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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.

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