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Irrationality 8: Misuse of Rewards and Punishment


This seems to be an chapter with pretty huge implications for child-rearing and organizational psychology (is that why all I get for doing well at work is a pat on the back?).

Kindle Notes:

Presumably the children thought that drawing could not be of much interest in its own right if a reward was needed to make them engage in it. This type of experiment has been repeated many times, with both children and adults, and with a variety of tasks, from solving puzzles to acting as voluntary teachers. The results have always been the same (1529).

in the case of activities that are intrinsically pleasurable, people who are rewarded will engage in less of the activity after the reward is withdrawn than people who have never been rewarded (1546).

It may be that praise functions in a different way from other rewards, like money, and does not have their undesirable effects and indeed this was supported in an experiment that found that praise for performing well did not devalue the task (1565).

Note: Good for desirism.

In most firms, employees are motivated largely by financial rewards which include not merely salaries or weekly pay, but bonuses, commissions and piece work. This system destroys the interest of the work in the eye of the employee (1584).

The experimental evidence (reviewed in the next chapter) suggests that people who are trying to gain a prize will do less imaginative and less flexible work than those of equal talent who are not (1614).

There is convincing evidence that children who are induced not to misbehave under mild threat are much less likely to do the naughty deed when the threat is removed than are children who are threatened with severe punishment (1637).

In fact, studies in the home have found that the less the child is punished, the more obedient it is both in the presence of the parents and when on its own (1647).

Note: Cause and effect?

In general people prefer something freely chosen to the same thing forced upon them (1662).

In a study of women who had abortions in a Boston hospital, it was found that those who felt they had been coerced into the abortion had far more psychiatric illness after it than those who felt they had freely chosen to have it (1680).

moral 1. If you want someone to value a task and perform well, do not offer material rewards. 2. If you are a manager, adopt as participatory and egalitarian a style as possible. 3. If you want to stop children (and almost certainly adults as well) from doing something, try to persuade rather than threatening them with punishment. 4. Give people as much freedom of choice as possible, particularly in medicine and education. 5. If you happen to be offered a Nobel Prize, turn it down (1693).

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