Drive book review: Extrinsic motivation matters too

Dan Pink’s Drive rehashes what we’ve already heard from Alfie Kohn and others: intrinsic motivation rocks; extrinsic sucks.

But Pink left out a crucial piece of Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory. Extrinsic motivation is not uni-dimensional. Deci and Ryan identified a number of different types of extrinsic motivation (Guay, Vallerand, & Blanchard, 2000):

  • External regulation — doing something because someone else told you to or motivated you with external rewards.
  • Introjected regulation — internal pressure such as shame or guilt or wanting self-approval leads you to do something.
  • Identified regulation — doing something because you see personal value in it. Note you still might not be intrinsically motivated by the activity; it might not be very intrinsically fun or otherwise rewarding.
  • Integrated regulation — the various regulations/motivations you feel are harmoniously integrated.

Many psychological experiments on motivation assume that external regulation exhausts the domain of extrinsic motivation. Experimenters will use external rewards to get people to do something then notice that the participants’ intrinsic motivation subsequently declines. The researchers conclude “extrinsic motivation bad, intrinsic good.” The most famous example of this is the drawing experiment with preschoolers.

Most of us adults do a bunch of things that we aren’t intrinsically motivated to do. For example, I do my survey research homework not because I enjoy it (I find the subject utterly tedious) but I know that to achieve the expertise in social science research that I want, I need to know about survey research. Just because doing that homework is extrinsically motivated doesn’t mean my motivation to do it is on the decline.

As Ryan and Deci (2000) point out, “much of what people do is not, strictly speaking, instrinsically motivated, especially after early childhood when the freedom to be intrinsically motivated is increasingly curtailed by social pressures to do activities that are not interesting and to assume a variety of new responsibilities.”

Pink’s Drive largely ignores that adults get up in the morning and do what they do mostly out of extrinsic motivation — and that’s not a bad thing, especially if you can fix it up so your work involves identified regulation or integrated regulation.


Guay, F., Vallerand, R.J., & Blanchard, C. (2000). On the assessment of situational intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS). Motivation and Emotion 24(3).

Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist 55(1).