Intrinsic Motivation

Updated on March 20, 2024
Article byKumar Rahul
Edited byKumar Rahul
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation, in finance, refers to the internal desire or drive individuals have to engage in financial activities or tasks for their inherent satisfaction, enjoyment, or personal interest. Individuals may be intrinsically motivated to manage their finances responsibly, budget effectively, and make wise investment decisions because they find personal satisfaction in achieving financial stability and security.

Intrinsic Motivation

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Investors with inherent motivation may focus on long-term investing rather than chasing short-term gains. They derive satisfaction from watching their investments grow over time and achieving financial goals. Intrinsic motivation in finance can also relate to personal growth. For example, individuals may challenge themselves to improve their financial literacy or develop new finance-related skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Intrinsic motivation is a psychological concept that refers to the inherent desire, interest, or enjoyment an individual experiences when engaging in an activity or pursuing a goal. It comes from within an individual and is driven by personal interest and satisfaction with an activity or goal.
  • It leads to enduring commitment and long-term engagement with tasks and goals as individuals find inherent rewards.
  • Intrinsically motivated individuals are more engaged and perform better due to their genuine interest and passion for the activity.
  • Providing autonomy and choice enhances such motivation, allowing individuals to feel a sense of control over their actions and decisions.

Intrinsic Motivation Explained

Intrinsic motivation can be defined as the inherent drive and personal interest that individuals have in understanding, engaging with, and making financial decisions. It is a genuine passion and curiosity for financial matters, including investing, budgeting, financial planning, and understanding market dynamics. This leads individuals to actively participate in managing their finances. It arises from an internal sense of satisfaction, curiosity, or personal fulfillment.

The concept has its roots in psychology and educational research. It gained prominence through the work of various scholars and theorists who explored human motivation and behavior. Its origins can be traced back to several key contributors:

  1. Harry F. Harlow (1905-1981): An American psychologist known for researching attachment theory and social behavior in primates. Harlow’s studies on the behavior of monkeys and their preferences for exploring and playing with novel objects highlighted the concept of intrinsic curiosity and interest.
  2. Edward Deci (1942-2020) and Richard Ryan: These psychologists developed the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in the 1980s. SDT focused on the importance of intrinsic motivation and identified three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness—as critical factors in driving inherent reason.
  3. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: A Hungarian-American psychologist who introduced the concept of “flow” in the 1970s. Flow refers to complete absorption and enjoyment in an activity.
  4. Albert Bandura: A renowned psychologist known for his work on social learning theory and self-efficacy. Bandura’s research emphasized the role of self-motivation and the belief in one’s abilities to influence inherent motivation.
  5. Carol Dweck: An American psychologist famous for her research on mindset and the growth mindset. Dweck’s work highlighted the impact of beliefs about intelligence and abilities on individuals’ motivation and resilience.

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Key Factors

The critical factors behind intrinsic motivation are:

  1. Autonomy: One of the fundamental factors is autonomy, which refers to an individual’s sense of control and freedom over their actions and choices. When people have the autonomy to decide how they approach a task or pursue a goal, they are more likely to feel intrinsically motivated because they can align their actions with their interests and values.
  2. Competence: Another critical factor is feeling competent in a particular activity or area. When individuals perceive themselves as skilled and able to handle challenges, they are more likely to feel confident and motivated to engage in the movement to improve further and demonstrate their competence.
  3. Relatedness refers to the sense of connection, belonging, and social interaction individuals experience in a particular context. People are more likely to be intrinsically motivated when they feel connected to others, have positive relationships, and perceive a supportive and encouraging environment.
  4. Interest and curiosity: It is often sparked by a natural interest or curiosity in a subject, task, or goal. When individuals find an activity inherently interesting, they are more likely to be motivated to explore, learn, and invest time and effort in it.
  5. Challenge and Novelty: Challenges and novelty can boost such motivation. Engaging in activities that require problem-solving and exploration of new territories can be intrinsically rewarding, as individuals are motivated to overcome obstacles and experience a sense of accomplishment.

Types

Intrinsic motivation can be categorized into different types based on the nature of the activity or the causes that drive individuals to engage in them. The main types are:

  1. Inherent Interest or enjoyment: This motivation is driven by a natural curiosity and interest in an activity. When individuals find something enjoyable, challenging, or stimulating, they are motivated to engage in it without needing external rewards.
  2. Competence motivation: It can arise from the desire to demonstrate and improve one’s skills and competence in a specific area. People are motivated to engage in activities where they feel competent or where they can achieve a sense of mastery.
  3. Achievement motivation: Some individuals are intrinsically motivated by pursuing goals and achievements. Setting and accomplishing goals is rewarding and fulfilling for them, regardless of external recognition or rewards.
  4. Intrinsic Social motivation: This type of motivation is related to social interactions and relationships. People may engage in social activities, collaborate with others, or contribute to a group’s efforts because they value the sense of relatedness and connection it provides.
  5. Creativity and curiosity motivation: People intrinsically motivated by creativity and curiosity seek activities that allow them to express their originality and ideas.
  6. Flow motivation: Flow is a state of complete absorption and focus in an activity, where time seems to pass quickly, and individuals experience a sense of effortless concentration. Flow is an intrinsically motivating experience that occurs when the challenge of an activity matches an individual’s skills.
  7. Altruism and helping motivation: It can manifest in the desire to help others and positively impact them. People may engage in altruistic activities because they find personal fulfillment in contributing to the well-being of others.

Examples

Let us understand it better with the help of examples:

Example #1

Suppose Mark is intrinsically motivated to personal investment and achieve his financial goals. He finds finance fascinating and enjoys learning about different investment options, market trends, and financial planning. In addition, setting and achieving financial goals drives his motivation, and he takes pride in tracking his progress toward milestones like saving for a down payment on a house or building a retirement nest egg. In short, for Mark, investing is challenging yet rewarding, and he enjoys the autonomy of managing his investment portfolio according to his risk tolerance and long-term objectives.

The act of investing itself is intrinsically rewarding for Mark, and he finds fulfillment in securing his financial future. Additionally, investing provides opportunities for personal growth and skill development, making him more financially savvy over time. Mark’s strong intrinsic motivation positively impacts his financial outcomes. He also maintains a disciplined approach to financial planning, consistently saving and investing to achieve his goals. His intrinsic motivation also helps him stay focused during market fluctuations, avoiding impulsive decisions driven by short-term market movements. In the end, Mark’s commitment to self-improvement and his passion for finance enable him to build wealth and achieve financial success with confidence.

Example #2

In 2022 a study published in Psychology Today’s groundbreaking findings highlighted the significance of intrinsic motivation in the workplace. The research shows how employees’ internal drive and passion for their tasks can significantly impact their performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. 

These research findings critically impact employers, creating a motivated and high-performing workforce. Organizations can implement strategies to enhance employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity by understanding and harnessing intrinsic motivation.

The study suggests that leaders should prioritize creating a positive and supportive work environment that encourages autonomy, provides opportunities for skill development, and fosters a sense of purpose in employees’ roles.

Recognizing and supporting intrinsic motivation as workplaces evolve becomes crucial in attracting and retaining top talent while fostering a culture of creativity and innovation.

How To Increase?

Some effective ways to increase intrinsic motivation are:

  1. Offer Autonomy and Choice: Allow individuals to have a degree of autonomy and control over their activities and goals. Encourage them to make decisions, set their objectives, and choose the methods to achieve them.
  2. Set Meaningful Goals: Help individuals identify and set meaningful and challenging goals that align with their values and interests. Clear objectives can provide direction and purpose, boosting inherent motivation.
  3. Feedback and Recognition: Offer positive and constructive feedback to acknowledge individuals’ efforts and progress. Recognition and praise for their achievements can reinforce their sense of competence and increase motivation.
  4. Promote Mastery and Skill Development: Encourage skill development and provide opportunities for individuals to master new tasks. The feeling of progress and growth can enhance inherent motivation.
  5. Encourage Creativity and Curiosity: Foster an environment that encourages creativity and curiosity. Provide space for experimentation and exploration, allowing individuals to express their original ideas.

How To Measure?

Common approaches to measuring intrinsic motivation are:

  1. Self-Report Surveys: Self-report surveys involve asking individuals to respond to questions or statements about their interest, enjoyment, and satisfaction in specific activities or tasks. The responses then gauge the degree of motivation. These surveys can use Likert scales or open-ended questions to gather qualitative data.
  2. Task Engagement and Persistence: Observing an individual’s level of engagement and persistence in an activity can provide insights into their motivation. Researchers or educators can track the time spent on a task, the quality of their effort, and their willingness to continue working on challenging activities.
  3. Flow State Assessment: Flow is a state of complete immersion and enjoyment in an activity. Researchers can use specific questionnaires, such as the flow state scale, to measure the frequency and intensity of flow experiences, which indicate inherent motivation.
  4. Interest and Curiosity Assessments: Surveys and questionnaires that explore an individual’s interests, curiosities, and passions can provide valuable information about their motivation in specific domains.
  5. Choice and Autonomy Measurement: Individuals’ level of choice and autonomy over their activities can be measured through structured questionnaires or observations to understand how these factors influence their internal motivation.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of intrinsic motivation:

Advantages of Intrinsic MotivationDisadvantages of Intrinsic Motivation
2. Higher Engagement: Intrinsic motivation leads to higher engagement and active participation levels.1. Less Predictable: Intrinsic motivation can vary among individuals and may not be easily predictable or consistent.
4. Not Always Applicable: Intrinsic motivation may not apply in all situations or individuals.4. Not Always Applicable: Intrinsic motivation may not apply in all situations or individuals.
3. Better Performance: Intrinsic motivation often results in improved performance and creativity.3. Not Always Sufficient: In some cases, external incentives or rewards may still be necessary to support individuals.
4. Enhanced Learning: Intrinsically motivated individuals tend to be more receptive to learning new skills and knowledge.4. Not Always Applicable: Intrinsic motivation may not be applicable in all situations or for all individuals.
5. Greater Satisfaction: Engaging in intrinsically motivated activities leads to a higher sense of satisfaction and well-being.5. Self-Regulation Challenges: Maintaining intrinsic motivation can be challenging without external structures or support.

Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation

Here’s a comparison between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation:

AspectIntrinsic MotivationExtrinsic Motivation
Source of MotivationArises from within the individual and comes from personal enjoyment, interest, or satisfaction in the activity.Originates from external factors, such as rewards, punishments, or recognition from others.
Driving ForceInternal desires, curiosity, and the inherent enjoyment of the activity propel individuals to engage in the task.External incentives or consequences drive individuals to participate in the activity.
Behavior PersistenceOften leads to enduring commitment and long-term engagement with the activity or goal.It allows individuals to feel a sense of autonomy and control over their actions and decisions.
Impact on PerformanceTends to foster higher performance and creativity due to genuine interest and enjoyment in the task.Performance may fluctuate depending on the presence or absence of external rewards and punishments.
Autonomy and ControlAllows individuals to feel a sense of autonomy and control over their actions and decisions.Individuals may perceive a lack of autonomy and feel controlled by external incentives or pressures.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can external rewards negatively impact intrinsic motivation? 

Yes, excessive or controlling use of external rewards can undermine such motivation. When people feel that external incentives solely drive their actions, they may lose interest or a sense of autonomy, decreasing inherent motivation.

2. Is intrinsic motivation limited to specific activities or domains? 

It can apply to various activities and domains, including hobbies, creative pursuits, academic endeavors, professional work, and personal development goals.

3. Can intrinsic motivation be measured objectively? 

Measuring it can be challenging since it involves understanding an individual’s internal motivations. Researchers use a combination of self-report surveys, observations, and qualitative methods to assess and understand inherent motivation.

This has been a guide to what is Intrinsic Motivation. We explain its examples, comparison with extrinsic motivation, types, factors, & advantages. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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