ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivations

Updated on September 14, 2020
Jacqueline4390 profile image

Jacqueline Williamson graduated with a BBA in Personnel Admin., an MPA in HR Management and an MS in Education.

"Is it because I want to or is it because its the best thing to do?"
"Is it because I want to or is it because its the best thing to do?"


After reading the article Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions by Ryan and Deci (2000), I find that according to the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) there are basically two types of motivations, intrinsic and extrinsic. I will explore information derived from Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation together with information on Sexuality Education to develop conceptions regarding these two types of motivations. I will compare these concepts along with sexuality education data to determine if students are intrinsically motivated to abstain from sex. My discussion will begin with the theories on Intrinsic Motivation.

First, let’s look at the meaning of motivation. The definition of motivation according to Ryan (2000) is “To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”

I will assume that this means that there needs to be a rationalization behind the behavior that prompts an individual to take a particular action. This can involve something as simple as brushing your teeth to prevent cavities or taking a class in exotic cooking. There is a justification behind doing either activity. I can therefore be in full agreement with the definition of being motivated. In the case of sexuality education, this would mean that the student is moved by the information received on sexual behavior to take a particular action. This particular action can be either seen as positive (reframing from sexual behavior) or negative (engaging in sexual behavior with various consequences.)

Determining what can be seen as the most intrinsically motivating approach to sexuality education is debatable. There is controversy regarding the two main approaches to sexuality education: abstinence-only curricula and comprehensive sexuality curricula. An abstinence-only curriculum attempts to teach students the beneficial consequences of delaying or abstaining from sex (Vessey 1995). Critics say some of the most popular of these programs rely on scare tactics to get their message across and sometimes include inadequate and inaccurate medical information (Pardini 2002.) According to Ryan (2000) “Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequences. If scare tactics can be proven as a method of teaching sexuality education, then some may think it safe to assume that some forms of abstinence-only teaching would fall short of being intrinsically motivating.

Comprehensive sexuality curriculum has a focus on abstinence, but also provides teenagers with information on pregnancy, contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted disease (STDs). Critics say such curricula increase teen sexual activity, although studies show otherwise (Pardini 2002.) The question would still need to be answered if an inform student will chose (intrinsically) to make the “right” choice, given all the alternatives.

Are we well informed enough to make the right choice?
Are we well informed enough to make the right choice?

The Importance of Being Well Informed

There exists a growing concern among parents, guardians, and educators regarding the number of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 years engaging in casual sex. According to Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine Bureau of Health, “It’s not realistic to assume all teens are going to remain abstinent.” (Pardini 2002.) Mills believes that because of the threat of HIV and AIDS—a leading cause of death in young adults—it is even more imperative to “give our kids the information they need to protect themselves.” Half of the people who are affected by HIV are being exposed before the age of 25 years old (Pardini 2002.) This would further stress the need for more comprehensive sexuality programs. However, programs that are financed by the federal government have their exclusive focus on abstinence-only. Projects such as Choosing the Best are school-based programs with the intent of changing teenagers’ attitude about sexuality. This program endeavors to teach delaying or abstaining from sex during the teenage years. A review of this and other data will be used to make a determination on level of motivational influence.

Doing something because you want to and not because you have to can lead to making some tough decisions.
Doing something because you want to and not because you have to can lead to making some tough decisions.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence.” (Ryan 2000).

The definition states “inherent satisfactions” as the criteria for intrinsic motivation. Synonym for inherent would be: innate, inborn, natural, and intrinsic. To me, satisfaction is the end result of a pleasant experience. Therefore “inherent satisfaction” is the natural results of a pleasant experience. This is something that would be stress free, uninhibited, and without any objective other than self-gratification. I believe that helping students find intrinsic motives for abstaining from sex will be very beneficial in teaching students to make wise sexuality decisions. An understanding of why they should either abstain or practice safe sex can assist students when they are faced with the dilemma of “saying no to sex”.

Sexuality education in secondary public schools focus mainly on abstinence without presenting students with a more comprehensive program including topics on birth control, abortion and sexual orientation. This means many students will not receive enough information to make intelligent choices. Students who are well informed can be intrinsically motivated. If students are not intrinsically motivated, it is highly unlikely that these programs will be an effective tool in curtailing sexual promiscuity.

Seven teachers out of 10 thought that students who received sexuality education that stresses abstinence were less likely to be sexual promiscuous than students who are taught to use contraceptives (Landry, Singh, and Darroch 2000). This would be due to the ability of the teachers to assist the students in being intrinsically motivated to practice abstinence.

However in the same survey, teachers also found that 86% of students who are sexually promiscuous that are taught to use contraceptives are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to use them for their on well-being than students who are not taught contraceptives (Landry et al 2000). This would substantiate a consensus that students who are informed regarding either abstinence-only or comprehensive sexuality education would be more likely to be intrinsically motivated regarding their method of handling their approaches to sex than students with no information.

"I could have gone out for a drink but I think this is a better choice!"
"I could have gone out for a drink but I think this is a better choice!"

Extrinsic Motivation

“Extrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome.” (Ryan, 2000.)

As before, I will breakdown each key word to determine the meaning. The key words are “separable outcome.” Separable means: distinguishable, detachable, discrete, separate, and independent. Outcome means: result, ending, product, and conclusion. To combine both synonyms I will have independent result. Therefore, extrinsic motives lead to independent results. These would be results not dependent upon the personal gratification of the individual. Because of circumstances outside of the person, there is the necessity for action.

Extrinsic Motivation is divided into four components: External Regulation, Introjection, Identification, and Integration (Ryan 1985.) In both external regulation and introjection, the student feels a lack of control regarding what is happening to him/her. This particular behavior, I feel can lead to rebellion and resentment. The feeling of having someone controlling your behavior can produce very undesirable consequences and the teacher will need to incorporate a teaching model other than Direct Instruction to foster a cooperative spirit with students who exhibit this type of motivational behavior. The key is to have the student feel that he does have some input on what is happening to him. Students who feel that sexuality education classes are required for them because their parents feel that they need to know this information, and don’t realize the benefits of postponing sexual activities will not be intrinsically motivated.

Identification is more autonomous (Ryan 1985). The student has a better understanding of what is going on and can identify it with relevancy in his personal life. The student who takes Sexuality Education with the understanding that this will help him/her in making decisions that can affect hisher future will have a vested interest in learning the best methods to detain the onset of sexual activity. If the student decides to become sexually active, then the knowledge he/she possess can help the avoidance of an unexpected pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

Finally, I believe integrated regulation (Ryan 1985) is the level of motivation for most students and adults. The incorporation and adaptation of learned values as one’s own can lead to actions of self-determination (Ryan 1985.) I believe that any student that can integrate what is obtained in the classroom, as part of his/her basic values can become a student opened to new experiences. Again, with references to sexuality education, students who have learned either the abstinence-only or comprehensive education can integrate what they have learned a part of their values and know when the time is right to engage in activities that can have a profound effect on their lives.

Friends will encourage each other to make the best choice ...
Friends will encourage each other to make the best choice ...

Choosing the Best

As stated before, there is much concern about American children’s sexual behavior in their early teen years and the importance of preparing preteens for the transitions and changes they encounter as they go through puberty. Dr. John T. Vessey of Northwestern University Medical School did two studies on a program entitled Choosing the Best.This is a school based abstinence-centered curriculum.

Dr. Vessey in conjunction with his longitudinal study of Choosing the Best did an evaluation study of the program. The focus of the evaluation study was to demonstrate that exposure to the Choosing the Best curriculum resulted in a positive, intrinsic changed attitude toward abstinence, and that this change occurs for the high-risk teens as well as for the low-risk teens (Vessey 1994-95).

In this study, Dr. Vessey wanted to identify three things:

  1. Identification of factors associated with greater sexual activity during adolescence.
  2. Validation of these factors in their relationship to attitudes about sex.
  3. Evaluation of the differential effectiveness of Choosing the Best with teenagers in each of these risk groups (Vessey 1994-95).

Dr. Vessey found that when students were involved in alcohol or drugs, their chances of being sexually active were greater. Dr. Vessey also discovered that exposure to Choosing the Best proved to have a positive intrinsic effect on the non-virgins that was greater than it had on the virgins. Dr. Vessey found that students that were non-virgins changed their attitude toward sex at a greater percentage than students who were already sexually inactive. Dr. Vessey concluded that a program that incorporated abstinence from sex, drugs, and alcohol would greatly impact students toward being intrinsically motivated to abstain from sex (Vessey 1994-95).

Summing it up ...
Summing it up ...


After review the information on sexuality education in schools across the United States and identifying the concepts of the Self Determination Theory, the following conclusions can be drawn.

  • Abstinence-based programs reach both segment of the population, those who already believe in abstinence and non-virgins.

  • Non-virgins were more intrinsically motivated to change their attitude toward sex due to the abstinence-only sexuality education programs than virgins were.

  • 75% of all students participating in an abstinence-only program had reliable positively intrinsic changes toward abstinence.

  • The introduction of alcohol greatly negatively impacted intrinsic attitude of students toward sexuality education.

  • Intrinsic success of abstinence-based programs depends on coordination with efforts to decrease alcohol usage.

  • Sexuality courses do not increase the frequency of sexual activity as some thought.

  • Sexuality courses have a greater intrinsic impact of influencing higher risk youth than lower risk youth.

  • Because of the great diversity in abstinence-based programs, the authors suggest that more studies be done and caution should be used in analyzing the current information.


Brener, N., PhD, Lowry, R., MD, Kann, L., PhD, Kolbe, L., PhD. (2002)

Trends in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students—United States, 1991—2001. MMWR Weekly, 51(38), 856-859.

Darroch, Jacqueline E., Landry, David J., and Singh, Susheela. (2000) Changing Emphases in Sexuality Education In U.S. Public Secondary Schools, 1988-1999. Family Planning Perspectives, 32(5), 204-211 and 265.

Kirby, Douglas (2002) The Impact of Schools and School Programs Upon Adolescent Sexual Behavior. Journal of Sex Research.

Landry, David J., Kaeser, Lisa, and Richards, Cory L. (1999) Abstinence Promotion and the Provision of Information About Contraception in Public School District Sexuality Education Policies. Family Planning Perspectives, 31(6), 280-286.

Landry, David J., Singh, Susheela, and Darroch, Jacqueline E., (2002)

Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 1999.

Family Planning Perspectives, 32(5), 212-219.

Lindberg, Laura Duberstein, Ku, Leighton, and Sonenstein, Freya (2000)

Adolescents’ Report of Reproductive Health Education, 1988 and 1995.

Family Planning Perspectives, 32(5), 220-226.

Vessey, John T. (1994-95) Choosing the Best Abstinence Curriculum, Evaluation Studies. Northwest University Medical School.

Vessey, John T. (1994-95) Choosing the Best Abstinence Curriculum, Longitudinal Study. Northwest University Medical School

© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)