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What is intrinsic reinforcement?

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Quick Answer

Intrinsic reinforcement is a reward-driven behavior that comes from within an individual. With intrinsic reinforcement, an individual continues with a behavior because they find it personally rewarding, not out of fear of punishment or for an external reward.

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What is intrinsic reinforcement?
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Hobbies are often activities that bring intrinsic reinforcement. Some individuals complete crossword puzzles because they enjoy the sense of accomplishment, while others defeat a certain level of a video game for the internal reward of completing the game. Students study a topic to gain mastery of the subject, and still others may climb a mountain out of sheer self-determination. While both types of reinforcement help to bring a desired behavior, from a psychological standpoint, these intrinsic reinforcements provide stronger motivation than extrinsic ones.

Humans and other living organisms exhibit certain behaviors because doing so brings a reward. A laboratory rat learns to press a lever because it releases a pellet of food. A dog stands up and begs because its owner gives it a treat. A child throws a tantrum in the store to get his way, and an adult goes to a job he does not like because it provides a paycheck. These are all examples of extrinsic rewards or reinforcement. However, intrinsic reinforcement causes the individual to perform a task because it brings an inherent satisfaction.

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