Intrinsic and Extrinsic Life Goals of University Students: Orientation and Role in Educational Success


  • Maryum Firdous Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Rabia Riaz Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan



intrinsic goals, extrinsic goals, self-determination theory, student achievement, critical thinking


Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) describes life goals as being intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals. The intrinsic goals include self-acceptance, affiliation, and community feeling; however, financial success, image, and popularity are extrinsic goals. The theory suggests that intrinsic goals are positively related to human functioning and wellbeing, while extrinsic goals are negatively related to it. Empirical studies conducted in developed and individualist societies support the theory. This study explores these life goals of university students in a developing and collectivist society of Pakistan. The study also investigates the relationship of these goals with critical thinking skills and academic achievement of the students. The data was collected from 193 male and female students, aged above 18 at a public sector university in Karachi. It was a survey and the study used self-administered questionnaires on demographics, intrinsic and extrinsic life goals, critical thinking skills, and academic achievement. The analysis revealed that students’ intrinsic goals were significantly higher than their extrinsic goals. Also, it was found that intrinsic goals were significantly positively linked to their critical thinking, and extrinsic goals were significantly positively linked to their achievement. The findings conclude that university students are more intrinsically oriented than they are extrinsically oriented. Also, extrinsic goals may not undermine students’ educational success in developing and/or collectivist cultures. Therefore, it is recommended that students' extrinsic goals may not be condemned by the teachers, parents and society. There is a need for more research into intrinsic and extrinsic life goals in various cultural and socioeconomic contexts.