Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth?

We argue here that claimed negative effects of reward on task interest and creativity have attained the status of myth, taken for granted despite considerable evidence that the conditions producing these effects are limited and remedied

Robert Eisenberger; Judy Cameron

2005

Scholarcy highlights

  • O bservers of American culture have long noted a Istrong emphasis on individualistic values, including taking responsibility for one's own actions, pursuing personal interests, and exploring one's creative potential
  • Claims that reinforcement negatively affects important aspects of human behavior, such as interest in tasks for their own sake and creativity, have led many psychologists to assert that intrinsic interest and creative behavior depend on personally directed exploration, free from social control; the supposed pragmatic benefits of behavioral technology for education, business, and psychotherapyare often negated by inherent negative side effects; and behaviorism is flawed by basic misconceptions about human nature
  • Cognitive evaluation theory predicts a decrease in intrinsic motivation for all reward procedures of this type, we find it important, theoretically and empirically, to divide these procedures into two categories
  • Ifa person receives a tangible reward that depends on completing a task or meeting a standard of quality, and subsequently the reward is eliminated, the person generally spends as much time on the activity as he or she did before the reward was introduced
  • Any lessening of intrinsic interest resulting from tangible reward, received for successful task performance or task completion, is too small in magnitude to be detected by sensitive statistical procedures that combine the results of similar studies
  • People spend more time on a task following the reward's removal than before its introduction. People state that they like the task better after verbal reward or after tangible reward that depends on performance quality

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