How to Apply Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Written by kristin jennifer
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How to Apply Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Money is a form of extrinsic reward that can motivate individuals. (cash image by Mat Hayward from

Abraham Maslow's theory on a hierarchy of needs posits that for humans to become fully functioning individuals, their basic needs must be met. Basic human needs include physiological needs, safety, love and affection, respect and esteem and self-actualisation. As each need is met, subsequent needs can be considered. The desire to meet each need can motivate an individual to obtain either intrinsic or extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic rewards include personal satisfaction, pride and self respect from performing the task. Extrinsic rewards include money, grades, prizes and awards that are external to a person.

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    Review each type of need and evaluate what meets each kind of need. Food, clean water, sleep and rest room facilities and a warm place to sleep meet an individual's physiological needs. Individual safety needs can be met by providing protection of an individual person from illness, injury, violation and fatality. Love, affection and belonging can be provided through friendship and family bonds, fraternal associations, professional teams and sports leagues. Esteem can be satisfied by earning the respect and admiration of peers and being accepted as an individual. Self-actualisation manifests when an individual is doing what they were born to do.

  2. 2

    Assess methods of meeting each need at different stages of an individual's life. A baby, for example, must rely on his parents to meet his physical, safety and love and affection needs. An adult, on the other hand, may have a job which provides the income by which he can afford to buy food, clothing, safe housing. The job may lend itself to a sense of belonging as part of a team, a position which garners respect and which sufficiently challenges him so that he feels that his personal potential is being utilised.

  3. 3

    Create a tree where the trunk of the tree is the list of needs as defined in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory. List potential extrinsic rewards that may motivate a person to act in order to satisfy each need as a branch. Money, grades and prizes are extrinsic motivators that can correlate to any number of needs. Prizes are both a reward in themselves and can satisfy the need for esteem from peers. Money likewise is given in exchange for work that can be used to purchase food, security, establish memberships in groups, garner esteem from others when there is a lot of it and facilitate self-actualisation where money is required.

  4. 4

    List intrinsic rewards as branches as well. Personal pleasure, a feeling of accomplishment, internal satisfaction, happiness and morality are intrinsic rewards that motivate others in their efforts to satisfy needs.

  5. 5

    Identify practical examples where intrinsic and extrinsic rewards may not motivate individuals. Maslow posited that what motivates individuals varies since each has a different purpose in life. Further, as each need is met, the new needs take precedence as motivators. A painter, for example, may be motivated by money to become a stock broker, but once his needs are satisfied by the money, he could become restless and start dreaming of becoming a painter again.

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