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Behav Anal. 1996 Fall;19(2):237-55.

The differential effects of tangible rewards and praise on intrinsic motivation: A comparison of cognitive evaluation theory and operant theory.

Abstract

Substantial research indicates that tangible rewards, such as money, prizes, and tokens, decrease response rates by undermining intrinsic motivation. In contrast, praise appears to increase response rates by enhancing intrinsic motivation. Based on their interpretation of available evidence, many social-cognitive researchers warn not to use tangible rewards in applied settings and to use praise instead. Furthermore, they suggest that the differential effects of the two types of rewards on intrinsic motivation cannot be explained using principles of operant psychology. Cognitive evaluation theory provides one of the most recent and widely cited social-cognitive explanations for the different effects of the two types of rewards on intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). However, a review of existing research found little support for the explanations based on this theory and revealed three potential confounding effects: (a) temporal contiguity, (b) the number of reward administrations, and (c) discriminative stimuli associated with reward availability. These three confounding factors provide explanations for the effects of tangible rewards and praise on intrinsic motivation that are consistent with principles of operant psychology.

PMID:
22478261
PMCID:
PMC2733619
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