Studying, reading your textbooks, making flashcards and forming study groups are all easier said than done. While studying is a necessary and crucial part of education, it can be difficult, especially when it comes to overcoming distractions.

Distractions like Netflix and YouTube call to us as we attempt to focus on the textbooks and notes before us. These distractions, coupled with our exhaustion and weariness over the school term, can cause us to lose motivation in our studies. Thus, it is important to break down the psychology behind our motivation for studying. After all, understanding it will bring us that much closer to conquering it!


According to a professor at the University of Reading, Kou Murayama, Ph.D., the psychology behind motivation has been investigated in many research studies in the past. One important component of motivation is reward. Can providing rewards after a study session improve students’ motivation?

Previous research has identified an undermining effect/ overjustification effect, which suggests that extrinsic rewards are helpful, but when a person has intrinsic motivation, extrinsic rewards can undermine our motivation. This suggests that providing external rewards to motivate us when we are already internally driven to study can actually damage our motivation later on.


Murayama suggested a possible way for people to come up with intrinsic rewards. Observing others might give way to intrinsic rewards. For example, observing a friend who is hard at work studying might encourage us to also pay attention to our studies. Intrinsic reward is definitely a major contributing component to motivation, and generating intrinsic reward in this way might be benefit our studying patterns.


Murayama also found that competition does not always improve people’s motivations, suggesting that competing with others does not always encourage students to study. Murayama suggests that there may be a cancelling effect between wanting to do better than others and not wanting to do worse than others, causing competition with others to have little effect on motivation.

As the school term wears on us and as students get burned out from the work, it can be difficult to find motivation. However, understanding the psychology at work behind our motivation might be able to help us improve our studying patterns and find more motivation to help us study harder in the future. 

Lead Image Credit: Pexels