Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation

Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are desirable for those who strive to achieve their full potential. Consider Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory (Navid, 2015, p.282-283)*. At the bottom two levels, people are extrinsically motivated to satisfy their physiological and safety needs. They strive to achieve those external elements such as food, water and shelter.

The third level of Maslow’s pyramid is “Love and Belongingness”. At this level, people are both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to meet their needs. Although people’s search for Love and belongingness may seem to be external, there is also an internal component to those needs. For example, if someone is loved by someone who he or she does not love, then the need for Love is not really satisfied. Likewise, the need for belongingness is not very satisfying to people who are part of groups they don’t want to belong to. It is the feeling of being loved and the feeling of belonging that motivate people at the third level of Maslow’s pyramid, and that is internal.

The next level of Maslow’s pyramid is “Esteem”. Like the third level, people are also both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to achieve self-esteem by way of social recognition. If the primary purpose of achieving social recognition is to get promotions, pay raises and bonuses, then such motivation is extrinsic. However, if the purpose is to gain insight or to experience feelings of self-worth, then such motivation is intrinsic.

The highest level of Maslow’s pyramid is “self-actualization”, which can be described as a complete fulfillment of one’s existence.  According to Maslow, an individual can self-actualize only after satisfying all other needs, both external and internal. Therefore, not only is it possible for people to be both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated, it is necessary for those who want to fulfill more than their basic needs.

*Navid, J.S. Essentials of Psychology, Concepts and Applications, (4th, Addition © 2015, 2012 Cengage Learning)