Crowding out, as conceptualized by Bruno Frey in the field of economics and psychology, suggests that external incentives or rewards can have unintended consequences by reducing individuals' intrinsic motivation. When external rewards are introduced for an activity that individuals previously engaged in voluntarily and intrinsically enjoyed, their intrinsic motivation may decline. The presence of external rewards can shift the focus from the inherent satisfaction or interest in the activity to the extrinsic benefits, ultimately crowding out the intrinsic motivation and leading to decreased engagement.
In the context of an online community, crowding out can occur when external incentives or rewards are introduced as a means to encourage participation or contribution. For example, if an online platform starts offering monetary rewards or prizes for posting content or engaging with others, members may become more motivated by the extrinsic benefits rather than the genuine interest or enjoyment of participating in the community. This shift in motivation can impact the quality and authenticity of contributions, as individuals may prioritize the external rewards over the intrinsic satisfaction of meaningful interaction and sharing. Community managers need to carefully consider the introduction of external incentives to avoid unintentionally crowding out intrinsic motivation and undermining the organic engagement and collaboration within the online community.