coffee mug and pat on the back from the boss, but another person may view these rewards as meaningless or not worth the effort. While studies have shown intrinsic rewards motivate better than extrinsic, there is no universal method or application. Knowing what intrinsically motivates people can be highly individualized and impacted by other factors such as group dynamics.

Introjected Motivation

Introjected motivation is an internalized motivation like intrinsic motivation, but it is a form of motivation resulting from the feeling pressured to perform in order to gain appreciation from individuals of importance such as parents or bosses. This form of motivation is more common than people might believe, taking two forms: introjected approach and introjected avoidance. Introjected approach and avoidance motivations lack control, and the individual must accept the standards which they must adhere. While this sounds bad, it is not always a terrible thing providing there is a benefit to the motivation such as feeling the need to be successful on a workplace project that leads to success.

Introjected Approach

Introjected approach refers to that motivation which bolsters one's self-worth with the performance of tasks. The standards of performance are internalized and though required by an external force such as a job, the person is motivated to accomplish tasks seeking positive reinforcement.

Introjected Avoidance

Introjected avoidance refers to motivation that attempts to protect one's self-worth or avoid negative feelings of failure and occurs in many ways, such as bosses making comments about a person's poor performance. These statements are often intended to induce feelings of guilt within people to motivate them to perform better. This motivation internalizes with many negative aspects such as angering or confusing people with constant negative interactions or from an inability to satisfy the themselves or the person causing them to feel negatively. People who endure manipulative behavior, passive aggressive attitudes, or bullying may form introjected motivations.

Introjected avoidance motivation is considered undesirable by many researchers because the person focuses on avoiding feelings like shame of a bad job or failing a parent. According to the 2009 research of Assor and Vansteenkiste, the negative focus is believed to further reduce individual autonomy since it avoids failure rather than attempting to strive for more effective ways to accomplish tasks.

Identified Motivation

Identified motivation refers to a form of motivation which occurs as understanding or feeling the need to perform or accomplish some task but not yet acting on this need. This is a powerful form of intrinsic motivation that prepares the person to act. Often people believe the behavioral influencers such as a reward or punishment are enough to motivate action, but more often, motivation is a building process. For example, if lung cancer’s risk could motivate a person to quit smoking, many people would easily quit smoking. The need and desire to quit smoking often takes time to actualize; however, this presents the problem of the person dying from lung cancer before becoming motivated enough to quit smoking. This form of motivation is powerful because actualization often creates lasting accomplishment or performance enhancement but waiting for someone to become motivated is impractical in most instances.

The Complexity of Motivation

These forms of motivation provide different perspectives but more importantly, they provide different ways to access motivation for education or workplace applications. However, understanding these forms of motivation would seem to indicate application of techniques would vary according to circumstance but individuals also vary. What motivates one person may not motivate another. For example, the description of intrinsic motivation might make this motivation type appear the most beneficial for a workplace since it leverages a person's internal motivation and has a cost advantage over extrinsic motivation such as bonuses. This assumption proves false in many situations because there are many factors impacting motivation beyond just the stimuli such as the effort needed to perform the task. If a supervisor has a bad temperament they may have less credibility when they use intrinsic forms of motivation. Yelling at someone all day and telling them at the end, "good job" will have less impact than someone who is supportive. Motivation's complexity becomes apparent when seen in relation to the influences of behavior, attitude, and circumstance, showing that simply applying different techniques may not be effective but instead requiring an a deeper study of the person, group, and the environment in question.

Another issue arising in these forms of motivation is their possible misuse with regard to self-motivation. The nature of motivation, shown by behavioralism, presents a strong argument that self-motivation may not be possible at the individual level.  


Assor, A. and Maarten Vansteenkiste (2009). Identified Versus Introjected Approach and Introjected Avoidance Motivations in School and in Sports: The Limited Benefits of Self-Worth Strivings. Journal of Education Psychology. vol 101 No 2 

Just Weighing Separator

Wisdom's Many Facets The Wisdom of Work