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Old 12-24-2005, 12:04 PM
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Default Research Question of the Week—The Effect of External Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation

For over 30 years now, there has been an intense debate on the effects of external rewards on intrinsic motivation. First, we need to operationally define our terms.

Motivation can be defined as the intensity and direction of effort (McCullagh, 2005). Intensity refers to the quantity of effort, while direction refers to what you are drawn too. Evidence suggests that enhanced motivation promotes learning, performance, enjoyment, and persistence in sport, among other benefits (McCullagh, 2005; Wilson, 2005; Fry & Fry, 1999). Therefore, methods to enhance motivation have been thoroughly investigated.

There are two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation can be defined as an individuals need to feel competency and pride in something. Therefore, athletes who are intrinsically motivated participate in sports because they love the experience, and do not expect anything from it other than the satisfaction and pleasure they get from participation.

Conversely, Athletes that are extrinsically motivated participate in sport for external causes such as rewards, positive feedback, recognition, etc.

Based on his research, the current author suggests that a reward can be defined as an external agent administered when a desired act or task is performed, that has controlling and informational properties. Rewards can come in the form of verbal rewards (i.e. telling someone “good job!”), physical rewards (i.e. a pat on the back), or tangible rewards (i.e. giving someone money, food, or a medallion), among others.

There are much more details to give on motivation and rewards, but this information will suffice for this thread.

The question is this: do extrinsic rewards enhance motivation? It was originally thought by many that extrinsic rewards would enhance motivation for a task that was already intrinsically motivating. This seemed as simple as 1 (external reward) +1 (already present intrinsic motivation) = 2 (more motivation). But the results are much more complex than this.

Let me give an example to make sure this is clear.

Deci (1971) had participants play on an inherently interesting task, called the SOMA puzzle. Participants were paid to play, were given verbal rewards (i.e. verbally encouraged), or received no reinforcement for participating. I’ll let you guys guess the results!

In this context, the purpose of this thread was to discuss whether extrinsic rewards enhance motivation for an already intrinsically motivated task.

I’ll post my comments in JHR in a few weeks. [img]/forum/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]
Gabriel "Venom" Wilson, Ph.D. Nutritional Sciences
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