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External Motivation


To understand extrinsic motivation, we first need to take an understanding of what motivation is. Motivation is an influence that accounts for the initiation, direction, intensity, and persistence of behavior. Motivations are very reasons behind people’s thoughts and behaviors.

Motivation is external and internal both; meaning that it’s extrinsic and intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation can be defined as “motivation associated with activities that are their own reward”. It is motivation that stems from your inner feelings and views which feed your desires to accomplish and perform. Oppositely, extrinsic motivation is “motivation created by external factors such as rewards and punishments”. When you are extrinsically motivated, you are only performing the task for what you will gain from completion. On the other hand, when we are intrinsically motivated, there is no requirement for external rewards or punishments because the activity is a reward in itself.

What exactly is extrinsic motivation…and why is it so prevalent in education? Here’s what a couple of experts have to say: "Extrinsic motivation is motivation to engage in an activity as a means to an end. Individuals who are extrinsically motivated work on tasks because they believe that participation will result in desirable outcomes such as a reward, teacher praise, or avoidance of punishment." --Paul R Pintrich & Dale H. Schunk, Motivation in Education

"One thing I have learned as I visit schools and talk to teachers is that most teachers prefer to use outer motivational resources. Many teachers hold pessimistic attitudes about the utility or even the wisdom of motivating students via inner motivational resources. There is something there that teachers simply do not trust. Behind this mistrust I hear three reasons. First, some teachers actually do not want a theory of motivation; rather they want a theory of performance. Second, many teachers prefer to take a short-term, moment-to-moment approach to motivation instead of a longer term developmental approach. Third, teachers find motivation via inner motivational resources to be suspicious because it does not correspond to how others motivate them." –John Marshall Reeve, Motivating Others

Let’s take into account the impact of extrinsic motivation.

Impact of E.M

Clearly, the cup of education overflows with extrinsic motivation. But is that good or bad? What impact do extrinsic rewards have on intrinsic motivation and learning? Here are summaries of two relevant research studies:

1) Psychologists M.R. Lepper, D. Green and R.E. Nisbett studied children who spent a high percentage of time drawing during free play. They took children individually and asked them to draw. Expected-award children were shown a good-player certificate and told they could win one by drawing. After they drew, they were told they had done well and were given the certificate. Unexpected-award subjects were not informed about the certificate, but after they drew, they were given the same feedback and certificate. This condition controlled for any effect due to receiving a reward. No-reward children drew with no mention of a certificate and were not given one at the end, which controlled for any effect due to drawing. Two weeks later, children again were observed during free play to determine the percentage of time spent drawing. Expected-award children spent less time drawing during the post-experimental phase compared with the pretest baseline phase; pretest-to-posttest changes of the other groups were non-significant. Compared with the other conditions, expected-award subjects spent less time drawing during the post-experimental phase. Similar results have been obtained in several studies using different subject populations (children, adolescents, adults), types of rewards (monetary, social) and target activities. The original study is titled "Undermining Children’s Intrinsic Interest with Extrinsic Reward" and was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

2) Psychologist Edward Deci did research with two groups to see the effect of extrinsic rewards on learning. Group one received an extrinsic reward (money) for solving a puzzle called SOMA; the second group received no rewards. Afterwards, both groups were left alone and secretly watched. The group that was paid stopped playing; the group not paid kept playing. Deci summarized his findings thusly: "Stop the pay, stop the play." He concludes, "Monetary rewards undermined people's intrinsic motivation. Rewards seemed to turn the act of playing into something that was controlled from the outside: It turned play into work, and the player into a pawn. Rewards and recognition are important, but as the research has so clearly shown and I have reiterated many times, when rewards or awards are used as a means of motivating people, they are likely to backfire." --Edward Deci, Why We Do What We Do.

Extrinsic motivation is encouragement from an outside force; behavior is performed based on the expectance of an outside reward, such as money or praise. Extrinsic rewards can be abused to bribe or coerce someone into doing something that they would not do on their own. Unfortunately, these types of reward systems are often found in classrooms in the form of stars, red-light green-light, or WOWS, to name a few. Ryan and Deci (1996) describe these rewards as task-contingent; the rewards are contingent on the completion of the task. The problems with these types of extrinsic motivators are numerous

1.Extrinsic rewards do not produce permanent changes
First and foremost, studies have shown that extrinsic rewards do not produce changes that are permanent. Thus, changes in behavior, as a result of extrinsic rewards, are due to an external motivator, not to an innate desire. Token economies, a system of providing money-like tokens for correct behaviors, have been proven to be ineffective. Kazdin and Bootzin (1972) provided one of the first major reviews of token economies. They concluded that in general token economies do not contribute to permanent behavior changes. Specifically, removing the reinforcement returns behavior to its initial level and generalizing the reinforced behavior to other situations does not occur.
As Kohn (1993) explains, "The fact is that extrinsic motivators do not alter the attitudes that underlie our behaviors. They do not create an enduring commitment to a set of values or to learning; they merely, and temporarily, change what we do".

2.Extrinsic rewards reduce intrinsic interest
Lepper, Greene, and Nisbett (1973) found that rewarding children with extrinsic rewards can actually reduce their intrinsic interest in something. The researchers observed preschool children drawing. They then randomly selected some of the children and asked them to draw some more, promising rewards for the best participants. The rest of the children just drew pictures, without the promise of a reward. Two weeks later, the drawing behavior of the children was observed and the researchers found that those who had been rewarded before drew less, but those who had never been rewarded still drew at the same rate. Hence, the rewards had reduced the children's interest in something that they had previously enjoyed.

Deci (1971) found similar effects with using money as the extrinsic reward. He offered college students money for solving problems, while another group of students just solved the problems without any external reward. Deci found that the unpaid students were more willing than the rewarded students to solve the problems later on in the study.
A common rebuttal to this is that although extrinsic rewards may reduce intrinsic interest, extrinsic rewards are still useful when there is no intrinsic interest to start with; then it is okay to use extrinsic forces to motivate a student. An example given by Chance (1992) is that as adults we recognize the importance of knowing how to add, like when we need to count change, but as children they have no intrinsic interest in knowing what 2 + 3 is. WRONG, children have many intrinsic reasons for knowing what 2 + 3 is. If mom brings home 2 pizzas for dinner right after Domino's just delivered 3 pizzas that you and your brother ordered, how many pizzas are you having for dinner? If children can not find intrinsic interest in something that is covered in school, then it is the teacher's job to help the child make the connection between what seems like an abstract problem to something that is meaningful and applicable to this big world that they are trying to understand.

Furthermore, if teachers bribe children with extrinsic rewards to do something in school, then what is that saying about the activity? It is telling them that the activity must not be very important if one has to be coerced into doing it; the activity must not be exciting on its own. By motivating children with extrinsic rewards, then the intrinsic value in the task is undermined by the task-contingent reward. As Kohn (1993) describes it, "extrinsic rewards turn learning from an end into a means".

3.The use of extrinsic rewards by parents is related to less generous and less intrinsically motivated behaviors by their children
Similar problems have been found with parenting styles that use extrinsic rewards. Fabes (1989) found that children who had been raised by parents who used tangible rewards or praise frequently tend to be less generous than their peers who had been raised without so many extrinsic motivators. Eskeles-Gottfried, Fleming, and Gottfried (1994) studied two types of motivational styles used by mothers: encouragement of task-endogeny (focusing on the intrinsic value of the task) and utilization of task-extrinsic consequences. The researchers found that children's academic intrinsic motivation is related to the parenting style used by their mother. Children who were encouraged with task endogamy tend to be more intrinsically motivated in academics; whereas children who were raised with task-extrinsic consequences tend to be less intrinsically motivated in academics.

4.Extrinsic rewards can be controlling
The very nature of extrinsic rewards should be addressed. By promising a reward for behaving in a desired way, the teacher is essentially controlling his or her students by tempting them with external factors that do not even relate to the task itself. Kohn (1993) explains, "In the classroom, it is a way of doing things to children rather than working with them". This view of management disregards a child's ability to think and reason on their own, not allowing them the chance to develop self-determination or independent thinking. Aren't those skills just as important as reading and math? And it has been found that qualities such as creativity and cognitive reasoning are diminished when students are working for a reward, as opposed to the task at-hand.

Failure of Extrinsic Motivation

One alternative to forcing children to memorize facts is to bribe them to do it with prizes, candy, grades, and so on. Educational psychologists call this "extrinsic motivation." Extrinsic motivation has been used in some schools for years, although there is evidence to show that far from encouraging learning, it actually undermines it. Extrinsic motivation addresses the first stage of the natural learning waterfall: it gives students goals. Students want to get the prize, so they are willing to play by the rules of the game the teacher sets up. But unfortunately, it fails on the second stage. Students learn to see the knowledge the teacher wishes to convey as a way to win the prize rather than something interesting to know on its own. They do not see it as something useful in its own right. So they do not generate questions about it. And once the prize has been achieved, students no longer have any motivation to retain what they have learned.

Students who are naturally curious when faced with an extrinsic reward do generate questions, but those questions have little to do with the content the teacher wishes to convey. A better way to motivate students to learn dull material is to give them the opportunity to achieve some goal that satisfies two conditions: One that students have had a real interest in the goal, and two, that the uninteresting information is "intrinsically" related to the goal; in order to achieve the goal, one sometimes must use the uninteresting information. Having the goal and the facts occupy the same turf helps a great deal. Not only does it make the facts seem less trivial, it allows students to properly index those facts. They learn them in a context in which they can later use.
Published: 2008-01-10
Author: Zahra Habib

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