It's about time: Earlier rewards increase intrinsic motivation

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018 Jun;114(6):877-890. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000116.


Can immediate (vs. delayed) rewards increase intrinsic motivation? Prior research compared the presence versus absence of rewards. By contrast, this research compared immediate versus delayed rewards, predicting that more immediate rewards increase intrinsic motivation by creating a perceptual fusion between the activity and its goal (i.e., the reward). In support of the hypothesis, framing a reward from watching a news program as more immediate (vs. delayed) increased intrinsic motivation to watch the program (Study 1), and receiving more immediate bonus (vs. delayed, Study 2; and vs. delayed and no bonus, Study 3) increased intrinsic motivation in an experimental task. The effect of reward timing was mediated by the strength of the association between an activity and a reward, and was specific to intrinsic (vs. extrinsic) motivation-immediacy influenced the positive experience of an activity, but not perceived outcome importance (Study 4). In addition, the effect of the timing of rewards was independent of the effect of the magnitude of the rewards (Study 5). (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Webcast

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association
  • Delay Discounting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Reward*
  • Self Report
  • Time Perception*
  • Young Adult