Extrinsic and intrinsic

I was happy today because work was going well. I have been impaired for so long I barely know what this is like. It is another planet.

In the meantime I was meditating on this post and thread. I could repeat various points. If desire were enough, it would also be true that hard work was enough to make you rich. Yes, people do in fact need information and ideas on how to do things. Some strains of academic advice are pointless or miss the point (my original interest in the post, and in the post it discusses).

But I am primarily interested in the question of “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” reasons for doing things. Should one do things for some form of gain, or do them for themselves in a very pure way? Where does the border between intrinsic and extrinsic lie? Are we not all actually located in their overlapping? I am as committed to field as anyone, although perhaps differently so.

I really am research first. I want, and always wanted research and writing in a town with libraries, archives and cultural life, and a harrassment-free workplace. I would change fields to get this. That scandalizes people since it means the field, the specific discovery, is not the “instrinsic” reward I seek–it is the activity itself, the atmosphere, I want. Am I more “extrinsically” motivated, then, than is meet?

(Yes — because these motivations do not fit the US academic model, they fit the think-tank or journalistic or other models. At the same time, I would never have understood all of these things had I happened to always work at a place like USP. Then I would think I was suited to academia in a seamless way.)

(I am efficient and if anything too fast; I am research first; I have administrative talent and do not oppose “service.” This is why all the coaxing to work daily and more quickly, and put research higher on the agenda that many seem to need are destructive, not helpful for me. It is not that I am anti-teaching, I am good at it, find it interesting, and believe it should be done well, but one thing I do NOT need is to be reminded that teaching is only one par of the job. Also notice how I do not say I MUST have a teaching job–I say I MUST have a research job. This seems to be a great difference between me and most academics.)

HEART OF POST: I do notice, though, that when I have gotten stuck on things the issue is always that, for “extrinsic” reasons, I am trying to make an argument I do not really support (utter lack of “intrinsic” reason), or I am trying to rush something along (insufficient emphasis on intrinsic reason). I notice further that while my actual motivations are almost entirely intrinsic, my training is to ignore these reasons almost entirely and focus on the extrinsic — one is working to survive.

(Although I have also always said that if survival is the only reason to do things, then we can just work in a bank. This observation is considered scandalous by many academics. I think it is considered scandalous because their actual attitude is closer to that of a bank worker than they want to admit.)

Intrinsic: as Amálio and I said back then, we got into this to have fun. Or is that extrinsic? Fun involves learning words, saying things, and drawing pictures, I said when very young. Later I said it was seeing research happen, considering its meaning, doing some of one’s own, making hypotheses, combing through documents, contemplating fascinating statements, having odd adventures while finding the places where the documents lay, and writing prose. Are these extrinsic or intrinsic motivations and if the result is not that one gets to continue, or the cost is too high in some way, did one lack “intrinsic” motivation in the first place? No, and that is why I think we are all located in the overlap.

So intrinsic to me does not mean that one expects no “reward.” It does mean that one must not relinquish integrity or voice. Those are the basic elements, without which all organization falls apart and all strategies and methods of work management fail.

#OccupyHE

Axé.

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4 Comments

Filed under Questions, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

4 responses to “Extrinsic and intrinsic

  1. Wogglebug

    “I really am research first. I want, and always wanted research and writing in a town with libraries, archives and cultural life, and a harrassment-free workplace. I would change fields to get this. That scandalizes people since it means the field, the specific discovery, is not the “instrinsic” reward I seek–it is the activity itself, the atmosphere, I want. Am I more “extrinsically” motivated, then, than is meet?”

    No, that’s just two kinds of intrinsic motivation: desire for the process (research), vs. desire for the product (knowledge in field).
    Intrinsic motivation follows the form of [want X] -> [make X]. Wish to do research -> do research = yay!

    Extrinsic motivation is when you are working toward something that is not part of process or direct product. Extrinsic motivation follows the form of [want X] -> [make Y] -> [trade Y for X]. Wish to do research -> work as waitress -> spend money traveling to research libraries = yay!

    That extra step, [make Y], is a sideways step. It doesn’t move toward what you want. Therefore, it invokes internal resistance, and this is what undermines the work quality. People working on [thing they don’t want] put in the bare minimum of effort, and tend to game the stats (fake results, fake working) to get out faster. The last step, [trade Y for X], is the only one moving toward what they want, so it attracts most of their energy. This is the cause of those studies showing that people who care mostly about money/praise tend to do lower-quality work.

    It is entirely legitimate to take money for a thing you want to do anyway, or enjoy and care about at least somewhat. Going for a research job is more direct and efficient than waiting tables and trying to do research as your hobby. As long as you care about the research in itself, you’ll do good research.

    • Z

      Great comment, Wogglebug, thank you!

      So for me the paradox is that [Y], intended to enable [X], functions to interdict it when officially it supports it. Giving up the research culture and atmosphere for the sake of doing research … etc. Especially when it is precisely the process which most interests me.

  2. Pingback: La vie et la jeunesse | coldhearted scientist وداد

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