Intrinsic motivation is the stimulation that makes a person engage in certain activities or change their behaviour so as to experience satisfaction internally. This type of motivation is self-applied. This means that it is enacted by the person themselves and not forced upon them by external factors or people. Intrinsic motivation is critically required in learning processes. When you study a topic just because you want to know more about it, then you are intrinsically motivated. Also, when you do an activity just because you enjoy doing it, then you are also intrinsically motivated. The reward for any activity performed under this type of motivation is simply positive emotions. Read on to gain a deeper understanding and discover what is the science behind what is so called intrinsic motivation.

Enjoyment is justification enough for intrinsic motivation

According to psychologists, the intrinsic satisfaction of performing a particular task is enough justification to pursue it. When we engage in a task by being driven, there is no need for extra reward. The enjoyment itself is reward enough. Sometimes, external parties or other people may want to reward an intrinsically motivated task. Surprisingly, this actually reduces the motivation for the performer of the task. This is due to an overjustification effect.

Intrinsic motivation boosts creativity

Another scientific fact behind intrinsic motivation is that people are usually much more creative when they are intrinsically motivated. This type of motivation determines the quality of the work that is done. If you find the work that you are doing to be interesting, fun, enjoyable and challenging, you are more likely to get creative ideas as you pursue it further.

Personal relevance of a task causes intrinsic motivation

Psychologists have discovered that if a certain task has some meaning on a personal level, then it is intrinsically motivating. Even if the task is challenging to perform, a person can push through the challenge and complete it because they are highly motivated to do so. Additionally, if the possibility of attaining that goal is not certain, intrinsic motivation will take over and the person will be more empowered to complete the job. 

If it grabs your attention, it will intrinsically motivate you

Attention is very important for intrinsic motivation. If a task is able to grab the attention of the performer, then they will be internally motivated to complete it. This feeling is even much stronger if the task grabs the curiosity of the performer. There are two types of curiosity. They include sensory and intellectual curiosity. Sensory curiosity grabs one's physical attention while intellectual curiosity makes one want to learn more. For as long as a task is able to grab one or both of these types of curiosities, then it automatically generates intrinsic motivation.

Tasks that grant you the power of control can intrinsically motivate you

Control is a major factor in intrinsic motivation. The desire to control one's circumstances is an internal emotion. If a task can get a person closer to fulfilling this desire, then they will be intrinsically motivated to complete the task. These circumstances can be one's career pursuit or even the freedom of choice.

Cooperation is intrinsically motivational

Many hands make light work. Interestingly, many hands also boost intrinsic motivation. Cooperation boosts this type of motivation. It accomplishes this by tapping into the empathetic emotions of people. The desire to help someone else achieve something can manifest as intrinsic motivation. In this way, empathy can foster and maintain intrinsic motivation.

Fulfilling a greater purpose

When a person completes a task while feeling that they are fulfilling a purpose greater than themselves, they are intrinsically motivated. A mission that is of benefit to many more people than just the individual completing it is capable of eliciting intrinsic pleasure and joy. In this way, they are able to perform at a higher level. Such missions often have little or no physical reward. This is evidence that the workers performing them receive an internal reward that is literally priceless.

Autonomous pursuit

When you complete a task while enjoying full autonomy, you are free to do it as you please according to your own schedule. This makes you feel in charge. You feel that you have some power over your tasks. This brings about intrinsic motivation. Not only are you able to perform quality work, you are also able to exert a high level of energy to the task involved. Feeling that you are in charge of something causes you to have intrinsic motivation about it.

Now that we know most of the scientific facts behind intrinsic motivation, let's dive deeper by meeting Dan Pink in an incredibly interesting TED talk on the same subject. Take a moment, sit comfortably and let's play the video below when you're ready!

Examples of intrinsically motivated people in history

There are some examples of intrinsically motivated people. One of these is Thomas Edison. He was an inventor who lived between 1847 and 1931. He is credited with 1090 patents and also created the very first laboratory for industrial research. From his quotes, Edison indicates that he was motivated by the joy of completing tasks. For example, he indicated that he was able to invent due to a great imagination and the ability to see the potential in junk.

Nikola Tesla was also an intrinsically motivated person. He was an engineer and inventor who lived from 1856 to 1943. Nikola invented the AC motor and this created a firm foundation for an industrial revolution. He indicates that the greatest thrill that he ever felt was seeing one of his mental creations take form physically and become a success.

Marie Curie was a chemist and physicist from Poland. She lived between 1867 and 1934. She was one of the pioneering minds in the field of radioactivity. She confessed that the sights and sounds of nature caused her to rejoice with child-like happiness and she felt as though a new world always opened up to her.

The Important Take Away

Intrinsic motivation comes from inside. It is not forced by external people or caused by circumstances. It is a self-exerted motivation to excel and complete a task with high quality results. The points above indicate the science behind intrinsic motivation. By reading them, you can get a deeper understanding of this type of motivation. In addition to that, you can learn how to develop it in yourself so as to improve the quality of your life and your happiness in general.