A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation.

Fewer than 4% of the effects were outliers, and we report analyses both with and without those outliers

Edward L. Deci


Scholarcy highlights

  • Two of the meta-analyses found that verbal rewards enhanced intrinsic motivation, and there was the suggestion that undermining by tangible rewards was considerably stronger for free-choice behavior than for self-reports
  • In presenting the two primary meta-analyses, the six tables of effect sizes for particular studies are presented at the level of the differentiated categories of reward and contingency types: verbal rewards, unexpected tangible rewards, task-noncontingent rewards, engagement-contingent rewards, completion-contingent re wards, and performance-contingent rewards
  • Tangible rewards had a significant negative effect on intrinsic motivation for interesting tasks, and this effect showed up with participants ranging from preschool to college, with interesting activities ranging from word games to construction puzzles, and with various rewards ranging from dollar bills to marshmallows
  • The findings indicate that tangible rewards offered for engaging in, completing, or doing well at a task were deleterious to intrinsic motivation, as assessed with free-choice behavior, but that unexpected and task-noncontingent rewards had no effect on intrinsic motivation
  • Careful consideration of reward effects reported in 128 experiments leads to the conclusion that tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation, with the limiting conditions we have specified
  • A specific performance-contingent reward was given to every participant for performing well or surpassing some stated criterion, signifying that each participant had done well
  • As noted by Kohn, when organizations opt for the use of rewards to control behavior, the rewards are likely to be accompanied by greater surveillance, evaluation, and competition, all of which have been found to undermine intrinsic motivation

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