Monthly Article Archives: March 2010

The Complexities of Motivation: The Uncertainty of Predicting Behaviors – Part IIRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

Last month I discussed Daniel Pink’s impressive new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink highlights the work of a number of researchers, including psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester in New York. Deci and Ryan have contributed significantly to our understanding of the differences between extrinsic motivation (i.e., motivation based on external rewards and punishments that may lead to a feeling of being controlled) and intrinsic motivation (i.e., motivation based on what Deci terms “authenticity and responsibility” and a feeling of having choice). I reviewed studies that produced results that may have seemed counterintuitive, namely, when children or adults received a reward for engaging in an activity they experienced as enjoyable and stimulating, the introduction of a reward actually lessened rather than reinforced interest in that activity. Pink observes that a prediction that the reward would heighten involvement in the activity is based on what he labels “The Motivation 2.0 Operating System,” namely, that the way you encourage people to do what you want is to reward them for the behavior you seek and punish them for behavior you do not want to appear. In contrast to the principles of Motivation

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