People Are Not Pets

Alfie Kohn: Psychologists often distinguish between intrinsic motivation (wanting to do something for its own sake) and extrinsic motivation (for example, doing something in order to snag a goody). The first is the best predictor of high-quality achievement, and it can actually be undermined by the second. Moreover, when you promise people a reward, they often perform more poorly as a result. I began tracking, and trying to explain, these lines of research back in the late 1980s. This year I reviewed as many studies as I could find that had been conducted since then. The conclusions that rewards frequently kill both interest and excellence have, if anything, grown more solid in the intervening decades.

Home About Contact