Motivation crowding theory posits that when external rewards or incentives are introduced to encourage certain behaviors, individuals' intrinsic motivation to engage in those behaviors may be diminished. In other words, the presence of extrinsic motivators can crowd out the internal drive or enjoyment individuals initially had for the activity, leading to a decrease in overall motivation. This phenomenon occurs because external rewards can shift the focus from intrinsic factors, such as personal interest or satisfaction, to the external outcome or incentive.
In the context of online communities, motivation crowding theory suggests that the use of extrinsic rewards or incentives to encourage participation or contributions may have unintended consequences. While external rewards, such as badges, points, or virtual currency, can initially attract individuals to engage in the community, an overreliance on these extrinsic motivators can potentially undermine members' intrinsic motivation to participate. When the focus becomes solely on earning rewards rather than the inherent enjoyment or satisfaction of contributing to the community, individuals may become less motivated to actively participate and may view their engagement as solely instrumental. Balancing the use of extrinsic rewards with opportunities for intrinsic motivation, such as fostering a sense of belonging, providing meaningful interactions, and recognizing members' contributions, is crucial in maintaining long-term engagement and motivation within an online community.