Measuring Intrinsic Motivation: 24 Questionnaires & Scales

Measuring intrinsic motivationIntrinsic motivation refers to when we feel compelled to do something for internal reasons, such as when a task interests us (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the need to do something for external reasons, such as meeting a deadline or wanting approval.

Knowing how to identify intrinsic motivation can be very useful in the following contexts:

  1. Designing incentives to reward people, such as in the workplace or classroom
  2. Understanding how different incentives affect people differently
  3. Identifying candidates who are intrinsically motivated

In this post, we review various tools that you can use to measure intrinsic motivation.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

Measuring Intrinsic Motivation: 8 Useful Tests & Questionnaires

There are two general approaches to measuring intrinsic motivation (Harackiewicz, 1979).

In laboratory studies, intrinsic motivation is measured in task-specific ways. For example, Harackiewicz (1979) measured intrinsic motivation for puzzle solving in the laboratory. In the experiment, intrinsic motivation was inferred from:

  • Self-report measures of enjoyment for the experiment task measured immediately after the task and then again one month later
  • The time that participants dedicated to the task
  • Participants’ willingness to return for subsequent experiment sessions
  • The number of extra puzzles that participants asked to complete
  • Participants immediately returning to a task even when there was no reward
  • Participants offering to return to the laboratory for subsequent sessions

In field studies, measurements of intrinsic motivation are domain specific. For example, different tools are used when measuring motivation in the classroom versus in industry.

Knowing that different studies use different measurements of intrinsic motivation, here is a list of resources curated from the literature.

Self-Regulation Questionnaires

Ryan and Connell (1989) detailed the development of various self-regulation questionnaires across various domains including academia, exercising, and learning.

Ryan and Connell (1989) posited a model to explain people’s perception of the origin of their motivation to perform certain tasks or behaviors, and arranged these motivational reasons (loci of control) on a continuum.

The types of possible motivational origins were:

  1. External reasons – for example, my boss wants it done
  2. Introjected reasons – for example, self-motivated reasons that were related to self-esteem
  3. Identification reasons – for example, stemming from self-generated goals
  4. Intrinsic reasons – for example, tasks performed for pleasure

From numerous motivational interviews with key sample groups (e.g., teachers, students, and volunteers), Ryan and Connell (1989) developed a set of behaviors integral to each domain and an example of responses that matched each type of motivation.

For example, a behavior typical of a classroom setting is completing homework. For the question “Why do you complete your homework?” example responses include (Ryan & Connell, 1989, p. 752):

  1. Because I’ll get in trouble if I don’t (external motivation)
  2. Because I want the teacher to think I’m a good student (introjection motivation)
  3. Because I want to understand the subject (identification motivation)
  4. Because it’s fun (intrinsic motivation)

The developed questionnaires demonstrated good validity and correlated well with other tools that measured similar phenomena, such as scales of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in academic domains.

Since then, many versions of the questionnaires have been developed:

  • Academic Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Prosocial Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Learning Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Exercise Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Religion Self-Regulation Questionnaire
  • Friendship Self-Regulation Questionnaire

The questionnaires, instructions, and scoring manuals are available for free from the Center for Self Determination. You need to sign up as a member to access the materials, but membership is free.

Situational Motivation Scale

If you want to measure intrinsic as well as other forms of motivation posited by Deci and Ryan (1985), then consider using the Situational Motivation Scale.

Guay, Vallerand, and Blanchard (2000) developed the Situational Motivation Scale in response to the need for a standardized set of questions to measure motivation. At this stage, most studies observed how much time participants spent on a task or used self-report measures to measure intrinsic motivation.

At that time, the self-report measures typically used were ill suited to in-field studies or limited to only intrinsic motivation. The scale was measured in five experiments, and the authors found that the items in the scale reliably loaded onto four sub-domains: intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation, and amotivation. In total, there are 16 items, and the respondent indicates the degree to which they agree with each item on a scale from 1 to 7.

The full scale and the instructions for administration and scoring are listed in the original manuscript (Guay et al., 2000).

5 Helpful Inventories & Scales

Intrinsic motivation workplaceThere are a great many helpful interventions, but we decided to discuss these five.

Intrinsic motivation inventories for the workplace

If your clients are employees, then you will find the Work Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Scale (WEIMS; Tremblay, Blanchard, Taylor, Pelletier, & Villeneuve, 2009) useful.

The WEIMS was originally developed as L’Inventaire des Motivations au Travail de Blais (Blais, Brière, Lachance, Riddle, & Vallerand, 1993) and then translated from French into English. The WEIMS comprises 18 items, with an equal number of items dedicated to six sub-domains: intrinsic motivation, four different types of regulations, and amotivation.

Each item describes a particular behavior, and responses are made using a Likert scale from 1 to 7, where ‘1’ indicates that the behavior does not correspond at all, and ‘7’ shows that the behavior corresponds exactly.

Tremblay et al. (2009) tested and validated the scale in three studies and consistently found evidence of good psychometric properties across various types of industries such as healthcare, military, retail, and service.

The scale can be downloaded from ResearchGate.

A second useful scale is the Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale (Gagné et al., 2015).

From its original 55 items, the scale was tested and refined until only the highest factor loadings were retained, resulting in a 19-item scale.

One strength of this scale is that it has been tested and retested across various cultures and languages, including in China, France, Senegal, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Indonesia, Canada, and Belgium.

The scale assesses six dimensions: amotivation, social extrinsic regulation, material extrinsic regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, and intrinsic motivation.

This scale is available in the original manuscript.

A third scale that measures workplace satisfaction and motivation is the Work-Related Flow inventory (WOLF; Bakker, 2008). This inventory is different from the previous inventories in that it measures ‘flow,’ an experience of deep engagement and enjoyment while performing a particular task (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).

Flow is closely related to intrinsic motivation; in fact, intrinsic motivation is one of its defining characteristics. If a client doesn’t experience flow, they may not be intrinsically motivated to perform a particular task.

The WOLF inventory consists of 13 items, and five of them specifically measure intrinsic motivation. Clients are asked to indicate on a 7-point scale the frequency that they have experienced each item in the last two weeks.

By using a two-week period, it is possible to track your client’s intrinsic motivation over time and identify trends and patterns in their motivation and behavior.

The full scale is available in the original manuscript.

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Measuring intrinsic motivation in the classroom

If you are interested in measuring intrinsic motivation in the classroom, then you can use the Scale of Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Orientation in the Classroom (Harter, 1981).

In this scale, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are considered opposite poles, which forms the underlying assumption of the five sub-domains measured. Specifically, the scale includes questions about:

  1. Motivation to learn, contrasting curiosity with satisfying the teacher
  2. Motivation to work, contrasting enjoyment with the need for good grades
  3. Work preference, contrasting difficult work with easy work
  4. Work style preference, contrasting working independently with working alongside a teacher
  5. Measures of success, contrasting internal measures of success with external measures of success

The scale was originally validated on third- through sixth-graders (Harter, 1981), but the revised tool can be administered to children between 8 and 18 years old.

The scale format has been designed to reduce socially desirable responses, a common concern when working with children. Respondents are presented with two contrasting descriptions of an example child and are asked (1) which description best resembles them, and (2) the degree of this resemblance. There are 30 items in the scale.

A second scale was constructed that teachers can use to evaluate children in their classroom, consisting of 10 items.

These two scales, scoring instructions, and information about their psychometric properties are in the manual, which can be downloaded from Professor Susan Harter’s website.

Download 3 Free Goals Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques for lasting behavior change.

11 Questions to Ask Your Clients

Intrinsic motivation has typically been measured in two ways:

  1. Domain-specific questionnaires
  2. Task-specific measures

In domain-specific questionnaires, types of motivation are measured by questions that specifically ask about ‘why’ the respondent is performing a specific task. Responses that describe internal motivations, the absence of external pressure, and enjoyment indicate intrinsic motivation.

For example, when asked why they perform their homework, children who respond that the homework is fun show intrinsic motivation.

Knowing this, when speaking to your client, aim to determine the source of their motivation to perform certain tasks. We can infer evidence of intrinsic motivation from answers such as:

  • “I enjoy x.”
  • “I find x interesting.”
  • “X is fun.”

The Center for Self Determination curated the different questions used in various experiments, available on their website. These questions were typically asked after participants completed the tasks of interest in the studies.

Using these questions as a guideline, here are some revised questions you can ask your client:

  • How did you experience the task? Was the task fun, enjoyable, interesting, exciting, stimulating?
  • Was the task boring?
  • Was it easy to pay attention to the task? Did you find the task engaging?
  • How did it feel to complete the task? Did it feel like it took long, or did the time fly by?

While talking to your client, look for evidence of metacognitive processes and experiences during the task. An example is your client describing that they remember thinking about how enjoyable the task was while performing it.

If your client is discussing an interaction with another person, then tailor your questions to ask about the interaction or the people with whom they interacted.

For example:

  • How did you experience the interaction/person? Was the interaction/person fun, enjoyable, interesting, exciting, stimulating?
  • Was the interaction/person boring?
  • Was it easy to pay attention to the interaction/person? Did you find the interaction/person engaging?

Look for evidence of motivation and excitement after the interaction. For example, did your client feel ‘inspired’ to do something afterward?

17 Tools To Increase Motivation and Goal Achievement

These 17 Motivation & Goal Achievement Exercises [PDF] contain all you need to help others set meaningful goals, increase self-drive, and experience greater accomplishment and life satisfaction.

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    This visualization invites clients to identify a personal goal they’d like to accomplish and imagine the emotions and actions involved in achieving it over the course of one year. By doing this, clients can increase their expectations of success, enhance motivation, and initiate planning and problem-solving actions in the present.
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A Take-Home Message

Intrinsic motivation is defined by enjoying a task and feeling stimulated, with an internal motivation to complete the job at hand. These are the golden threads that connect these inventories.

The difficulty with simply asking your client to reflect on ‘why’ they are performing a particular task is that their reasons may seem internal to them.

Therefore, inventories that measure different types of motivations shed more light on what is driving your client’s decision making. Using the results of the inventory, you and your client can further explore their motivations, decision making, and behavior, and tackle any unhealthy influences.

Recognize that there may be many reasons why clients may not feel intrinsically motivated about particular tasks. For example, stressful deadlines, toxic work environments, or too much work can all contribute to clients feeling unmotivated. Use the results from the inventories to explore your client’s feelings and identify obstacles that can be removed or improved.

Hopefully, after gaining insight into their current life circumstances and motivations, you can help your client foster an internal love for things that are important to them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free.


  • Bakker, A. B. (2008). The Work-Related Flow Inventory: Construction and initial validation of the WOLF. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(3), 400–414.
  • Blais, M. R., Brière, N. M., Lachance, L., Riddle, A. S., & Vallerand, R. J. (1993). L’Inventaire des Motivations au Travail de Blais [The Blais Inventory of Work Motivation]. Revue Québécoise de Psychologie, 14(3), 185–215.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. Hachette UK.
  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Gagné, M., Forest, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Crevier-Braud, L., Van den Broeck, A., Aspeli, A. K., … Westbye, C. (2015). The Multidimensional Work Motivation Scale: Validation evidence in seven languages and nine countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(2), 178–196.
  • Guay, F., Vallerand, R. J., & Blanchard, C. (2000). On the assessment of situational intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS). Motivation and Emotion, 24(3), 175–213.
  • Harackiewicz, J. M. (1979). The effects of reward contingency and performance feedback on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(8), 1352–1363.
  • Harter, S. (1981). A new self-report scale of intrinsic versus extrinsic orientation in the classroom: Motivational and informational components. Developmental Psychology, 17(3), 300–312.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(5), 749–761.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67.
  • Tremblay, M. A., Blanchard, C. M., Taylor, S., Pelletier, L. G., & Villeneuve, M. (2009). Work Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Scale: Its value for organizational psychology research. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 41(4), 213–226.


What our readers think

  1. Susan Klein

    I have started feeling extra motivation when I utilized a scheduling method. Try to write every hour of yours down, every task. That helps to be very focused and disciplined. I absolutely love an app called Bordio for that, it helps me to stay productive all the time.

  2. Esteban Tellier

    Thank you very much for your article! It is really useful and insightful! Would you know by any chance of a scale specifically designed for students at the University? I am conducting a research with that public more specifically students learning a foreign language.
    Thank you in advance and thank again for your amazing work!

    • Julia Poernbacher

      Hi Esteban,

      thank you for your feedback! To help you out further, could you specify what you would like to study? Intrinsic motivation in general or a specific domain, such as self-regulation?

      Looking forward to your answer 🙂

      Kind regards,
      Julia | Community Manager

  3. MJ

    Thank you for providing us such informative article that we can use as a basis. However, I would like to know if you possibly know such scale instrument that will measure motivation in general —life and motivation. Thank you and best regards!

    • Julia Poernbacher

      Hi MJ,

      I have found a scale that might be of interest to you: The Global Motivation Scale. This comprehensive scale assesses multiple dimensions of motivation, including intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as well as motivation.

      I hope this information is useful!
      Kind regards,
      Julia | Community Manager

  4. Sam Valle


    Thank you for important articles like this! If I may ask, what motivation instrument do you suggest I can use that would fall under qualitative research? My proposed dissertation’s broad topic is on teacher motivation that will utilize phenomenology. Any suggestions for instruments to qualitatively measure the level of teacher motivation are sincerely appreciated.

    Many thanks for considering my request.

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Sam,

      Sounds like interesting research you’re doing! Could you tell me a little more about the specific relationships you will be exploring? E.g., will you be exploring specific antecedents of teacher motivation or outcomes? Let me know, and I may be able to point you toward a thesis or study with an interview schedule you could draw from 🙂

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  5. Frank Hardy

    This article was useful; however, you did not list your references even though you did in-text cite them. You stated at the beginning they were contained, but with your in-text work it was relatively easy to tract them down. Good to see the ones I checked were peer reviewed. Nice job and thank you Dr. Nortje.


    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Dr Nortje,

      If you scroll to the very end of the article, you will find a button that you can click to reveal the reference list.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager


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