Extrinsic Rewards
Benefits of / Hidden Costs

Common Positive & Negative Reinforcers in the Schools
(Within Elements of Classroom Structure, such as: Rules, Expectations, Limits, Feedback, Token Economies)

Positive Reinforcers
Negative Reinforcers


Positive Feedback Deadlines


Smiles Surveillance Screaming


Money Threats Crying


Awards Being Laughed at Pouting


Food Criticisms Pleading


Prizes Ridicule Whining


Trophies Teasing Yelling

Honor Roll

Gold Stars Negative Evaluations  

Public Recognition


Two Philosophical Questions for the Day

1. Is free-choice (i.e., intrinsically-motivated) behavior in some way better than reward-supported
(extrinsically-motivated) behavior? Or, vice versa?


2. Is reward-supported behavior (i.e., compliance, obedience) better in some way that free-choice
noncompliance? Or, vice versa?

(Is it better in some way to read the textbook because of a possible pop quiz tomorrow, or
is it better not to have the pop quiz but also have many students not read the book at all?)


If so, then here are some illustrations of the benefits of extrinsic rewards:

* teaching nearsighted children to wear contact lenses (Mathews et al., 1992).
* preventing drunk driving (Geller, Altomari, & Russ, 1984).
* participating in recycling (Brothers, 1994; Austira et al., 1993).
* motivating young children to do their homework (Miller & Kelly, 1994)
* preventing antisocial behaviors, such as biting and poking (Fisher et al., 1993)
* teaching autistic children to initiate peer conversations (Krantz & McClannahan, 1993)


Hidden Costs of Rewards

"Hidden" because society generally regards rewards as positive and attractive motivators.


Hidden Cost #1:
Rewards Often Undermine Intrinsic Motivation

Because rewards induce a shift in PLOC towards a more external PLOC,
extrinsic motivation increases while intrinsic motivation decreases.


Hidden Cost #2:
Rewards Interfere with the Process of Learning

(And they do so in the following 6 ways...)


1. Rewards Change Student's Goal away from Learning About & Mastering the Task
to doing what's necessary to get the reward (and as soon as possible).
Task-involved (learning about task) becomes reward-involved/seeking (Condry & Chambers, 1978)


2. Rewards Undermine Student's Preference for Optimal Challenge.
When no rewards are at stake: Students prefer to engage in optimal challenges.
When rewards are at stake: Students prefer to engage in easy successes (Shapira, 1976).


3. Rewards Redefine When a Task is Completed, or Finished.
When no rewards are at stake: Task is completed/done once curiosity is satisfied,
mastery is attained, problem is solved, question is answered, fatigue sets in.
When rewards are at stake: Task is completed/done when the reward criterion
is reached or obtained, as in read 10 pages for next week's test (McGraw & McCullers, 1979).


4. With Rewards, Students Become Increasingly Prone to a Negative Emotionality
Typical emotions when rewards not at stake: interest, curiosity, enjoyment (Ryan & Connell, 1989).
Typical emotions when rewards are at stake: stress, anxiety, maybe frustration (Garbarino, 1975).


5. Rewards Undermine Creativity.
When no rewards are at stake: Learning and memory are flexible, open.
When rewards are at stake: Learning and memory are rigid, seeks a right answer (Amabile, 1985).


6. Rewards Lead Learners to Become Passive Information Processors
Narrow Attention to Factual Learning (right/wrong; memorizing) over Conceptual
Understanding (thematic, integrating ideas). (Benware & Deci, 1984; Boggiano et al., 1993).