Overjustification


While I was preparing for the TOEFL exam, I came upon a very interesting article about the concept of overjustification in the writing section. I could relate the concept with my life and grew more self-aware.

Motivation in simple terms is the sum of the needs and wants that cause a person to act. There are many ways that motives can be classified, but one such way is whether motives are extrinsic or intrinsic in nature.

Extrinsic motivation is a drive to perform an activity in order to obtain a reward from outside the individual. Examples of extrinsic motives are money or any other goods and services that money can buy, as well as externally bestowed intangible rewards such as attention, approval, praise, or, applause.

Intrinsic motivation is a desire to perform an activity for its own sake rather than for an external reward. If a person is intrinsically motivated, he or she might be motivated, for example, by a desire for satisfaction, personal pleasure, self-fulfillment, creativity, or accomplishment. Those who are motivated intrinsically tend to be happier and psychologically healthier than are those who are extrinsically motivated.

It is quite possible for someone to be offered extrinsic rewards for doing something that he or she is already intrinsically motivated to do. When someone is given an extrinsic reward for doing something that is already intrinsically rewarding, then it is quite possible for that person’s intrinsic motivation to diminish. This decrease in intrinsic motivation is called the overjustification effect. To restate, the overjustification effect is the decrease in intrinsic motivation that occurs as a result of the addition of extrinsic rewards for an activity that had previously occurred as a result of only intrinsic motivation.

Here is an experience, although not the best example, that I think is related to the overjustification effect to some extent.

Running is a hobby of mine. I have been running by myself till a friend asked me if he could join me. We trained for a period of 2 months when he quit; what followed then was that I possessed little motivation to go training alone – I wanted someone at my side. Fortunately, everything got back to normal in a week.

Now, having read about overjustification, I can conclude that the presence of my friend served as an extrinsic award which later decreased my motivation to run alone.

A person should be aware of the concept of overjustification to try to avoid having unpleasant experiences with what he loves. I do not know whether a person can prevent his mind from getting overjustificated, but I presume that being mindful of the concept of overjustification is some kind of warning or safety precaution that provides one with helpful ideas of how to take proper actions against the phenomenon’s negative effect.

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