scientific motivation(Self determination theory)

The purpose of this blog is to discuss the topic of motivation in more detail. Every person, who wants to make any change, continuously meets with motivation, that is why it is very important to understand it. There are several motivational theories. One of the most influential and the most comprehensive scientific motivational theories (which is discussed in more detail in this blog) is the Self Determination Theory (SDT research, its authors are Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci . from the University of Rochester). The SDT divides motivation into 3 categories: intrinsic, extrinsic (introjection, identification).

1. intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation is what an individual does because he/ she likes it, what the individual does without any external stimuli. I call this motivation “path is the goal”.

How to determine what the individual likes (intrinsic motivation)? According to the SDT it should meet three criteria:
mastery – to see progress in what one does, achieving one’s goals
autonomy- freedom in action to achieve goals
relatedness- need for sense of belonging, meaningful relationships

The SDT, and especially intrinsic motivation, is also mentioned by D. Pink in his famous motivation TED talk puzzle of motivation and his book Drive.
A typical example of intrinsic motivation are hobbies and other activities which satisfy human needs.

2. extrinsic motivation
Extrinsic motivation is what an individual does to achieve some (external) goals, regardless of the intrinsic joy from what this individual does. Extrinsic motivation is divided within the scope of the SDT into 2 categories – to introjection and identification.

introjection is an individual´s acting to satisfy his/ her needs/ goals in the present (benefits) at the cost of not satisfying other needs/ goals in the present (costs). Thus, it is a short-term view when the individual does not think about the future, or sees future state to be the same as the one in the present and the person is OK with this situation.

-satisfaction of basic needs: if an individual wants to survive (i.e. basic needs) and the individual has limited resources in the present (e.g. education, experience, talent) for a better paid job (when through wage he/ she can satisfy other needs), then the individual takes a job where he/ she does not see greater benefits in the future (not identified), or the individual does not like the job (no intrinsic motivation), so the individual is focused on the satisfaction of current needs.

-satisfaction of mental needs:
One example of introjection is if a student does not like his/ her study (i.e. not intrinsically motivated) and his/ her main motivation to do well in school is only to meet the need of recognition (i.e. from the side of fellow students, family). On the other side, if he/ she did not have the need for achieving recognition strong enough, and was not convinced about the truthfulness of arguments that better performance in school would lead him/ her to a better future, then it is likely that his/ her response would be unwillingness to learn.

As the introjected people do not see long-term goals or they do not want to change, or they are not willing to take risks, they are more prone to be influenced (confirmed by a political survey). One of the ways how to implement introjection is through Gamification.

identification is an action with the aim of satisfying needs/ goals (i.e. benefits) in the future at the cost of not satisfying other needs/ goals in the present (costs).

identification is characteristic by that from a longer-term point of view an individual perceives much higher efficiency (i.e. benefits/ costs) and merits (benefits – costs) than in the case of introjection, which is reflected in a high degree of motivation. I call identification motivation by rosy future.

If a student wants to do well in school because he/ she believes that education will contribute to a better future (satisfaction of needs in the future), although currently he/ she does not like the study (not intrinsic motivation).

The relationships between kinds of motivation & motivational strategies based on the SDT

It is possible to transform (strengthen or weaken) individual kinds of motivation. If an individual has intrinsic motivation it is possible to support identification too, and also vice versa – intrinsic motivation can be supported through identification. Transitions are possible from more to less extrinsic regulatory forms (i.e. from introjection to identification). This area of transformation of different kinds of motivation is currently under research. It is possible to support individual kinds of motivation through various forms (e.g. gamification, coaching, etc.).

support of extrinsic motivation in an intrinsically motivated individual

If an individual who is glad about particular activities (intrinsically motivated) will be rewarded for achieving objectives or be threatened with punishment (i.e. extrinsic motivation) for not achieving objectives, it leads to results that the individual:
– exchanges joy of activities for pleasure of attainment of an objective (i.e. reduced intrinsic motivation exchanged for extrinsic motivation)
-desires to receive a reward, respectively, the idea of being punished creates stress, fear response.
Stress causes that: the individual is too controlled by himself/ herself and he/ she ceases to experiment in order to avoid punishment -> without any experiments it is virtually impossible to learn-> it is not possible to find creative and effective solutions without learning. It is important to emphasise that stress has different effects on mental work of different people.

support of intrinsic motivation in an individual with introjected motivation

There was a research – a fantasy context (supports intrinsic motivation) was integrated into a mathematical task (introjection), and the result was a higher interest of an individual and better learning. Even in case of static tasks, as a work at assembly line, it is possible to increase interest of individuals by setting some challenging objectives and interesting ways of their implementation.

support of identification in an intrinsically motivated individual

After some time, identification can activate intrinsic motivation.
Using the example of the student, over the time, student with motivation of identification can succumb to one of the imperfections of the brain – trust (bayes) – (when the brain believes that what the individual sees, he/ she also perceives) and the consequence is that the student will take study as a pleasure. In this case there is a change of attitude from ‘must’ to ‘want’.

Support of identification in an intrinsically motivated individual

Even in the areas which have a high intrinsic motivation (e.g. leisure activities) identification is still required. If an individual enjoys doing some sport (e.g. tennis) and he/ she wants to achieve long-term goals, then he/ she has to do things which he/ she does not like (e.g. exhausting trainings, getting up early for training) but these activities contribute to achieving long-term goals.


Intrinsic motivation is focused on joy of activity, while extrinsic introjection is focused on achieving short term goals, and identification is focused on achieving long-term goals. The most suitable (ideal) motivation is a combination of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic identification. . The result of this approach is achieving long-term goals (identification), and satisfaction which the „road“ itself brings (intrinsic).

The introduced SDT classification and strategies can serve as a diagnostic and corrective tool. For example many people are working only for money (they are in the state of introjection). It is desirable to convince them about rosy future (state of identification), and to choose work they love for them (i.e. intrinsic motivation), that means to move them from the state of introjection to intrinsic motivation and identification.

marek malý

Like helping people, Business & IT, research & innovations, nature, travelling, sports(bike, mountaineering, ..)

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