Overjustification occurs when external rewards or incentives are introduced for an activity that an individual originally found intrinsically motivating. If the external rewards become the primary focus and reason for engaging in the activity, the person's intrinsic motivation can diminish. This happens because the person starts to attribute their behavior to the external reward rather than their genuine interest or enjoyment of the activity. As a result, once the external rewards are removed, the individual may be less likely to continue engaging in the activity due to the reduced intrinsic motivation.
In the context of an online community, overjustification can be observed when members initially participate in the community out of genuine interest, passion, or a sense of belonging. However, if external rewards or incentives are introduced, such as badges, points, or rankings, some members may shift their focus towards obtaining these rewards rather than engaging for the inherent enjoyment or connection with the community. This can lead to a decline in intrinsic motivation, as members become more reliant on the extrinsic rewards. If the external rewards are removed or perceived as insufficient, individuals may be less motivated to actively participate, resulting in decreased engagement and potentially impacting the overall vibrancy and cohesion of the online community.