Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes

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9780395710906: Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes

The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train a family pet. The quick fix of rewards may seem to be effective, but manipulating people with external incentives actually kills their interest in what they are doing and lowers the quality of their work. Indeed, Kohn shows that the decline in our workplaces and classrooms may be related to our acceptance of a theory of motivation derived from lab animals. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, he points the way to a more successful strategy based on working with people instead of doing things to them. "Do rewards motivate people?" asks Kohn. "Yes. They motivate people to get rewards." Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished By Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.

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About the Author:

Alfie Kohn's six previous books include Punished by Rewards and No Contest: The Case Against Competition, as well as Beyond Displine and What to Look for in a Classroom. Descrilbed by Time magazine last year as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of educational fixation on grades and test scores," he is a popular lecturer, speaker to teachers, parents, and reasearchers accross the country. The author currently resides in Belmont, Massachusetts.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A compelling argument that the use of rewards is counterproductive in raising children, teaching students, and managing workers. Kohn (The Brighter Side of Human Nature, 1990, etc.) contends that rewards, like punishments, are methods of controlling people--perhaps a morally objectionable goal--and that, at best, they produce only temporary compliance. He begins by tracing the development of behaviorist doctrine and the widespread acceptance of its popular version, encapsulated in the idea ``do this and you'll get that.'' Kohn examines the effect that rewards have on behavior, concluding that rewards fail for many reasons: They punish; rupture relationships; ignore underlying reasons for behavior; discourage risk-taking; and undermine interest in the task at hand. The author looks carefully at three places in which rewards are used extensively- -the workplace, the classroom, and the home--and demonstrates in turn why incentive plans and other reward-based systems employed, first, by managers fail to improve the quality of work; why outward motivations undermine students' intrinsic motivation to learn; and why children whose parents use rewards to motivate them are less likely to develop a sense of responsibility and the ability to make ethical judgments. Having shown that rewards don't work, Kohn undertakes the more difficult task of developing a strategy that does. His solution is based on what he calls the ``three C's''--``content,'' ``choice,'' and ``collaboration''-- and he illustrates how they can be applied by managers, teachers, and parents. Three appendices round out his well-documented study: excerpts from a 1983 interview with a rather crotchety B.F. Skinner; a reflective essay on intrinsic motivation; and Kohn's prediction of how behaviorists will respond to his arguments. A clear, convincing demonstration of the shortcomings of pop-behaviorism, written with style, humor, and authority. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Alfie Kohn
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Kohn, Alfie
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