Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rewards - CPS , SDT - Part 2

In my blog on using rewards together with CPS – collaborative problem solving I suggested that we should try use rewards not as incentives but to give the activity an association of fun.

In the article below Deci and Ryan prove without a doubt from a meta-analysis that extrinsic motivators like rewards undermine intrinsic motivation.    ( 1-5/15 )

The negative effect of the rewards was minimized when rewards were not given in a 'controlling manner ' but rather as ' informational feedback 'and the rewards were task-non-contingent. The controlling aspect not only has a negative effect on perceived self determination but also on relatedness - relationships.

'Deci and Ryan specified three types of reward contingencies: task-noncontingent rewards, which do not require engaging in the activity per se but are instead given for some other reasons

such as simply participating in the experiment; task-contingent rewards, which require doing or completing the target activity; and performance - contingent rewards, which require performing the activity well, matching a standard of excellence, or surpassing

a specified criterion (e.g., doing better than half of the oilier participants).'

'To. summarize, results of the meta-analysis make clear that the undermining of intrinsic motivation by tangible rewards is indeed a significant issue. Whereas verbal rewards tended to enhance intrinsic motivation (although not for children and not when the rewards were given controllingly) and neither unexpected tangible rewards nor task-non contingent tangible rewards affected intrinsic motivation,

expected tangible rewards did significantly and substantially undermine intrinsic motivation, and this effect was quite robust. Furthermore, the undermining was especially strong for children. '

I will relate to verbal rewards in a future blog. In a sentence , if verbal rewards take the form of neutral informational feedback or helping a person self evaluate , assess and reflect , intrinsic motivation is likely to be enhanced.

Rewards are attractive as they are powerful motivators in the short – run. They get you obedience and compliance. If tasks are manual and don't require thinking, rewards get the job done quicker. For parents ( not of challenging children ) a reward or a threat can get the job done. The problem is the long term costs especially in the areas of intrinsic motivation, relatedness and competence.

The article says that rewards have a positive effect on perceived competence and would promote intrinsic motivation . The effect is lost because of the controlling nature of rewards and the negative effect on perceived self determination.

From other articles on the SDT site , Alfie Kohn etc I would suggest that the positive effect on perceived competence would not contribute to intrinsic motivation because the rewards enhance perceived competence not as a PROCESS , but the SELF as an object . Rewards enhance a 'fixed mindset ' rather than a ' growth mindset '. People who have a fixed mindset , that they are smart or competent will avoid challenging or difficult tasks and focus on sustaining their 'image' , rather than being involved in learning or other forms of creativity. They are less likely to engage in the activity in the future.

I received 2 interesting comments ( one PM )

I talked about a kid using extrinsic motivation when it is self determined to help him cope with time- on- task, practicing piano. A mom wrote that the hour of practice seemed an eternity to my child.

' I decided that if my son could put that hour into perspective, he might not feel overwhelmed by "an hour". I created a large pie chart -- larger the better so that you can "emphasize" the small slice -- and divided it into one hour slices. We colored in the sleeping hours, school hours, homework time, practice time, and free time. When he saw how much free time he would have if he efficiently tackled the "must dos", the homework and practice didn't seem so overwhelming. The slices were a small part of his day. '

The mom dealt with the issue by really understanding the concerns of her child and problem solving. The collaborative problem solving approach holds that most kids are already intrinsically motivated to do well, kids would prefer to do well, so if they are having trouble the problem is not motivational. The problem is more likely to be one of lagging skills, competence, the child's concerns are not being addressed and he is feeling controlled and coerced.

I think SDT says the same thing. Kids , people are intrinsically motivated to do well , and when they are struggling , the things that are getting in the way are usually competence , lack of relatedness, and lack of autonomy. People are not lacking the motivation. The traditional way of understanding all problems is to attribute it to the fact that the kid is lacking motivation , if he wants to do well , he would do well . CPS holds , and I think it is true of SDT , people do well if they can , not if they want to.

Nicolas Connault wrote ' I'm not sure that trying to achieve intrinsic motivation for ALL desirable behaviors is a realistic goal. Children find it easier to be intrinsically motivated, but I don't think it's possible to be intrinsically motivated to do everything we do as adults. '

I agree that many activities are not intrinsically motivating but at least we should aspire to be competent , the activity is self determined and autonomous , we should experience ' relatedness ' to those we interact with , and the natural outcomes are important and desirable.

Alfie Kohn –in ' Punished by Rewards ' makes 6 recommendations on how to minimize the damage of rewards.

1 Get rewards out of people's faces

- reduce the salience of rewards, make them less conspicuous, give them out privately, and avoid making a big fuss.

2 Offer rewards after the fact , as a surprise.

This helps blur the connection between previous behavior and the reward . The downside is people begin to expect rewards in the future and this will impact on intrinsic motivation.

3 Never turn the quest for rewards into a contest by limiting them artificially.

Competition and rivalry have negative effects relatedness, competence and autonomy .

4 Make rewards as similar as possible to the task.

– so endogenous rewards , for eg giving kids books, trips etc that deal with the task and thereby reduce the gap between what kids are doing and what they are getting for it.

5 Give people as much choice as possible about how rewards are used

- They can participate in the evaluation process of what has been done and how and to whom rewards should be given. Care should be taken that rewards remain something ' by the way ' , not salient and given without a fuss.

6 Try to immunize individuals against the motivation-killing effects of rewards

- By focusing and emphasizing the intrinsic value of what is being done.

I would add -

Show people how to use self- determined rewards to help them achieve their goals or keep on task.

Show people that many tasks may not be intrinsically rewarding but are more valued when done in an autonomous way and the natural outcomes are desirable.

Focus less on motivation , but more on autonomy, competence and relatedness.


1 comment:

  1. The idea that there is an intrinsic motivation lurking inside us all and that if we have the skills to do well, we will do well seems undeniably fundamentally invalid. Without getting into questions such as, “what does it mean to do well?” or “Is your ‘well’ my ‘well’?”- let’s look at this from some very straight forward examples:
    If Billy can read Billy will read the book.
    Billy can read the book
    Now do all of the Billy’s out there always read the books you ask them to? Of course not. And the Ross Greene follower would say well Billy has some other skill deficits that are getting in his way and once these are addressed then he truly can read the book and then will.
    Listen, I was “a Billy”, I could read and complete all of my homework just fine. However, I chose not to! I wanted to play video games instead. So that’s what I did. Why? Because my parents were afraid that if they confronted me (and because they learned this through my prior responses) I would explode.
    I’m not surprised that CPS is catching on like wildfire. After all, it’s the path of least resistance and that’s really what Human Beings desire. It causes less crises in the forefront and allows parents to except that this child has a form of disease that we must live with and this gives them a sense of peace and closure.
    Human Nature is not to do well simply because skill deficits are fulfilled. If this were the case we’d never see stories about the so many individuals that rise up from poverty and no education to success.