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[Xmca-l] Intrinsic motivation?
While reading David Kirshner's review of Hersh and John-Steiner's Loving
and Hating Math book, I cam across the following characterization of
Gregory Perelman's decision to refuse to accept the Fields Medal in light
of the apparent fact that his work had been plagiarized by a Chinese
scholar who had previously received the medal:
"“Everybody understood that if the proof is correct then no other
recognition is needed” (p. 72), which Hersh and John-Steiner interpret as
“a beautiful example of intrinsic scientific motivation” (p. 73)."
Although this makes perfect sense to me and my understanding of "intrinsic
motivation" from an intuitive sense, I was nonetheless struck by the fact
that in this case, it was an EXTERNAL recognition that is taken to be
On the one hand, in my intuitive sense of this psychological terme d'arte
(as well as my emic everyday sense of it - psychological termes d'art are
part of everyday language about things like parenting and teaching!), it
seems that the Hersh and John-Steiner quote IS pointing to intrinsic
But, on the other hand, it also seems that the motivation in this case is
EXTRINSIC - the mathematician is seeking recognition of others (or perhaps
even recognition by the "field of mathematics" - which some might to
imagine to be a truth-conditional field that exists outside of any
community of mathematicians). Isn't this type of motivation "outside" of
Conversely, isn't it also the case that the desire for medals and awards
(e.g. the Fields Medal) or even other rewards (even marshmallows!) could be
thought of as INTRINSIC as well? Don't these desires have to be INSIDE the
person in order for the person to be motivated by them?
Seems like all motivation is both extrinsic and intrinsic, no?
And I wonder if this may be connected to the quote that Mike mentioned from
Luria that a person cannot control their behaviors any more than a shadow
can carry stones?
Both seem to point to an ideology (myth) of individualism that is prevalent
For those interested, here is a description of intrinsic and extrinsic
"Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal
rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from
within the individual because it is intrinsically rewarding. This contrasts
with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order
to earn external rewards or avoid punishments."
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602