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Overjustification Effect

 

Explanations > Theories > Overjustification Effect

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

This occurs where I attribute my behavior more to a conspicuous extrinsic motivator than to intrinsic reasons.

This effect is less when rewards are given for performance success rather than simply completing tasks, but can still be significant.

Research

Greene, Sternberg and Lepper (1976) played mathematical games with schoolchildren, which the children seemed to enjoy. After a while, they started giving rewards for success. When they took away the rewards, the children quickly gave up playing the games. 

The explanation was that the children had decided that they were playing for the reward, not for the fun.

Example

I fly largely with one airline, where I do not think I get particularly good service. I do it only because I have been trapped into collecting their 'air miles' loyalty points.

So what?

Using it

If you want someone to really buy into something, do not use big extrinsic rewards.

Defending

Beware of short-cuts in thinking. Understand when someone rewards you what your real motivation is. Even notice the effects of emotional rewards like smiling and congratulations.

See also

Discounting, Extrinsic Motivation, Intrinsic Motivation, Minimal Justification Principle

References

Greene, Sternberg and Lepper (1976)

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