Intrinsic motivation, external reward, and their effect on overall motivation and performance

By April 29, 2016Library

Erb Faculty Director, Joe Arvai published in Human Performance

An unresolved debate lingers concerning the effect of performance-contingent rewards on motivation and performance. Behavioral psychology and economics suggest that performance-contingent rewards improve performance. In contrast, cognitive evaluation theory predicts that performance-contingent rewards undermine motivation and performance. Research involving the Erb Institute’s Joe Árvai and a colleague from the Universities of Colorado and Calgary discuss the predictions of these two streams and develop an experiment that resolves the limitations of previous studies by using a new measure of intrinsic motivation: Self-selection into a specific area of knowledge, as revealed by choice of academic major. Students from mathematics-related and literature-related areas were selected and randomly assigned to math and English language tests. Participants received a participation fee or a performance-contingent payment in addition to a fee. Both performance-contingent rewards and intrinsic motivation improved motivation and performance, in contrast with cognitive evaluation theory’s predictions.

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