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Extrinsic Motivation


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10 Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is behavior driven by a desire for external results. This includes the will to achieve reward and avoid loss. The following are illustrative examples of extrinsic motivation.


Conditioning is the basic process whereby an individual learns the external results of their actions and adjusts their behavior to achieve goals. This is a process of trial and error in an environment of reward and punishment. For example, an employee who learns that if they criticize a particular coworker they will be more strongly criticized in return such that things will escalate if they don't quickly back down.

Competitive Drive

People are inherently competitive and commonly want to engage in competitive battles and win. For example, a student who wants to score higher than others out of the thrill of competition. The theory of competitive drive suggests that winning is its own reward. This is the reason people can become passionate about winning points in a game.

Expectancy Theory

Expectancy theory is the idea that people feel motivated when they believe effort creates performance and performance is rewarded with desirable outcomes. For example, an individual who feels strongly motivated to do a job they don't particularly like because they need feel they need the money.

Social Status

Social status is respect in the eyes of others. People want respect and recognition from others such that this serves as a extrinsic motivation. Historically, respect was earned through interaction with others in a community. Modern markets have also productized social status with goods that signal or countersignal wealth, coolness, authenticity, bravery, intelligence, social responsibility, connectedness, trendiness and youthfulness.

ERG Theory

The theory that motivation is related to a desire for existence, relatedness and growth. Existence and relatedness are material and social needs that can be viewed as extrinsic motivation. Growth is a desire for self-fulfillment that is more of an intrinsic motivation.


Gamification is the practice of designing things to be like games such that they provide constant challenges, competition and rewards. For example, a workflow that constantly rewards an employee with redeemable virtual coins as they complete a task. This can be viewed as hyper extrinsic motivation whereby people are rewarded every few seconds for every effort. Individuals who become accustomed to such a pace of rewards could theoretically lack motivation in the real world where rewards are far slower to materialize. For example, the reward of holding a stock for 25 years while a firm grows year after year.


Angst is an emotion that is described as a fear that your life will be meaningless. This can be a strong driver of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, depending on how the individual seeks to make their life meaningful. For example, angst may create a strong desire for wealth, friends and experiences. Alternatively, angst could drive cultivation of your character, spirit, mind and talents such that it serves as an intrinsic motivation.

Fear of Missing Out

A fear of missing out is an emotional response that can be described as panicked envy whereby an individual fears others are having more interesting experiences or getting ahead of them.

Will To Power

Will to power is a theory proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche that suggests people want to establish control over all things. In other words, people ultimately want to rule to the universe. As with so many of Nietzsche's ideas it is an interesting theory but is perhaps a little too dramatic. He tends to play devil's advocate such that his ideas are designed to provoke thought.


Mediocrity is an uninspiring condition whereby individuals seek only safety, security, sustenance and entertainment. The mediocre value the harmony of the group and are fearful of outsiders, particularly risk takers and independent thinkers. They can be strongly motivated to push these groups to join the collective. Beyond that, their only motivation is to remain safe within the group. This is a purely extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Reward

The following are examples of extrinsic reward. This includes anything that people value that doesn't exist entirely within the self.
Material Things
Social Status
Some of the elements above could also be intrinsic rewards, such as self-control, self-respect and experience.
Overview: Extrinsic Motivation
Definition (1)
Behavior driven by a desire for external results.
Opposite Of
Related Concepts

Extrinsic Motivation

This is the complete list of articles we have written about extrinsic motivation.
Customer Motivation
Employee Motivation
Extrinsic Motivation
Social Status
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