The overjustification effect, explored by Lepper et al., suggests that when individuals are already intrinsically motivated to engage in an activity, providing external rewards or incentives for that activity can undermine their intrinsic motivation. The external rewards shift the focus from the inherent enjoyment or interest in the activity to the external rewards themselves. Consequently, once the external rewards are removed, the individual's intrinsic motivation may decrease, leading to a potential long-term negative impact on their engagement and interest in the activity.
In the context of an online community, the overjustification effect has implications for how rewards and incentives are employed. If individuals are intrinsically motivated to participate in an online community, such as sharing knowledge or engaging in discussions out of personal interest, introducing external rewards may inadvertently diminish their intrinsic motivation over time. Instead, fostering a supportive and engaging community environment that values intrinsic motivation, meaningful connections, and the sense of belonging can be more effective in sustaining long-term engagement and commitment. Emphasizing intrinsic rewards, such as personal growth, learning opportunities, and the satisfaction of contributing to a community, can help cultivate a strong and dedicated community of members who are motivated by their genuine interest and passion rather than external incentives.