On the subject of motivation

I'm a follower of an interesting blog, which goes by the fairly ridiculous name "PsyBlog". They discuss various aspects of everyday psychology, at precisely the level at which I find it interesting, so that's nice.

Their latest entry, "How Rewards Can Backfire and Reduce Motivation" I found very interesting. Basically, it says that human motivation comes in two types, instrinsic and extrinsic. Instrinsic motivation is the type you have when you want to do something, like when I go to lunch, that's intrinsically motivated. Meanwhile, extrinsic motivation is the more common type, the carrot in a carrot-on-a-stick type of motivation.

The latter is the one we're using in society to get people to do their job. "Go there, do that, paycheck here." There's a TED Talk on the subject of motivation, which I think ya'll should see and absorb. It's about the same stuff.

So, as you'd know if you read the blog post or watched the video, when we're motivated by extrinsic factors such as a paycheck, we only do as much as is required of us to meet the conditions at which we receive said paycheck.

If we approach a task with the expectancy of a reward, we start working towards getting the reward, rather than doing a good job and satisfying our passionate feelings about eating lunch.

I think maturing is a lot about finding intrinsic motivation in everyday tasks, because when you're a kid, your parents motivate or persuade you in one way or another to do all the chores that are required of you -- like brushing your teeth, putting on clothes, making your bed, etc. As one tends to find out sooner or later, these are things that you need to do for your own sake, but nonetheless they're still associated with your parents going "Ludvig, brush your teeth now."

However, it is of my opinion that the blog post is a bit biased towards saying that intrinsic motivation is better (and the talk is clearly biased), because intrinsic motivation fades.

People in the open-source development community know this all too well -- you make a neat project, lose the love for it, and it's doomed to lie dormant in ~/dev/ until your disk crashes and you bitch and moan about how much work you lost--which you were never going to use for anything anway.

So, in conclusion, I think I'll go with lagom är bäst on this one. Intrinsic motivation gives us passion, extrinsic gives us that little push we need to make something useful.


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