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[Emacs-diffs] Changes to emacs/etc/MOTIVATION [lexbind]
[Emacs-diffs] Changes to emacs/etc/MOTIVATION [lexbind]
Tue, 14 Oct 2003 19:08:06 -0400
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+ STUDIES FIND REWARD OFTEN NO MOTIVATOR
+ Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain
+ By Alfie Kohn
+ Special to the Boston Globe
+ [reprinted with permission of the author
+ from the Monday 19 January 1987 Boston Globe]
+ In the laboratory, rats get Rice Krispies. In the classroom the top
+ students get A's, and in the factory or office the best workers get
+ raises. It's an article of faith for most of us that rewards promote
+ better performance.
+ But a growing body of research suggests that this law is not nearly as
+ ironclad as was once thought. Psychologists have been finding that
+ rewards can lower performance levels, especially when the performance
+ involves creativity.
+ A related series of studies shows that intrinsic interest in a task -
+ the sense that something is worth doing for its own sake - typically
+ declines when someone is rewarded for doing it.
+ If a reward - money, awards, praise, or winning a contest - comes to
+ be seen as the reason one is engaging in an activity, that activity
+ will be viewed as less enjoyable in its own right.
+ With the exception of some behaviorists who doubt the very existence
+ of intrinsic motivation, these conclusions are now widely accepted
+ among psychologists. Taken together, they suggest we may unwittingly
+ be squelching interest and discouraging innovation among workers,
+ students and artists.
+ The recognition that rewards can have counter-productive effects is
+ based on a variety of studies, which have come up with such findings
+ as these: Young children who are rewarded for drawing are less likely
+ to draw on their own that are children who draw just for the fun of
+ it. Teenagers offered rewards for playing word games enjoy the games
+ less and do not do as well as those who play with no rewards.
+ Employees who are praised for meeting a manager's expectations suffer
+ a drop in motivation.
+ Much of the research on creativity and motivation has been performed
+ by Theresa Amabile, associate professor of psychology at Brandeis
+ University. In a paper published early last year on her most recent
+ study, she reported on experiments involving elementary school and
+ college students. Both groups were asked to make "silly" collages.
+ The young children were also asked to invent stories.
+ The least-creative projects, as rated by several teachers, were done
+ by those students who had contracted for rewards. "It may be that
+ commissioned work will, in general, be less creative than work that is
+ done out of pure interest," Amabile said.
+ In 1985, Amabile asked 72 creative writers at Brandeis and at Boston
+ University to write poetry. Some students then were given a list of
+ extrinsic (external) reasons for writing, such as impressing teachers,
+ making money and getting into graduate school, and were asked to think
+ about their own writing with respect to these reasons. Others were
+ given a list of intrinsic reasons: the enjoyment of playing with
+ words, satisfaction from self-expression, and so forth. A third group
+ was not given any list. All were then asked to do more writing.
+ The results were clear. Students given the extrinsic reasons not only
+ wrote less creatively than the others, as judged by 12 independent
+ poets, but the quality of their work dropped significantly. Rewards,
+ Amabile says, have this destructive effect primarily with creative
+ tasks, including higher-level problem-solving. "The more complex the
+ activity, the more it's hurt by extrinsic reward," she said.
+ But other research shows that artists are by no means the only ones
+ In one study, girls in the fifth and sixth grades tutored younger
+ children much less effectively if they were promised free movie
+ tickets for teaching well. The study, by James Gabarino, now
+ president of Chicago's Erikson Institute for Advanced Studies in Child
+ Development, showed that tutors working for the reward took longer to
+ communicate ideas, got frustrated more easily, and did a poorer job in
+ the end than those who were not rewarded.
+ Such findings call into question the widespread belief that money is
+ an effective and even necessary way to motivate people. They also
+ challenge the behaviorist assumption that any activity is more likely
+ to occur if it is rewarded. Amabile says her research "definitely
+ refutes the notion that creativity can be operantly conditioned."
+ But Kenneth McGraw, associate professor of psychology at the
+ University of Mississippi, cautions that this does not mean
+ behaviorism itself has been invalidated. "The basic principles of
+ reinforcement and rewards certainly work, but in a restricted context"
+ - restricted, that is, to tasks that are not especially interesting.
+ Researchers offer several explanations for their surprising findings
+ about rewards and performance.
+ First, rewards encourage people to focus narrowly on a task, to do it
+ as quickly as possible and to take few risks. "If they feel that
+ 'this is something I have to get through to get the prize,' they're
+ going to be less creative," Amabile said.
+ Second, people come to see themselves as being controlled by the
+ reward. They feel less autonomous, and this may interfere with
+ performance. "To the extent one's experience of being
+ self-determined is limited," said Richard Ryan, associate psychology
+ professor at the University of Rochester, "one's creativity will be
+ reduced as well."
+ Finally, extrinsic rewards can erode intrinsic interest. People who
+ see themselves as working for money, approval or competitive success
+ find their tasks less pleasurable, and therefore do not do them as
+ The last explanation reflects 15 years of work by Ryan's mentor at the
+ University of Rochester, Edward Deci. In 1971, Deci showed that
+ "money may work to buy off one's intrinsic motivation for an activity"
+ on a long-term basis. Ten years later, Deci and his colleagues
+ demonstrated that trying to best others has the same effect. Students
+ who competed to solve a puzzle quickly were less likely than those who
+ were not competing to keep working at it once the experiment was over.
+ Control plays role
+ There is general agreement, however, that not all rewards have the
+ same effect. Offering a flat fee for participating in an experiment -
+ similar to an hourly wage in the workplace - usually does not reduce
+ intrinsic motivation. It is only when the rewards are based on
+ performing a given task or doing a good job at it - analogous to
+ piece-rate payment and bonuses, respectively - that the problem
+ The key, then, lies in how a reward is experienced. If we come to
+ view ourselves as working to get something, we will no longer find
+ that activity worth doing in its own right.
+ There is an old joke that nicely illustrates the principle. An
+ elderly man, harassed by the taunts of neighborhood children, finally
+ devises a scheme. He offered to pay each child a dollar if they would
+ all return Tuesday and yell their insults again. They did so eagerly
+ and received the money, but he told them he could only pay 25 cents on
+ Wednesday. When they returned, insulted him again and collected their
+ quarters, he informed them that Thursday's rate would be just a penny.
+ "Forget it," they said - and never taunted him again.
+ Means to and end
+ In a 1982 study, Stanford psychologist Mark L. Lepper showed that any
+ task, no matter how enjoyable it once seemed, would be devalued if it
+ were presented as a means rather than an end. He told a group of
+ preschoolers they could not engage in one activity they liked until
+ they first took part in another. Although they had enjoyed both
+ activities equally, the children came to dislike the task that was a
+ prerequisite for the other.
+ It should not be surprising that when verbal feedback is experienced
+ as controlling, the effect on motivation can be similar to that of
+ payment. In a study of corporate employees, Ryan found that those who
+ were told, "Good, you're doing as you /should/" were "significantly
+ less intrinsically motivated than those who received feedback
+ There's a difference, Ryan says, between saying, "I'm giving you this
+ reward because I recognize the value of your work" and "You're getting
+ this reward because you've lived up to my standards."
+ A different but related set of problems exists in the case of
+ creativity. Artists must make a living, of course, but Amabile
+ emphasizes that "the negative impact on creativity of working for
+ rewards can be minimized" by playing down the significance of these
+ rewards and trying not to use them in a controlling way. Creative
+ work, the research suggests, cannot be forced, but only allowed to
+ /Alfie Kohn, a Cambridge, MA writer, is the author of "No Contest: The
+ Case Against Competition," recently published by Houghton Mifflin Co.,
+ Boston, MA. ISBN 0-395-39387-6. /
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