Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Alfie Kohn

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0618001816

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, Alfie Kohn points the way to a more successful strategy based on working with people instead of doing things to them. "Do rewards motivate people?" asks Kohn. "Yes. They motivate people to get rewards." Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished By Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.













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this technique usually undermines intrinsic motivation.72 A study that is billed as the first to explicitly compare the effects of paying subjects just for taking part in an experiment with paying them on the basis of how good a job they did at a task found that their interest was significantly lower in the performance-contingent situation.73 In short, PCRs are more destructive—or at best, no less destructive—than other rewards. These results make perfect sense since, as Richard Ryan puts it, by

view. The report described how, merely by pressing a bar, it had trained a college student to engage in breakfast-feeding behavior.* The instructor was not amused, and as I say, I barely passed the course. But that didn't stop me from immediately writing a parody of a psychology journal article for the school paper. I had the article's author claiming a 100 percent success rate in conditioning his rats to avoid pressing Lever B (which caused a three-hundred-pound anvil to drop suddenly from the

powerless and burned out as well? Each of these situations calls for a different response. But holding out a carrot—"Do better work and here's what you'll get"—is a pseudosolution; it fails to address the issues that are actually responsible for holding back the organization and the people who work there.92 More generally, incentive systems are frequently used as a substitute for giving workers what they need to do a good job. Treating workers well—which, as I will argue later, means providing

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