Sources of Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Categories of Sources of Motivation
Description of Sources of Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

When talking about the sources of motivation, the terms intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are
usually part of the discussion:

  • Intrinsic motivation: The source of the motivation comes from within the person.
    This could include personal satisfaction, interest in the subject, cognitive need to
    learn, and a desire for personal growth (Vancouver Community College [VCC], 2011).
    Also see Self-Determination Theory in this wiki.

  • Extrinsic motivation: The source of the motivation lies outside of the person.
    This would include money, grades, or praise (VCC, 2011). But it could also include
    avoiding to get punished, for example doing assigned chores so that TV privileges
    are not revoked or conforming to cultural and social norms so that one is not ostracized.

This is a fascinating video on the research regarding extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and how it relates to the business world.
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Categories of Sources of Motivation

The sources of motivation can be categorized further and this is how Huitt's (2001) categorization relates to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:


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Description of Sources of Motivation

Here then is a description of the different sources of motivation according to Huitt. It provides insight into the complexity of motivation and causes of human behaviour.
Many of these categories lead then into the different types of theories.

Sources of Motivational Needs
(operant conditioning)
  • elicited by stimulus associated/connected to innately
    connected stimulus
  • obtain desired, pleasant consequences (rewards) or
    escape/avoid undesired, unpleasant consequences
  • imitate positive models
  • be a part of a group or a valued member
  • increase/decrease stimulation (arousal)
  • activate senses (taste, touch, smell, etc.
  • decrease hunger, thirst, discomfort, etc.
  • maintain homeostasis, balance
  • maintain attention to something interesting or threatening
  • develop meaning or understanding
  • increase/decrease cognitive disequilibrium; uncertainty
  • solve a problem or make a decision
  • figure something out
  • eliminate threat or risk
  • increase/decrease affective dissonance
  • increase feeling good
  • decrease feeling bad
  • increase security of or decrease threats to self-esteem
  • maintain levels of optimism and enthusiasm
  • meet individually developed/selected goal
  • obtain personal dream
  • develop or maintain self-efficacy
  • take control of one's life
  • eliminate threats to meeting goal, obtaining dream
  • reduce others' control of one's life
  • understand purpose of one's life
  • connect self to ultimate unknowns
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Huitt, W. (2001). Motivation to learn: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from

Vancouver Community College. (2011). Unit 5: Motivation to learn [PIDP 3106 course handout]. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: School of Instructor Education, Vancouver Community College. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from (cannot be accessed if not enrolled in the course)

Video: RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Retrieved February, 23, 2011 from