The secret of effective motivation


The secret of effective motivation

There are two motives for engaging in any activity: internal and instrumental. If a scientist is doing research because she wants to discover important facts about the world, then this is an intrinsic motivation, because there is an inherent connection between the discovery of facts and the research activity. If she does research, because she wants to achieve academic prestige, it’s an instrumental motivation, because the relationship between fame and research is not inherent. Often, people have an intrinsic and instrumental motivation to do what they do.

What is the most successful motivation for internal or instrumental or both? You might think that a scientist eager to discover facts and aspire to fame would do better than a scientist who only has one of those desires. There are two motives, of course, better than one. But, as we and our colleagues in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences “on a paper discussed, instrumental motivation is not always a assets, may actually have the opposite effect on success.

We analyzed data from 11,320 participants from 9 courses at the United States military academy at west point, who assessed the impact of a series of motivations on their decision to join the academy. These motives include the desire to get good jobs in the future (an instrumental motive) and the desire to train as a leader of the us army (an internal motivation).

A few years later, what about the students? What does their progress have to do with their motives at west point?

It is no surprise that the stronger the internal reasons, the more likely they will graduate and become commissioned officers. Also no surprise that the performance of the internal motivation of students in the military field is better than no internal motivation of the military (this can be proved from the early advice), and after they spent five years were also more likely to stay in the military – unless (this is the surprising part), they also have a powerful tool for motivation.

It is worth noting that participants who participated in the internal and powerful tools of west point were more likely to perform poorly on each measure than those with a strong internal motivation. They are unlikely to graduate, not as well as officers, and less likely to stay in the army.

The significance of this discovery is significant. Whenever a person does a task well, there are usually internal and instrumental consequences. A serious student study (internal) and get good grades (instruments). A skilled doctor treats patients (internal) and lives a good life (tools). But because the activity has both inherent and instrumental consequences, it does not mean that the people who thrive in these activities have both intrinsic motivation and instrumental motivation.

Our research suggests that efforts should be made to organize activities so that instrumental consequences are not motivated. Help people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, not to say that it will lead to financial returns, this may be the best way to improve their quality of work, can also be – seems counterintuitive – their financial success.

There is a temptation among educators and teachers to use any motivational tool to recruit participants or improve performance. If the pursuit of excellence and serve the desire cannot attract all officers of the army’s need then maybe called for “for the college to make money”, “vocational training” or “see the world” is capable of. While this strategy may attract more recruits, it may also make the soldiers worse. Similarly, for students with low interest in learning, high school economic incentives or high performance pizza parties may lead them to participate, but it may also lead to lower levels of education.

The same is true of motivating teachers themselves. We shake hands while we’re teaching, because we’re worried that it’s going to reduce the actual education. Teachers may do this because they are overly dependent on accountability and turn the instrumental consequences of good teaching, such as salary bonuses, into instrumental motivation. Accountability is important, but a crude structure that can create actions that it is designed to prevent (such as poor teaching).

By emphasizing the internal and instrumental motivation more attractive to emphasize an activity is completely understandable, but it may produce unexpected effect, weakening is essential to the success of intrinsic motivation.


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