The Development of Intrinsic and
Extrinsic Motivation

       In ancient times scholars worked for their own improvement;
nowadays they seek only to win the approval of others.
                                      Confucius, Analects 14.24 (551-479 BCE)

Work can be done, as Confucius suggests, as a means to an end (an extrinsically motivated pursuit) or as an end in itself (an intrinsically motivated pursuit). Compared to extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is associated with a variety of adaptive behaviors, such as challenge seeking, school involvement, and strong academic performance. But it is unclear whether high levels of extrinsic motivation detract from intrinsic motivation or compound its benefits. We address this question in one line of research by identifying how different combinations of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations relate to meaningful learning outcomes at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Our research to date suggests that a high ratio of intrinsic to extrinsic motivation accords the most benefits, particularly for younger children. In a second line of research, we track changes in children’s motivation over time and identify sources of such change. Unfortunately there is a clear pattern of loss to intrinsic motivation as children progress through the elementary and middle school years. Such losses can be prevented, however, by a school-wide focus on learning and mastery outside of a competitive framework. We are grateful to have support from the Spencer Foundation as we continue our research on intrinsic and extrinsic motivations with 3rd- through 8th-grade students from area schools.

Selected Publications and Reports:

Corpus, J. H., & Wormington, S. V. (2014). Profiles of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in elementary school: A longitudinal analysis.  The Journal of Experimental Education, 82, 480-501. [Download PDF]

Haimovitz, K., Wormington, S. V., & Corpus, J. H. (2011). Dangerous mindsets: How beliefs about intelligence predict motivational change. Learning and Individual Differences. [Download PDF]

Hayenga, A. O., & Corpus, J. H. (2010). Profiles of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: A person-centered approach to motivation and achievement in middle school. Motivation and Emotion. 34, 371-383. [Download PDF]

Corpus, J. H., McClintic-Gilbert, M. S., & Hayenga, A. O. (2009).  Within-year changes in children's intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations:  Contextual predictors and academic outcomes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 154-166. [Download PDF]

Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar. S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 184-196. [Download PDF 292k]

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