Autonomous Versus Controlled Motivation: Everything You Need to Know

Controlled Motivation

Motivation has been extensively studied, and many of the studies highlight the differences between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. Just what are these types of motivation, and how might they affect you? The answers aren’t that complex, and below are some easy ways to understand the differences between these two types of motivation.

Autonomous Versus Controlled Motivation

Autonomous motivation is what drives people to do certain things because of internal incentives. Controlled motivation on the other hand, is motivation that comes from external incentives. Internally motivated individuals do certain things because they want to help others or because it makes them feel good to do so. Externally motivated individuals do what they do because of factors such as more recognition, certain awards, or better status.

Extrinsic or external motivation, is controlled motivation that relies on external factors for rewards and punishment. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. External motivation can be demonstrated in the workplace by things such as rewards, accolades, and even performance evaluations. Motivated people consider these things an important factor in staying motivated.

Motivated people through external factors are not shallow or unpleasant people. External rewards for them is encouraging, which can include everything from praise to trophies and medals. External motivation also comes from introjected motivation, which includes partial internal motivators, but can come from things such as wanting to protect your ego and avoid shame.

Autonomous/self-directed motivation, is how people feel when intrinsic motivation comes. People who love external motivation, feel little to no autonomy and therefore, no self-direction.

How Does Autonomous or Controlled Motivation Affect a Person’s Adaptation to the World?

Motivation can affect how a person adapts to the environment and even his or her degree of self-determination. Why? To answer this question, we need some basic information. First of all, according to many studies, there are three basic needs that every human being has. These are:

  • Autonomy: the need to control your life in some way
  • Competence: the need to effectively deal with your environment
  • Relatedness: the need to have relationships with other people

There are also three different casualities that show how people adapt to their environment. These are:

  • Autonomous: all three of the basic needs are achieved
  • Controlled: only competence and relatedness are satisfied, but autonomy is not
  • Impersonal: none of the three basic needs are met

People are motivated either by internal or external factors, and this directly affects how they view their surroundings and how they handle everything that is happening in their lives. When it comes to autonomous/controlled motivation, there is no right or wrong, no best or worst. It is just good to know which characteristics belong to which individual.

Types of External or Extrinsic Motivation

Types of External or Extrinsic Motivation

There are several types of external motivation, and these include:

  • Written feedback, which can include notes or letters of thanks
  • Public recognition, including awards and ceremonies that celebrate people’s achievements
  • Financial rewards, which include bonuses and pay raises
  • Peer recognition, including the support of an individual that you consider to be a colleague or peer

The fact that certain people are extrinsically motivated should never shock anyone. Motivation still comes from something, and it causes them to do a much better job than they would if the motivation wasn’t there at all.

There are other, more formal types of external motivation, including:

  • External regulation, which includes incentives and consequences
  • Introjected regulation, including to avoid guilt
  • Identified regulation, which includes a sense of importance
  • Integrated regulation, including expression of self and identity

When people avoid saying things that might make them sound bias or acting in a way that may make others think they are bias, these are examples of external and introjected regulation, respectively. These are a few of the examples of different types of extrinsic regulation.

If you’d like more specific examples of external motivators, here are a few:

External rewards include:

  • Frequent flyer reward programs
  • Working at a job for money
  • Playing sports to get a trophy
  • Sales that include buy one, get one free
  • Customer loyalty discounts at stores

Psychological rewards include:

  • Completing a task for the attention it brings
  • Completing a task to avoid getting ill critic
  • Studying hard to get a good grade
  • Helping people to get praise from others
  • Doing things for public attention or fame

As you can see, there are dozens of types of external rewards and motivation. These are very different from autonomous or self-directed motivation and rewards, as you can tell just by reading a few of them.

Autonomous or Controlled Motivation Affects Everything

Motivation affects almost everything that people do. External motivation seeks to avoid punishment, among other things, whereas internal motivation is more focused on a positive reward for doing something right. Although everyone is influenced by both internal and external factors, an individual’s personality and concept of self usually determine whether they are motivated by internal or external factors.

With every behavior, there is an underlying cause, and the more you understand what motivates people, the easier it is to understand someone else’s behavior. If a student studies only to get a good grade or a grocery store uses discount cards to attract customers, they are utilizing the benefits of external motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is not always a physical reward such as a trophy or ribbon. It can also include psychological rewards, such as praise from others or even fame. Indeed, external motivation is very effective because it makes people strive to do better for a number of reasons.

There are also both advantages and disadvantages to external motivation. Some of the advantages include:

  • People will complete a task or job even when they don’t have interest for it
  • It allows people to survive (for example, staying at a job until you have another job lined up)
  • People do a better job of setting goals

The disadvantages of external motivation include:

  • motivates people less and less through the years
  • causes people to do less if the reward is taken out
  • can cause a certain activity to be less enjoyable

External/controlled motivation is quite different than internal motivation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better or worse than the other. It simply tells us that motivation comes in many different forms, and that each individual is very unique from any other.

How External Motivation Affects the Workplace

How External Motivation Affects the Workplace

Motivation is relevant in the workplace because, let’s face it, workers of all types often need to be motivated to do their jobs well. Supervisors also want to learn about motivation so they can increase their employees’ level of motivation and get better results. Controlled, or external motivation can affect the workplace in various ways.

Not only is a salary an external motivator for people who work for a living, but there are other incentives that businesses provide that can be just as much of a motivator as money. For instance, some businesses offer things such as free dinners whenever you work late or even extra pay or bonuses for working overtime. Some of these “bonuses” even include vacation trips and other fun activities.

External motivation can result in a host of positive behaviors and outcomes, including more energy and determination among the employees. Even if they are only working on something because they want a specific reward, employees are still working harder than they would if they were offered no incentives, so their productivity always improves.

Of course, there are problems with external motivation, as well as perks. If you are a supervisor and choose to offer financial rewards, it can become quite expensive when employees start doing well. If you are working with a large team, this can be disastrous. Another problem is that many times, these external motivators are just short-term solutions. They do nothing to increase a worker’s long-term motivation, so they simply do not last.

Some Final Thoughts

Both autonomous and controlled motivation techniques work, but external motivation can often produce more negative effects. These can include employees who stop becoming motivated because the rewards are only temporary or short term. In fact, when employees prefer external motivation, they can quickly suffer burn out or lose interest in doing a good job.

If you want external motivation, you can do things such as:

  • Laugh a lot
  • Reject boredom and go for things you enjoy
  • Stay in good shape
  • Eliminate the unimportant things in your life
  • Make a playlist of your favorite songs
  • Practice your creative side
  • Take regular breaks from stress
  • Eliminate the things that interfere with your level of joy

Whether it’s designing a logo for a very well-known company or joining a competition so that you can maybe win a new cell phone or tablet, external motivation always comes from outside sources, and this is not necessarily a negative thing. It is also easy to discover if your motivation comes from external or internal factors, and for each of these, you can learn to make the most of it.