How does intrinsic motivation factor into individual persistence and performance?

The bottom third of the picture shows dense, brown plants with some greener foliage located on the left. The brown plants are interrupted on the right side of the picture by a gray road. The top two thirds of the picture show large, snowy brown mountains. And there is a layer of fog on the top left of the picture.

Psychologist Tony Grant looks directly at this question in his article, Does Intrinsic Motivation Fuel the Prosocial Fire? Motivational Synergy in Predicting Persistence, Performance, and Productivity. Grant highlights how within research on motivation, research is conflicted on the role of prosocial motivation. To aid in this area, Grant proposes that prosocial motivation is most likely to predict outcomes when individuals also have intrinsic motivation. 

In working with this proposal, Grant highlights definitions of several terms utilized within his research. 

Motivation - Refers to the psychological processes that direct, energize, and sustain action 

Intrinsic Motivation - The desire to expand effort based on interest in and enjoyment of the work itself 

Extrinsic Motivation - The desire to expend effort to obtain outcomes external to the work itself, such as rewards or recognition 

With these definitions of motivation, Grant leads into some of the differences between intrinsic and prosocial motivation. While intrinsic motivation emphasizes pleasure and enjoyment as drivers of effort, prosocial motivation emphasizes meaning and purpose as drivers. So, an intrinsically motivated individual completes work as they enjoy it, while a prosocially motivated individual would complete work because it benefits others. 

Having defined terms, Grant proposes the following hypothesis: Intrinsic motivation moderates the relationship between prosocial motivation and persistence, performance, and productivity. The higher the intrinsic motivation, the stronger the positive association between prosocial motivation and persistence, performance, and productivity. 
Grant ran two studies: in the first study 58 firefighters were surveyed to analyze prosocial and intrinsic motivation. The findings of this first study show that prosocial and intrinsic motivational factors were positively correlated.
The second study looked at intrinsic motivation and prosocial motivation as predictors of performance and productivity for 140 fundraiser callers. The findings of this study indicate that intrinsic motivation strengthened the association between prosocial motivation, persistence, performance, and productivity. 

For coaches, understanding the difference between intrinsic motivation and prosocial motivation can take effort. However, according to research from Grant, having intrinsic motivation can have a positive impact on motivation outcomes such as persistence, performance, and productivity. When talking about motivation, consider emphasizing the importance of intrinsic motivation and linking the work your clients do to personal values and enjoyment. 

In the center of the frame in bold red letters, the quote by Aristotle “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” This quote is accompanied by the Institute of Coaching’s Logo, a red shield. The shield is in the lower center of the image.

IOC's Tips of the Week are authored by Austin Matzelle