Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is motivation or drive that comes from within children. They do something for the sake of doing it, because it makes them feel good inside (Berger, 2018; Kohn, 1993; Rath, 2015). Children may want to color a picture or play music for the fun of it. 

Children will spend much longer doing activities when they are intrinsically motivated (Habgood & Ainsworth, 2011).  When people are intrinsically motivated in their jobs they are more likely to get promotions and do well (Rath, 2015). 

Extrinsic motivation is when children behave a certain way to get an external reward, such as praise, stickers, trophies, money, or treats.  Instead of making music for fun, now they do it to make money.  The motivation comes from outside the person (Berger, 2018; Cherry, 2019; Rath, 2015). 

Giving children too many rewards can cause a decrease in their intrinsic motivation (Cherry, 2019; Kohn, 1993).  You may get children to do their homework or read with the promise of a reward, but if you want them to love learning and keep doing well in school in the long-term, you need the motivation to come from within them.  


Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person: Through Childhood and adolescence (11thed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Cherry, K. (2019). What is extrinsic motivation? Retrieved from

Habgood, M. P. J. & Ainsworth, S. E. (2011). Motivating children to learn effectively: Exploring the value of intrinsic integration in educational games. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 20(2), 169-206. 

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Rath, T. (2015). The only type of motivation that leads to success. Retrieved from