Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dan Pink - candle experiment


Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation Video on TED.com

Dan Pink shares the candle experiment which shows how rewards help us to focus down on a task. This has an upside and a downside . If the tasks are simple , manual and involve very limited cognitive skill, and where the solution is pretty obvious rewards can help do these tasks much more quickly than without the reward. The downside - where the task involves some thinking , a wider vision, exploratory thinking , the reward does the opposite - shuts down creativity because it narrows our vision.

We can see from the candle experiment that when people are self determined and feel autonomous , they are more competent where creative skills are needed than people who have been motivated by extrinsic factors like money.

The experiment has lots of implications on how we relate to children , their education and promoting cognitive skills essential for communication and life in general. Rewards interfere with the learning of cognitive skills, CPS - collaborative problem solving promotes cognitive skills.

SDT - Self Determination Theory researchers hold that when people's needs for autononmy, competence and relatedness is supported people become more intrinsically motivated.

Dan Pink talks about autonomy , mastery and purpose. What about relatedness ? . I think relatedness needs are met in the context of purpose.

Here is another animated you tube by Dan Pink

Drive - the surprising truth of what motivates us

I like to share 2 comments which I liked.

The human brain's thought patterns can be separated into awareness and instinct. The neocortex is responsible for awareness, logic, creativity etc.. and the reptilian or basal ganglia is responsible for flight or flight syndrome (instinct). When a person is relaxed their thought patterns are predominately in the neocortex resulting in creativity, logic, etc.. When someone is excited, motivated, pressured, etc.. the thought pattern is moved to the reptilian brain.Placing a greater risk or reward (money) on a the subject would naturally take the individual out of the neocortex (awareness) and focus their thought pattern in the the reptilian brain (instinct). This dose not mean the subjects were not motivated by the monetary reward. The reality is more than likely the contrary.we did similar experiments in my undergrad -Inverted U theory - Spence Spencer

The research than Dan's work is based on is from self-determination theory which says that people are naturally predisposed to be intrinsically motivated and that their environment can either encourage or undermine this, depending on the extent to which it fulfills these basic needs (in the original theory they are autonomy, competence and relatedness). If they aren't intrinsically motivated, it is possible for them to "internalise" the value of what they are doing so that it fits with their values and they care about it. It's still extrinsic, but it's more important to them.The reason I mention this is that, in the work context, people will not feel intrinsically motivated on every task that they perform and this will change over time (You can't release someone if they stop being intrinsically motivated) but they can internalise the value of what they are doing. Creating an environment which fulfills these needs will help to do that and will lead to positive behaviours. - Bex Hewit

From the Self Determined theory site ' Some of the most surprising insights to emerge from SDT research call into question the traditional use of incentives. For example, behavioral research has shown that extrinsic rewards, like money or grades, actually undermine a person's interest in voluntarily engaging in a task. In short, rewards can backfire.

Kou Murayama from the University of Munich, Germany explored the neurobiology underlying this counterintuitive finding at the conference. In a recent study, Murayama and his colleagues scanned the brains of participants before and after completing a timed task. One group of participants was promised a reward. A second group performed the task with no incentive, although afterward they were surprised with compensation.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the study showed that entirely different areas of the brain are activated by the same task depending on whether a person anticipates a payoff or not. When focused on a reward, the brain switches off those areas associated with voluntary or self-initiated activities. '

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