Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 442
Motivation/Deci/Ryan: Def Intrinsic motivation/Deci/Ryan: refers to doing an activity because the activity itself is interesting and spontaneously satisfying (Ryan and Deci 2000)(1). Intrinsic motivation is said to be invariantly autonomous or self-determined because it is a reflection of people’s inner interests. In other words, when intrinsically motivated, people experience volition and a sense of choice as they fully endorse the activities in which they are engaged.
Terminology: Csikszentmihalyi (1990)(2) referred to intrinsically motivated activities as autotelic.
Def Extrinsic motivation/Deci/Ryan: In contrast, extrinsic motivation refers to doing an activity because it is instrumental to some operationally separable consequence. The classic instance of extrinsic motivation is doing an activity because it is expected to lead to a reward or the avoidance of a punishment.
Self-Determination Theory/SDT: suggests, that extrinsic motivation can be internalized and thus can become a basis for autonomous actions. >Self-Determination/Deci/Ryan, >Internalization/Deci/Ryan.
Four types of extrinsic motivation:
external regulation
introjected regulation
identified regulation
integrated regulation
>Regulation/Deci/Ryan, >Environment/Deci/Ryan.

1. Deci, E. L. and Ryan, R. M. 2000. The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of goal pursuits: human needs and the self-determination of behaviour, Psychological Inquiry 11: 227–68
2. Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow. New York: Harper and Row

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, „Self-determination theory: a consideration of human motivational universals“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press

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Corr II 140
Deci suggested that whether rewards, feedback, and other events enhance or diminish intrinsic motivation will be a function of how they affect feelings of self-determination (being an origin) and competence (experiences of effectance).
II 141
Deci began with this question: if a monetary reward is offered for performing an activity one already finds interesting, what effect will this reward have on subsequent intrinsic motivation? Operant psychology maintained (albeit using different language) that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation would be additive. Counter to this, Deci (1971)(1) anticipated that the motivational impact of rewards might depend on how they are experienced. Building on de Charms (1968)(2), Deci reasoned that the application of contingent extrinsic rewards to an intrinsically motivated activity could prompt a change in the “perceived locus of causality” from internal (IPLOC) to external (EPLOC). In other words, offering rewards would shift participants’ perceived locus of causality from internal to external, undermining their experience of being an origin, and thus their intrinsic motivation. Alternatively, Deci reasoned that rewards that did not interfere with participants’ experiences of ‘self-determination and competence’ should not produce this undermining effect on subsequent intrinsic motivation.
Deci’s primary measure of intrinsic motivation was what he called the free-choice behavioural paradigm, a strategy upon which most subsequent experimental work on intrinsic motivation has been based. In this approach, intrinsic motivation is operationalized as the amount of time participants spend engaged with
II 142
a target activity when they are alone, are not being observed, are free to choose what to do, have alternative activities available, and have no explicit incentives for continuing on the target task.
Experiments/Deci: [In an experiment with three different groups solving a puzzle] Deci (1971)(1) [found] a potential negative effect of rewards on post-reward persistence, an outcome not previously observed in experiments with humans. Specifically, participants who had received extrinsic rewards for solving these interesting puzzles spent much less time working on the puzzles during the final free-choice period than they had in the initial one (…).
II 142
[In another experiment, conducted at a college newspaper office, Deci showed] that faster work (better performance) is indicative of higher intrinsic motivation.
[Deci conducted a third experiment which was almost identical to the first “puzzle experiment.] This time, however, Deci used ‘verbal rewards’ (praise and positive feedback) rather than financial rewards as the experimental manipulation. Deci hypothesized that verbal rewards like these would typically not be experienced as controlling, but rather as ‘encouragement’. Therefore, unlike contingent financial rewards, this type of verbal reward would be unlikely to create an EPLOC or undermine intrinsic motivation.
II 144
As expected, results showed no undermining effect of these verbal rewards on intrinsic motivation.
II 145
Based on these early experiments (Deci 1971(1), 1972a(3), 1972b(4)), Deci introduced a tentative cognitive evaluation theory (CET) to account for his varied results. He argued that there are at least two aspects to any external reward: a ‘controlling’ aspect and an ‘informational’ aspect. The controlling aspect leads to a decrease in intrinsic motivation by changing the perceived locus of causality from internal to external. The informational aspect leads to an increase in intrinsic motivation by increasing the person’s sense of ‘competence and self-determination’.
II 146
VsDeci: Most outstanding is that all three of the 1971 studies are statistically underpowered – or carried out with very small samples. (…) many findings do not reach an acceptable level of inferential statistical significance; several findings are trends or significant but with weak effects. [Moreover] the research was exclusively based on a relatively homogeneous group of northeastern US university students.


1. Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18, 105–115.
2. de Charms, R. (1968). Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behavior. New York: Academic Press.
3. Deci, E. L. (1972a). The effects of contingent and non-contingent rewards and controls on intrinsic motivation. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 8, 217–229.
4. Deci, E. L. (1972b). Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic reinforcement, and inequity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 113–120.


Ryan, Richard M; Ryan, William S and Di Domenico, Stefano I.: “Effects of Rewards on Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation Revisiting Deci (1971)”, In: Philip J. Corr (Ed.) 2018. Personality and Individual Differences. Revisiting the classical studies. Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne: Sage, pp. 137-154.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Ryan, Richard M.
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-08-11
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