Motivated from within
Intrinsic motivation is an important topic in education, as teachers and instructional designers strive to develop learning environments that are intrinsically rewarding. Unfortunately, many traditional paradigms suggest that most students find learning boring so they must be extrinsically goaded into educational activities. Malone and Lepper (1987) suggest that this need not be the case and identify several different ways to make learning environments that are intrinsically rewarding.
Malone and Lepper define activities as intrinsically motivating if "people engage in it for its own sake, rather than in order to receive some external reward or avoid some external punishment. We use the words fun, interesting, captivating, enjoyable, and intrinsically motivating all more or less interchangeably to describe such activities."
The factors that they identify as increasing intrinsic motivation are:
- Challenge: People are more motivated when they pursue goals that have personal meaning, that relate to their self-esteem, when performance feedback is available, and when attaining the goal is possible but not necessarily certain.
- Curiosity: Internal motivation is increased when something in the physical environment grabs the individual's attention (sensory curiosity) and when something about the activity stimulates the person to want to learn more (cognitive curiosity).
- Control: People want control over themselves and their environments and want to determine what they pursue.
- Cooperation and Competition: Intrinsic motivation can be increased in situations where people gain satisfaction from helping others and also in cases where they are able to compare their own performance favorably to that of others.
- Recognition: People enjoy having their accomplishment recognized by others, which can increase internal motivation.
rewards sometimes carry hidden costs. Most people think that offering
tangible rewards will boost anyone's interest in an activity. Actually,
promising children a reward for a task they already enjoy can backfire. In
experiments, children promised a payoff for playing with an interesting
puzzle or toy later play with the toy less than do children who are not
paid to play. It is as if the children think, 'If I have to be bribed into
doing this, then it must not be worth doing for its own sake.'"
functional significance, or salience, of the event dictates whether
intrinsic motivation is facilitated or diminished. For example, an athlete
may perceive receiving an external reward (e.g., money, trophy) as a
positive indicator of her sport competence (informational), whereas
another athlete may perceive the same reward as coercion to keep her
involved in the activity (controlling). Thus, the aspect of the event that
is perceived as salient will determine level of autonomy and perceived
competence experienced, and ultimately affect intrinsic motivation for
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Malone, T. W. & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction: III. Cognative and affective process analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Myers, D. (2005). Exploring psychology, Sixth edition in modules. New York: Worth Publishers.
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