Internal Motivation, Instrumental Motivation, and Eudaimonia

  • Barry SchwartzEmail author
  • Amy Wrzesniewski
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


There is a long history of thought and research in the social sciences that views human beings as engaged in entirely instrumental activities in pursuit of goals that typically give them pleasure, and presumably, happiness. This view can be contrasted with Aristotle’s “eudaimonic” view that real happiness comes from the pursuit and achievement of excellence, with excellence understood as achieving a telos specific to and appropriate to each activity. In this chapter, we argue for Aristotle’s view in distinguishing instrumental from internal motives. The pursuit of consequences that bear an intimate relation to the activities themselves (internal motives), while often not pleasurable, yields lasting effects on well-being that instrumental consequences typically do not. We discuss both laboratory research and field studies, including a longitudinal study of West Point cadets, in support of our arguments. We suggest that the often-made distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation fails to capture adequately the complexity of the relations between the things people do and their reasons for doing them.


Happiness Wellbeing Eudaimonia Aristotle Internal motivation 


  1. Aristotle. (1988). The nicomachean ethics (trans: D. Ross). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bunderson, J. S., & Thompson, J. A. (2009). The call of the wild: Zookeepers, callings, and the double-edged sword of deeply meaningful work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54, 32–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cardador, M. T., Dane, E., & Pratt, M. G. (2011). Linking calling orientations to organizational attachment via organizational instrumentality. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79, 367–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 980–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18, 105–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Deci, E. L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 627–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2014). The importance of universal psychological needs for understanding motivation in the workplace. In The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory (pp. 13–32). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dobrow, S. R. (2013). Dynamics of calling: A longitudinal study of musicians. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34, 431–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duckworth, A. L., & Gross, J. J. (2014). Self-control and grit: Related but separable determinants of success. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 319–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T., Tsukayama, E., Berstein, H., & Ericsson, K. (2010). Deliberate practice spells success: Why grittier competitors triumph at the National Spelling Bee. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 174–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ predicting academic performance in adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eisenberger, R., & Cameron, J. (1996). Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth? American Psychologist, 51, 153–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ericcson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M., et al. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, 13684–13689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frey, B. S. (1994). How intrinsic motivation is crowded out and in. Rationality and Society, 6, 334–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frey, B. S., & Oberholzer-Gee, F. (1997). The cost of price incentives: An empirical analysis of motivation crowding out. American Economic Review, 87, 746–755.Google Scholar
  20. Gerhart, B., & Fang, M. (2015). Pay, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, performance, and creativity in the workplace: Revisiting long-held beliefs. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2, 489–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gneezy, U., & Rustichini, A. (2000). A fine is a price. Journal of Legal Studies, 29, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall, D. T., & Chandler, D. E. (2005). Psychological success: When the career is a calling. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hirsch, F. (1976). Social limits to growth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiviniemi, M. T., Snyder, M., & Omoto, A. M. (2002). Too many of a good thing? The effects of multiple motivations on task fulfillment, satisfaction, and cost. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 732–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lacetera, N., Macis, M., & Slonim, R. (2012). Will there be blood? Incentives and displacement effects in pro-social behavior. American Journal of Economic Policy, 4, 186–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lepper, M. R., Greene, D., & Nisbett, R. E. (1973). Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic rewards: A test of the “overjustification hypothesis”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 119–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  28. Marglin, S. (1976). What do bosses do? In A. Gorz (Ed.), The division of labour (pp. 13–54). London: Harvester Press.Google Scholar
  29. Murayama, K., Matsumoto, M., Izuma, K., & Matsumoto, K. (2010). Neural basis of the undermining effect of extrinsic reward on intrinsic motivation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 20911–20916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nussbaum, M. (1990). Love’s knowledge. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Pink, D. H. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  32. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schwartz, B. (1978). The psychology of learning and behavior. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  34. Schwartz, B. (2015). Why we work. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  35. Schwartz, B., Schuldenfrei, R., & Lacey, H. (1978). Operant psychology as factory psychology. Behaviorism, 6, 229–254.Google Scholar
  36. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, A. (1776/1937). The wealth of nations. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  38. Taylor, F. W. (1911/1967). Principles of scientific management. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  39. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wrzesniewski, A., Berg, J. M., Grant, A. M., Kurkoski, J., & Welle, B. (2015). Dual mindsets at work: Achieving long-term gains in happiness. Working paper.Google Scholar
  41. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wrzesniewski, A., Schwartz, B., Cong, X., Kane, M., Omar, A., & Kolditz, T. (2014). Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 10990–10995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PsychologySwarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA
  2. 2.Yale School of ManagementNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations