Definition: The desire to engage in activity for its own sake, rather than for some external consequences, such as a reward.

Quite Simply...

  • Many activities that do not involve a goal or reward at the end of the activity are considered intrinsically motivated.
  • Doing something for fun.
  • Self-motivation.
  • Doing an activity for yourself.
  • The desire to do something because its enjoyable.


  • Playing the guitar because you have the desire for fun.
  • Attending a yoga class because you enjoy it.
  • Playing soccer without caring who wins the game.
  • Taking pictures because you love to, not taking them just for class.
  • Playing football just for the fun of it.
  • Taking AP psychology because you are curious and interested in learning about the subject rather than just to boost your weighted GPA.
  • Baking because you enjoy it, not just as a way to avoid hunger.
  • Participating in competitive cheer-leading because you enjoy the adrenaline rush.
  • Going on a run for fun, not because you want to stay in shape for Cross Country.


Professor Steven Reiss has proposed a theory that there are 16 basic desires that nearly all humans are guided by.
  • saving: the desire to hoard and collect
  • construction: the desire to build and achieve
  • curiosity: the desire to explore and learn
  • exhibition: the desire for attention
  • family: the desire to raise our children
  • hunting: the desire to find food
  • order: the desire for cleanliness and organization
  • play: the desire for fun
  • sex: the desire to reproduce
  • shame: the desire to avoid being singled out
  • pain: the desire to avoid aversive sensation
  • herd: the desire for social contact
  • vengeance: the desire for aggression


Psychologist with the names of Brian C, Patrick, Jennifer Hisely, and Toni Kemple are authors in a book called, "What Everybody So Excited About?" with an article about how students do two studies exploring the effects of teacher enthusiasm when associated with intrinsic motivation. The first study with 93 college students, and the second study was with 60 students.The authors speculate about limitations to the positive motivational effects of teacher enthusiasm.

Patrick, B. C., Hisley, J., & Kempler, T. (2000). “What's everybody so excited about?”: The effects of teacher enthusiasm on student intrinsic motivation and vitality. The Journal of Experimental Education, 68(3), 217-236.

See Also

Extrinsic motivation is when you want to engage in an activity to get a reward.
A drive is biological motivation.
A motive is learned motivation.