Bruce Sterling on Wed, 18 Aug 1999 11:35:17 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Science Proves Money Makes You Stupid *8-/

From: "the terminal of Geoff Goodfellow" <
To: "Dave e-mail pamphleteer Farber" 

Dave: A most interesting article, which to me is the very spirit of The How
and The Why the Internet, Linux, etc. came to and continue to be so great.
For myself, it is the very core of why I enjoy activities such as DJ'ng
(which i don't accept money for) and even why I enjoy playing the stock
market so much (just to do it for its own sake, not for the money!). I
believe the word for these activities is "Autotelic", meaning "self goals"
(as opposes to extotelic "external goals", such as money or other reward).

Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator
Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain
By Alfie Kohn
Special to the Boston Globe
[reprinted with permission of the author
from the Monday, 19 January 1987, Boston Globe]

In the laboratory, rats get Rice Krispies. In the classroom the top students
get A's, and in the factory or office the best workers get raises. It's an
article of faith for most of us that rewards promote better performance.

But a growing body of research suggests that this law is not nearly as
ironclad as was once thought. Psychologists have been finding that rewards
can lower performance levels, especially when the performance involves

A related series of studies shows that intrinsic interest in a task - the
sense that something is worth doing for its own sake - typically declines
when someone is rewarded for doing it.

If a reward - money, awards, praise, or winning a contest - comes to be seen
as the reason one is engaging in an activity, that activity will be viewed
as less enjoyable in its own right.

With the exception of some behaviorists who doubt the very existence of
intrinsic motivation, these conclusions are now widely accepted among
psychologists. Taken together, they suggest we may unwittingly be squelching
interest and discouraging innovation among workers, students and artists.

The recognition that rewards can have counter-productive effects is based on
a variety of studies, which have come up with such findings as these: Young
children who are rewarded for drawing are less likely to draw on their own
that are children who draw just for the fun of it. Teenagers offered rewards
for playing word games enjoy the games less and do not do as well as those
who play with no rewards. Employees who are praised for meeting a manager's
expectations suffer a drop in motivation.

Much of the research on creativity and motivation has been performed by
Theresa Amabile, associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University.
In a paper published early last year on her most recent study, she reported
on experiments involving elementary school and college students. Both groups
were asked to make ``silly'' collages. The young children were also asked to
invent stories.

The least-creative projects, as rated by several teachers, were done by
those students who had contracted for rewards. ``It may be that commissioned
work will, in general, be less creative than work that is done out of pure
interest,'' Amabile said.

In 1985, Amabile asked 72 creative writers at Brandeis and at Boston
University to write poetry. Some students then were given a list of
extrinsic (external) reasons for writing, such as impressing teachers,
making money and getting into graduate school, and were asked to think about
their own writing with respect to these reasons. Others were given a list of
intrinsic reasons: the enjoyment of playing with words, satisfaction from
self-expression, and so forth. A third  group was not given any list. All
were then asked to do more writing.

The results were clear. Students given the extrinsic reasons not only wrote
less creatively than the others, as judged by 12 independent poets, but the
quality of their work dropped significantly. Rewards, Amabile says, have
this destructive effect primarily with creative tasks, including
higher-level problem-solving. ``The more complex the activity, the more it's
hurt by extrinsic reward,'' she said.

But other research shows that artists are by no means the only ones

In one study, girls in the fifth and sixth grades tutored younger children
much less effectively if they were promised free movie tickets for teaching
well. The study, by James Gabarino, now president of Chicago's Erikson
Institute for Advanced Studies in Child Development, showed that tutors
working for the reward took longer to communicate ideas, got frustrated more
easily, and did a poorer job in the end than those who were not rewarded.

Such findings call into question the widespread belief that money is an
effective and even necessary way to motivate people. They also challenge the
behaviorist assumption that any activity is more likely to occur if it is
rewarded. Amabile says her research ``definitely refutes the notion that
creativity can be operantly conditioned.''(...)

Researchers offer several explanations for their surprising findings about
rewards and performance.

First, rewards encourage people to focus narrowly on a task, to do it as
quickly as possible and to take few risks. ``If they feel that 'this is
something I have to get through to get the prize,' they're going to be less
creative,'' Amabile said.

Second, people come to see themselves as being controlled by the reward.
They feel less autonomous, and this may interfere with performance. ``To the
extent one's experience of being self-determined is limited,'' said Richard
Ryan, associate psychology professor at the University of Rochester, ``one's
creativity will be reduced as well.''

Finally, extrinsic rewards can erode intrinsic interest. People who see
themselves as working for money, approval or competitive success find their
tasks less pleasurable, and therefore do not do them as well.

The last explanation reflects 15 years of work by Ryan's mentor at the
University of Rochester, Edward Deci. In 1971, Deci showed that ``money may
work to buy off one's intrinsic motivation for an activity'' on a long-term
basis. Ten years later, Deci and his colleagues demonstrated that trying to
best others has the same effect. Students who competed to solve a puzzle
quickly were less likely than those who were not competing to keep working
at it once the experiment was over.


Artists must make a living, of course, but Amabile emphasizes that ``the
negative impact on creativity of working for rewards can be minimized'' by
playing down the significance of these rewards and trying not to use them in
a controlling way. Creative work, the research suggests, cannot be forced,
but only allowed to happen.

Alfie Kohn, a Cambridge, MA writer, is the author of ``No Contest: The Case
Against Competition,'' recently published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston,
MA. ISBN 0-395-39387-6.

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"Success is getting what you want & happiness is wanting what you get"

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