July 3, 2023

External Motivation Used Well

In my last post I discussed Internal vs External Motivation.

In short; the best motivation is internal, one that stems from an individual's own interests and goals. But external motivation has it's place.

At times, we need to push ourselves, or our children to achieve something worthwhile and external motivation can be utilised to do this.

Four types of external motivation

1. External Regulation

The action is performed in order to gain a reward that is controlled by an external source.

For example, a child is offered a chocolate bar if they clean their room.

The action and the reward are not generally related and the reward is only handed out once the second party is satisfied the task has been completed.

This can also refer to avoidance of negative consequences.

For example, the child cleans their room to avoid getting into trouble from their parents.

External Regulation is best used;

* to help someone over a slump* as a short term form of validation of work

* to assist in foundation skills which could then lead to internal (intrinsic) motivation

Once good habits are formed, it is best that external motivation is phased out and other forms of motivation encouraged.

A sticker chart for one month of a clean room is a cumulative form of external regulation.

a close up photo of a star chart with gold, blue, res and silver stars stuck to it.

2. Introjected Regulation

Similar to the avoidance version of externally regulated, the individual chooses to perform the action, but it is not accepted as valuable by the individual.

An example of this form could be a student who practices spelling lists to perform well on a test. The student does not care about the spelling as much as the praise for doing well (or avoidance of looking foolish).

Pamela Li, contributor to Parenting for brain adds,

This type of regulation is still perceived as controlled because introjected behavior is performed due to internal pressure to

  • reduce guilt or anxiety,
  • enhance ego or pride, or
  • maintain self-esteem or feeling of self-worth

This form of external motivation can be damaging if hard work does not pay off. If the gymnast does not place first, despite training hard, it could lead to frustration and anger.

a photo of a boy wearing headphones and using a laptop

This kind of motivation is best used sparingly and in conjunction with emotional support.

3. Identified External Motivation

The individual understands and accepts the value of the activity.

An example of this might be a child who accepts going to tutoring as she knows it is important to learn to read.

The motivation is still external (the child is not actively seeking the tutoring on their own), but values the end goal.

This type of external motivation can sometimes come with maturity. It can be more successful when the first two types of External motivation are also present/ utilised.

4. Integrated Motivation

The individual autonomously performs an action to achieve a self selected goal. The activity itself is not of interest, but the end result is.

Despite being extrinsic, integrated motivation shares many similar qualities as intrinsic motivation and is the best type of extrinsic motivation. Some researchers even refer to integrated regulation as intrinsic because the person has completely internalized the extrinsic cause into their values.

Pamela Li, MS, MBA, Parenting for Brain

A child who does not enjoy reading, but completes their reading homework without being asked because they know school is important is acting through integrated motivation.

As in Identified Motivation, this can come with maturity.

Bookbot uses a mix of methods to motivate struggling readers

For those readers who are very reluctant and need a gentle push, Bookbot has instant feedback in several different forms.

Puffs of confetti for correctly identified focus words are an instant positive reward. And as the reader progresses through a text, it changes colour to blue as each word is read aloud.

Gentle correction is employed by words changing to orange if Bookbot determines the word has been misread or skipped.

Screen shot of Bookbot in use.

A more cumulative type of feedback in Bookbot is employed in the form of reading levels.

This allows students to see how their reading is progressing. This personal feedback can assist in developing  Integrated and Identified motivation for the student.

Bookbot is a fun, interactive app. It's a lot easier for a child to act, when they know learning to read is important and they want to work at it and easier still when it's fun.

Obviously, internal/intrinsic motivation is the best motivator. But used well, external motivations are valuable and should not be overlooked.


Pamela Li, MS, MBA,

Parenting for Brain

Kendra Cherry

Very well Mind

Download Bookbot now to