The Effects of External Rewards on Intrinsic
Researched and Composed by Gabriel “Venom” Wilson, BSc. (Hons), CSCS
For over 30 years now, there has been an intense debate on the effects of external
rewards on intrinsic motivation. The answer to this question appears to depend on
two properties of a reward: control and information. Though many professions have
utilized rewards to control behavior with students, athletes, and children, it appears
that this very controlling mechanism is what undermines intrinsic motivation.
Conversely, an informational message of competency can enhance intrinsic
motivation. Therefore, the way the reward is delivered will determine its effects on
intrinsic motivation. In this context, the purpose of this paper was to analyze the
effects of various rewards on intrinsic motivation. Rewards will be analyzed using the
well established Cognitive Evaluation Theory.
We shall begin this article with a short story (McCullagh, 2005). Once there was a
man, who lived in a house and had a lawn. And kids would come to play on this
mans lawn to have fun. The man began to be annoyed by this, and decided to do
something about it. So, strangely enough.
..he paid them a dollar to come play on his
lawn. The kids happily took the dollar and played on his lawn. The next day, the man
told the kids that he did not have enough money, so he could only give them 50
cents to come play on his lawn. On the third day, he told them he could only give
them a nickel to come play on his lawn. The kids were displeased with this, and told
the man he could forget that, and that they would not play on his lawn for such a
cheap reward. What happened? These kids played on his lawn before for absolutely
nothing, but now, they quit playing, even though they were offered a nickel! Well, it
just so happens that this man understood an important concept in Sport Psychology.
That is, the effects of external rewards on intrinsic motivation.
can be defined as the intensity and direction of effort (McCullagh, 2005).
Intensity refers to the quantity of effort, while direction refers to what you are drawn
too. Evidence suggests that enhanced motivation promotes learning, performance,
enjoyment, and persistence in sport, among other benefits (McCullagh, 2005;
Wilson, 2005). Therefore, methods to enhance motivation have been thoroughly
There are two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.