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Unveiling the Illusion: An In-depth Interview with Alfie Kohn on “Punished by Rewards

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Alfie Kohn, a prolific writer and renowned speaker, has long been recognized as a leading voice in education and parenting. With his thought-provoking ideas and unconventional approach, Kohn challenges conventional wisdom and invites us to question what we believe to be true in these realms. Whether it’s advocating for student-centered learning, debunking the myth of rewards and punishments, or reimagining parenting practices, Kohn’s insights have revolutionized how we think about education and child-rearing. It is with great anticipation and excitement that we embark on this interview with Alfie Kohn, eager to delve into his radical ideas and uncover the transformative potential they hold for our understanding of learning and personal growth. Stay tuned as we embark on an enlightening conversation with an individual who continues to push the boundaries and reshape our perceptions about education, parenting, and the human experience itself.

Who is Alfie Kohn?

Alfie Kohn is a renowned author, lecturer, and expert in the field of education and human behavior. Born in 1957, Kohn has spent the better part of his career challenging conventional wisdom and advocating for a more progressive and student-centered approach to schooling.

Kohn’s work is characterized by his thought-provoking and often controversial ideas, which have sparked important discussions and debates in the education community. He believes that traditional educational practices, such as the use of grades and rewards, undermine intrinsic motivation and hinder students’ love for learning.

With a compelling and persuasive writing style, Kohn has authored numerous best-selling books, including “Punished by Rewards,” “The Myth of the Spoiled Child,” and “Unconditional Parenting.” In each of these works, he challenges the notion that external incentives and punishments are effective tools for fostering desirable behavior and instead advocates for empathy, autonomy, and fostering intrinsic motivation.

Kohn’s ideas have gained significant traction and have influenced educators, parents, and policymakers worldwide. His keynote speeches and lectures have been well-received by audiences eager for alternative perspectives on education and parenting. By challenging long-held beliefs and practices, Kohn encourages critical thinking and prompts individuals to question the status quo.

While his ideas continue to provoke lively debates, there is no denying that Alfie Kohn has made a lasting impact on the field of education. With his unwavering commitment to reimagining our approach to learning, he has inspired countless individuals to question the effectiveness of traditional educational practices and strive for a more holistic and student-centered approach.

20 Thought-Provoking Questions with Alfie Kohn

1. Can you provide ten Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn quotes to our readers?

Punished by Rewards quotes as follows:

1. “Using rewards to control behavior undermines intrinsic motivation and creates dependency on external incentives.”

2. “Extrinsic rewards have a short-term impact on behavior but can have long-term negative effects on motivation and engagement.”

3. “Rewards shift people’s focus from the activity itself to the reward, leading to diminished interest and enjoyment.”

4. “When rewards are used as a substitute for real learning or achievement, they undermine the person’s sense of competence and self-worth.”

5. Praising children excessively for their accomplishments can lead to a fear of failure and a constant need for validation.

6. “Rewards can hinder creativity and problem-solving by limiting people’s willingness to take risks or explore different approaches.”

7. “Intrinsic motivation is crucial for developing a lifelong love of learning, and rewards can dampen this natural internal drive.”

8. “Rewards condition individuals to value the external outcome more than the process, leading to a loss of autonomy and personal growth.”

9. “Reward systems often foster a competitive mindset that hinders collaboration and cooperation among individuals.”

10. “We should focus on fostering intrinsic motivation by providing meaningful challenges, autonomy, and opportunities for personal growth.”

2.What inspired you to write the book Punished by Rewards?

There were numerous factors that inspired me to write the book “Punished by Rewards.” First and foremost was my concern with the pervasive reliance on rewards as a means of motivation in various institutions, particularly in education. I found it deeply troubling that both teachers and parents were resorting to offering rewards, such as stickers, grades, or tokens, to elicit desired behavior from children. This led me to delve deeper into the research surrounding rewards and motivation.

As I explored the topic further, I became increasingly convinced that rewards are counterproductive and can actually harm motivation. This realization stems from both research findings and personal observations. Research consistently shows that extrinsic motivations, such as rewards, undermine intrinsic motivation, demotivate individuals, and stifle creativity. This goes against the common belief that offering rewards is an effective strategy to increase motivation and performance.

Furthermore, my own experiences as a teacher and parent reinforced my skepticism towards rewards. I witnessed countless instances where students became more interested in obtaining the reward rather than engaging in the actual learning process. This led me to question the long-term effects of rewards on children’s intrinsic motivation and love for learning.

Another driving force behind writing this book was to propose alternatives to rewards that are more effective and have a positive impact on motivation. I wanted to provide readers with an evidence-based approach that focuses on the importance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to foster genuine and lasting motivation.

Ultimately, my aim in writing “Punished by Rewards” was to challenge the prevailing narrative surrounding rewards and motivate readers to critically assess their own practices and beliefs. I wanted to encourage a shift towards more intrinsic and meaningful forms of motivation that promote the development of independent, curious, and engaged individuals.

In essence, the inspiration behind this book came from my concern for the detrimental effects of rewards, both on motivation and on the overall quality of learning and engagement. Through rigorous research, personal experiences, and a commitment to fostering genuine motivation, I sought to shed light on the limitations of rewards and offer new perspectives on how to inspire and nurture intrinsic motivation in individuals.

3.How would you define the core message of your book in a few sentences?

The core message of my book can be summarized in a few sentences as follows: Traditional methods of parenting and education rely heavily on rewards, punishments, and competition, which ultimately hinder children’s natural curiosity, love for learning, and intrinsic motivation. Through extensive research and examples, my book emphasizes the importance of moving away from these controlling practices and towards a more cooperative and respectful approach, where children are given the freedom to make choices, collaborate, and develop their own identities. It challenges common assumptions about “doing things to” children to obtain compliance, and instead urges parents and educators to focus on nurturing intrinsic motivation, fostering autonomy, and promoting empathy in order to raise independent, morally responsible, and lifelong learners.

In my book, I argue that rewards, such as praise and grades, can diminish intrinsic motivation and creativity by fostering a dependence on external validation. Similarly, punishments, like time-outs and grounding, do not promote responsible behavior but rather instill fear and resentment. By focusing on the intrinsic value of tasks and promoting a sense of autonomy, children become more engaged, creative, and self-directed learners.

Competition, another prevailing aspect of traditional approaches, has detrimental effects on children’s development by creating a win-lose mentality, fostering a sense of superiority or inferiority, and eroding cooperation and empathy. Instead, my book promotes fostering cooperation, collaboration, and empathy through the use of cooperative learning, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills. These skills not only aid children’s social and emotional development but also prepare them for a future where collaboration and empathy are highly valued.

Ultimately, the core message of my book is a call to shift parental and educational practices towards a more collaborative, respectful, and empathetic approach, which values children’s intrinsic motivation, autonomy, and their capacity to care for others. It is through this approach that we can raise children who are not only academically successful but also compassionate, independent, and socially responsible individuals.

4.What are some common misconceptions about rewards that you aim to debunk in your book?

In my book, I aim to tackle some common misconceptions about rewards that have long permeated our society. The first misconception is that rewards motivate people. Many believe that dangling a carrot in front of someone will prompt them to work harder or perform better. However, research consistently shows that rewards, especially contingent ones, can actually undermine intrinsic motivation. Rewards may work in the short-term, but they fail to promote long-lasting motivation and may even stifle creativity and innovation.

Another misconception I aim to debunk is the idea that rewards increase effort. While rewards may lead to increased effort for simple and straightforward tasks, they can actually hinder performance on more complex and creative tasks. Rewards tend to promote a focus on achieving the reward rather than on the quality of the work. This can result in a decrease in creativity and problem-solving abilities.

A third misconception I address in my book is the belief that rewards encourage cooperation and teamwork. Many assume that rewarding individuals will lead to teamwork and cooperation. However, this notion overlooks the fact that rewards create a competitive environment where individuals are more likely to focus on outperforming their peers in order to secure the reward. This can create an atmosphere of distrust and diminish collaboration.

Furthermore, I challenge the misconception that rewards teach important life skills such as responsibility and self-discipline. Rewards may provide temporary compliance, but they do little to foster a genuine sense of responsibility or self-discipline. In fact, relying on rewards can lead individuals to rely on external motivators, rather than developing intrinsic motivation and a sense of personal responsibility.

Finally, I take aim at the notion that rewards are harmless. Many believe that rewards are benign and have no negative side effects. However, the evidence tells a different story. Rewards can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including the erosion of intrinsic motivation, reduced creativity, diminished risk-taking behavior, and damaged relationships.

By debunking these common misconceptions about rewards, I hope to challenge the prevailing reliance on rewards and encourage readers to embrace alternative approaches to motivation and behavior management. I advocate for fostering intrinsic motivation, nurturing a sense of autonomy, and promoting meaningful engagement and cooperation. Ultimately, I believe that moving beyond the reward mindset can lead to more authentic and fulfilling experiences for individuals and communities.

5.Can you explain the negative impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation, as discussed in your book?

Rewards, whether tangible or social, have long been used as a tool to motivate individuals, especially in educational and workplace settings. However, my book challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding rewards and delves into the negative impact they have on intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation refers to the inherent desire to engage in an activity simply for the joy and satisfaction it brings. It is driven by an individual’s personal interest and enjoyment, as opposed to external factors such as rewards or punishments. When rewards are introduced, they shift the focus of individuals from the enjoyment of the task itself to the attainment of the reward. This extrinsic motivation undermines the intrinsic motivation that may already exist, causing a decrease in overall motivation over time.

Moreover, rewards have the potential to erode creativity and innovation. When individuals are solely focused on obtaining a reward, they become more concerned about meeting expectations and conforming to pre-determined standards. This leads to a decrease in originality and divergent thinking. The desire to explore new possibilities and take risks is diminished, as individuals opt for safe and predictable paths to reach the reward.

Furthermore, rewards can foster a dependency on external validation and undermine a person’s self-efficacy. When individuals consistently receive rewards for their efforts, they begin to rely on external recognition as their main source of motivation. Their intrinsic motivation becomes contingent on the availability of rewards, rendering them less likely to engage in the activity without the promise of a reward. This hinders the development of a sense of competence and intrinsic satisfaction that comes from personal growth and mastery.

In addition, rewards often create a competitive atmosphere that can be detrimental to collaboration and cooperation. When individuals are pitted against each other for rewards, the focus shifts from collective goals to individual achievement. This kind of extrinsic competition can lead to a decrease in teamwork, as individuals prioritize their own success over the success of the group.

In conclusion, my book outlines the negative impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation. They not only undermine individuals’ intrinsic motivation but also hinder creativity, foster dependency on external validation, and create a competitive environment. It is important to reevaluate our approach to motivation and focus on nurturing intrinsic motivation through autonomy, competence, and relatedness, rather than relying on external rewards.

6.How do you address the argument that rewards can be effective in certain situations or for specific tasks?

I appreciate the opportunity to address the argument that rewards can be effective in certain situations or for specific tasks. While I understand why some may believe this to be true, my research and experience lead me to assert that rewards are generally ineffective and even counterproductive, regardless of the situation or task at hand.

Firstly, it is crucial to recognize that rewards, such as incentives or bribes, operate on an extrinsic motivation basis. They may elicit compliance or temporary behavior change, particularly in routine or simple tasks. However, this approach fails to cultivate intrinsic motivation or a genuine desire for learning and engagement. In the long run, extrinsic motivations actually inhibit individuals’ natural inclination to explore, experiment, and think more creatively about complex problems or tasks.

Moreover, rewards can create a detrimental dependency, where individuals become more focused on the “what’s in it for me” rather than the intrinsic value of the task itself. This undermines their development of essential skills such as autonomy, self-regulation, and perseverance. When the reward is removed or deemed insufficient, motivation plummets, and the individual may lose interest in the activity altogether. This holds true across various domains, be it education, the workplace, or even personal relationships.

Additionally, rewards can lead to a harmful shift in focus from the quality of the task or learning experience to the pursuit of rewards. This can encourage individuals to take shortcuts, engage in unethical behavior, or prioritize immediate gratification over long-term goals. Intrinsic rewards, on the other hand, promote a deep sense of satisfaction, pride, and engagement, fostering a higher level of commitment and effort.

Finally, it is essential to consider the long-term consequences of reward systems. Research consistently shows that extrinsic motivators decrease creativity, intrinsic motivation, and overall performance. They can create a reliance on external validation, stifle innovation, and inhibit intrinsic satisfaction from the pursuit of excellence.

In summary, while rewards may appear effective in specific situations or for narrow, low-level tasks, they undermine the development of intrinsic motivation, essential skills, and sustainable engagement. Ultimately, I advocate for an approach that focuses on fostering intrinsic motivation, cultivating a love for learning, and encouraging individuals to pursue excellence for its sheer inherent value.

7.In your book, you challenge the use of rewards in parenting. Could you shed more light on this topic and provide some alternative approaches?

In my book, I challenge the use of rewards in parenting because I firmly believe that they are not only ineffective, but also have detrimental effects on children’s long-term development. When we rely on rewards to motivate or control our children’s behavior, we are essentially sending the message that they should only do something if there is something in it for them. This undermines their intrinsic motivation and fosters an external focus instead.

Instead of using rewards, I propose alternative approaches that promote a more positive and nurturing parenting style. One alternative is to focus on building a strong parent-child relationship based on empathy, trust, and open communication. This means taking the time to listen to our child’s thoughts and feelings, offering validation and support, and involving them in decision-making processes whenever appropriate.

Another alternative approach is to focus on creating a home environment that is conducive to learning and growth. This can involve setting clear and reasonable expectations, providing opportunities for autonomy and self-directed exploration, and fostering a sense of belonging and significance within the family unit.

Furthermore, it is essential to support our children in developing intrinsic motivation. This means encouraging them to engage in activities for the sheer joy and satisfaction they bring, rather than solely for external rewards. We can do this by helping them identify their passions and interests and providing the necessary resources and encouragement to pursue them.

Discipline is an important aspect of parenting, and I believe that it should be approached with a focus on teaching and learning rather than punishment and control. This involves setting limits with empathy and respect, using logical consequences when appropriate, and discussing and reflecting on the reasons behind certain behaviors.

In essence, my approach to parenting challenges the use of rewards by emphasizing the importance of intrinsic motivation, fostering a positive parent-child relationship, creating a supportive home environment, and approaching discipline as a teaching opportunity. By embracing these alternative approaches, we can help our children develop into self-directed, empathetic, and confident individuals who are motivated by their own internal values and desires rather than external rewards.

8.Are there any examples or case studies in the book that illustrate the problems associated with relying on rewards?

In my book, “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes,” I delve deep into the problems associated with relying on rewards. Throughout the text, I provide numerous examples and case studies that vividly illustrate these issues. Let me touch upon a few examples presented in the book that highlight the detrimental effects of reward systems.

One such case study involves a daycare center where a reward system was implemented to encourage parents to pick up their children on time. In this scenario, the center started enforcing a fine for late pick-ups. Initially, the number of late arrivals decreased, which might seem like a success for the reward system. However, as time progressed, parents became increasingly complacent. Many started viewing the fine as just another cost, trading money for the convenience of extending their pick-up time. The reward system not only failed to solve the original problem but also had unintended consequences by normalizing tardiness.

Another example that showcases the problems of rewards takes place in the classroom setting. Teachers sometimes use extrinsic incentives such as stickers, candy, or privileges to motivate students. However, research has repeatedly shown that this practice can undermine intrinsic motivation. These reward systems create a “what’s in it for me” mentality among students instead of fostering a genuine love for learning. Over time, students become more focused on obtaining the reward rather than on engaging with the content or developing a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Furthermore, research has demonstrated that relying on rewards can lead to a decrease in overall performance. In one study outlined in the book, participants were divided into two groups: one promised a reward for completing a puzzle, and the other was asked to complete the same puzzle without any reward. Surprisingly, the group that had not been promised a reward consistently outperformed the group that had been incentivized. This finding reflects the negative impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation and the subsequent decrease in task engagement and creativity.

These examples, among others in the book, provide evidence for the problems associated with relying on rewards. They emphasize that utilizing extrinsic motivation can have counterproductive effects and hinder individuals’ intrinsic desire to excel. By examining these case studies, readers can grasp the complexities of reward systems and understand why alternative approaches, such as fostering autonomy and emphasizing intrinsic motivation, are more effective in promoting desirable outcomes.

9.What role does punishment play in your arguments against the use of rewards?

Punishment is a concept that is central to my arguments against the use of rewards. In examining the role of punishment in this context, it is essential to acknowledge that punishments and rewards are two sides of the same coin when it comes to control. While rewards are commonly seen as positive reinforcement, and punishments as negative reinforcement, both seek to manipulate and control behavior through external means.

In my work, I advocate for an approach that promotes intrinsic motivation, autonomy, and the development of internal values and ethical reasoning. Punishment hinders the development of these qualities by focusing on compliance instead of understanding, obedience instead of critical thinking, and fear instead of empathy. Punishment teaches that those in power should be obeyed regardless of whether their requests are reasonable or ethical. It discourages creativity, individuality, and intrinsic motivation, instead favoring external control and the desire to avoid punishment.

Furthermore, punishment has been shown to have numerous negative effects on individuals and social relationships. It can lead to increased aggression, decreased self-esteem, and a lack of empathy. Punishment often elicits resentment, rebellion, or submission rather than fostering a sense of responsibility or a desire to learn from one’s mistakes. In this sense, punishment creates a power dynamic that can compromise the quality of relationships and hinder personal growth.

Additionally, the use of punishment fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior. It merely seeks to control behavior through fear and coercion, rather than exploring the root causes and working towards more effective and supportive solutions. It is important to note that punishment may temporarily suppress unwanted behavior, but it does not teach individuals the skills necessary to navigate challenging situations independently and ethically.

Ultimately, my arguments against the use of rewards are inseparable from a critique of punishment. Both approaches rely on external control, have detrimental effects on intrinsic motivation, and fail to address the core issues at hand. Instead, I propose an approach that focuses on understanding, empathy, and fostering intrinsic motivation – an approach that enables individuals to become critical thinkers, ethical decision-makers, and active participants in their own personal and social development.

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10.How do you respond to critics who argue that rewards are necessary in educational settings or workplaces to incentivize desired behavior?

Critics who argue that rewards are necessary in educational settings or workplaces to incentivize desired behavior are subscribing to a view that is deeply entrenched in traditional thinking. However, research on motivation and human behavior suggests that this reliance on rewards is not only ineffective but may also have negative consequences.

Firstly, let’s examine the concept of rewards. Rewards are extrinsic motivators – external incentives used to elicit desirable behavior. These can take the form of grades, bonuses, or other tangible prizes. While they may work in the short term, research consistently shows that they undermine intrinsic motivation and limit creativity in the long run. In educational settings, for example, students are more likely to lose interest in learning for its own sake when they are constantly incentivized by external rewards. In the workplace, employees become less engaged and find less enjoyment in their work when their focus shifts from the task itself to the reward they will receive.

Moreover, reliance on rewards creates a transactional relationship between individuals and the organizations they belong to. This approach conveys the message that people should only engage in desirable behavior if there is a tangible benefit in return. This undermines the development of internal values and a sense of autonomy. Furthermore, it promotes a short-term mindset, where individuals become less concerned with the quality of their work or learning and more focused on achieving the reward.

An alternative approach, based on self-determination theory and intrinsic motivation, suggests that people are more likely to engage in desired behavior when they are driven by personal interest, curiosity, and a sense of autonomy. It argues for creating environments that support intrinsic motivation by fostering an atmosphere of trust, offering meaningful work, and providing opportunities for autonomy and collaboration. This approach has been found to promote deeper engagement, creativity, and better overall outcomes.

To respond to critics, I would emphasize the extensive body of research demonstrating that rewards not only fail to enhance desired behavior in the long term but also undermine intrinsic motivation and creativity. Instead of relying on external incentives, we should focus on creating environments that foster intrinsic motivation and support individuals’ need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This approach will lead to more engaged and productive individuals, fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

11.Are there particular age groups or developmental stages where the negative effects of rewards are more pronounced?

There is a wealth of research that highlights the negative effects of rewards on motivation and learning, regardless of age. However, it is important to acknowledge that the impact of rewards can vary based on the developmental stage and age group of individuals.

In the case of young children, rewards can be particularly detrimental to their intrinsic motivation. Research consistently demonstrates that when children are given external rewards for doing activities they naturally enjoy, their intrinsic motivation decreases. This occurs because rewards shift the focus from the enjoyment and satisfaction derived from the activity itself to the extrinsic reward. Consequently, children may become less interested in engaging in the activity when the reward is removed.

For elementary school-aged children, rewards can have similar negative effects. At this age, children are developing their sense of competence and autonomy. Rewards that are perceived as controlling can undermine their intrinsic motivation and desire to engage in tasks independently. Displaying autonomy is crucial for their confidence and overall development, and rewards can hinder this process.

Teenagers and adolescents also experience negative effects from rewards. As young people strive to develop their own identities and make decisions aligned with their values and interests, rewards can undermine their autonomy and hinder the development of their internal locus of control. Additionally, research suggests that rewards can create a transactional mindset, emphasizing the external outcomes rather than the inherent value of the activity. This can result in shallow engagement and reduced persistence in challenging tasks.

While rewards can have detrimental effects across various age groups, it is important to note that these effects are not inevitable. Educators and parents can create environments that foster intrinsic motivation and promote a sense of autonomy, even if rewards are occasionally used. This can be achieved by providing opportunities for choice, emphasizing mastery and enjoyment rather than extrinsic outcomes, and promoting a cooperative and supportive learning environment.

In conclusion, the negative effects of rewards on motivation can be pronounced in various age groups. Children, adolescents, and even adults can be affected. However, with a thoughtful approach to reward systems and a focus on nurturing intrinsic motivation, these negative effects can be minimized, allowing individuals to thrive and develop a genuine love for learning and engagement.

12.Can you explain how extrinsic rewards can undermine creativity and problem-solving skills?

Extrinsic rewards, such as money, grades, or praise, have long been used as a tool to motivate and control behavior. However, research and practical experience suggest that these external motivators can actually undermine creativity and problem-solving skills.

One reason for this is that extrinsic rewards shift the focus from the intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction of engaging in a task to the anticipated external outcome. When individuals are driven by the desire to receive a reward, they become less interested in the process and more focused on completing the task to earn the reward. This can hinder creativity, as it narrows the scope of thought and limits exploration and experimentation. Problem-solving requires the ability to think outside the box, consider multiple perspectives, and generate novel solutions, all of which are compromised when one’s attention is solely on the reward.

Furthermore, extrinsic rewards often create a dependency on external approval, diminishing intrinsic motivation. Research has consistently shown that when individuals are rewarded for a desired behavior, their intrinsic motivation to engage in that behavior decreases over time. The pleasure and satisfaction that come from the act itself are replaced by a need for external validation. Creativity thrives on intrinsic motivation, as it allows individuals to freely explore and express their ideas without the fear of judgment or failure.

Extrinsic rewards can also foster a competitive rather than collaborative mindset. When rewards are tied to performance, individuals may become more focused on outperforming others and less likely to share ideas or cooperate. Collaboration and cooperation are fundamental to problem-solving and innovation, as different perspectives and diverse ideas fuel creativity. The presence of extrinsic rewards can create a toxic environment where individuals hoard information and feel threatened by the success of others, ultimately hindering creative problem-solving.

In conclusion, extrinsic rewards can undermine creativity and problem-solving skills by shifting the focus from intrinsic enjoyment to external outcomes, diminishing intrinsic motivation, fostering a competitive mindset, and limiting exploration and collaboration. To foster creativity and problem-solving abilities, it is important to nurture intrinsic motivation, create an environment that encourages risk-taking and exploration, and emphasize intrinsic satisfaction rather than external rewards. Ultimately, recognizing the intrinsic rewards of engaging in creative and problem-solving processes can lead to more innovative and effective outcomes.

13.Do you believe there are any circumstances where rewards can be used effectively without undermining intrinsic motivation?

I firmly believe that the use of rewards is inherently problematic, as they tend to undermine intrinsic motivation in almost all circumstances. Intrinsic motivation, the deep-seated desire to engage in an activity for its own sake, can be diminished or extinguished when rewards are introduced. The idea that rewards can be used effectively without undermining intrinsic motivation is a myth perpetuated by those who have not fully examined the research on this subject.

Rewards, such as praise, grades, or extrinsic incentives, are external inducements that distract individuals from the intrinsic value of the task at hand. They shift the focus from enjoyment, interest, and growth to the desire for the reward itself. This can lead individuals to engage in the activity only for the sake of obtaining the reward, rather than for the enjoyment or satisfaction derived from the activity itself. As a result, individuals are less likely to engage in the activity when the reward is no longer available.

While it is true that rewards can produce initial compliance or task completion, they often fail to foster long-term engagement or promote high-quality work. Research suggests that rewards tend to narrow individuals’ focus and decrease creativity, problem-solving skills, and deep understanding. Furthermore, rewards can create a dependency on external sources of gratification, hampering individuals’ ability to develop intrinsic motivation and engage in activities autonomously.

It is essential to recognize that to foster and sustain intrinsic motivation, we need to create an environment that supports individuals’ autonomy, competence, and sense of relatedness. This entails offering choices, providing meaningful and challenging tasks, and promoting collaboration and mutual respect. By focusing on these factors, individuals can develop intrinsic motivation, which leads to greater engagement, perseverance, and a higher quality of work.

Rather than relying on rewards as a means of motivation, we should consider alternative approaches such as providing constructive feedback, engaging in collaborative goal-setting, and facilitating a sense of purpose or meaning in the activity. These strategies align with the principles of intrinsic motivation and promote the development of autonomous, self-directed individuals who are genuinely driven to engage in the task at hand.

In conclusion, as Alfie Kohn, I firmly believe that rewards undermine intrinsic motivation in almost all circumstances. Rewards shift the focus from the inherent enjoyment and satisfaction of the activity to the desire for external rewards. To foster and support intrinsic motivation, we need to create an environment that promotes autonomy, competence, and relatedness, rather than relying on rewards as a means of extrinsic motivation.

14.Could you discuss the potential long-term consequences of relying on rewards as a motivator?

Relying on rewards as a motivator certainly seems like a practical approach, as it provides immediate results and can effectively compel people to act in a desired manner. However, upon closer examination, the potential long-term consequences of this strategy are deeply problematic.

Firstly, the use of rewards undermines intrinsic motivation. When individuals are primarily motivated by external incentives, such as rewards or praise, they become less interested in the activity itself. They may start to view it as a means to an end rather than something inherently valuable or enjoyable. This not only diminishes their overall engagement and enthusiasm but can also hinder the development of skills and expertise. When the reward is no longer available, there is often a corresponding decline in performance, as people no longer feel motivated to continue the behavior without the external reinforcement.

Furthermore, relying on rewards can create a dependency on external control. Individuals may start to rely on someone else to determine what they should do or how they should behave. This reliance on external guidance limits their ability to think independently, make decisions, and take risks. It inhibits the development of crucial qualities such as creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking, all of which are essential for success in many aspects of life.

Moreover, the use of rewards can result in a narrow focus on short-term goals, disregarding the long-term consequences of actions. When individuals are fixated on the reward, they may prioritize quick and easy solutions rather than considering the broader implications or seeking innovative and long-lasting solutions. This can inhibit creativity and prevent individuals from fully engaging in challenging tasks that may not yield immediate rewards but contribute to their overall growth and development.

Finally, relying on rewards fosters a transactional approach to relationships and can undermine collaboration and cooperation. When interactions are driven by the pursuit of rewards, individuals may become more concerned with personal gain rather than working towards shared goals. This can erode trust, teamwork, and the sense of community.

In conclusion, while rewards may initially seem effective at motivating individuals, they can have detrimental long-term consequences. By undermining intrinsic motivation, promoting external control, encouraging short-term thinking, and hindering collaboration, the use of rewards ultimately limits personal growth, stifles creativity, and hampers the development of crucial skills. It is crucial to explore alternative strategies, such as fostering intrinsic motivation, providing autonomy and support, and promoting a sense of purpose, to ensure people’s long-term engagement, fulfillment, and success.

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15.Are there any research studies or scientific evidence that particularly influenced your conclusions in the book?

There are several research studies and scientific evidence that have significantly influenced the conclusions presented in my book. As an author and researcher, my goal is to ensure that my arguments and claims are supported by solid evidence and rigorous research conducted by experts in the respective fields.

One study that greatly influenced my conclusions is the work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan on self-determination theory. Their research demonstrates that intrinsic motivation is a crucial factor for optimal functioning and well-being. This theory aligns with my assertion that extrinsic rewards and punishments in education and parenting can be detrimental to children’s intrinsic motivation and the development of essential life skills.

Additionally, the pioneering research of Carol Dweck on mindset has had a profound impact on my conclusions. Her work highlights the significance of fostering a growth mindset in education, emphasizing the belief that intelligence and abilities are not fixed but can be developed through effort and perseverance. This research supports my argument against the traditional approach of focusing on grades and performance, which often results in a fixed mindset and undermines intrinsic motivation.

Furthermore, studies exploring the harmful effects of competition in various settings have been influential. The research of David Johnson and Roger Johnson on cooperative learning, for instance, provides evidence that collaboration and teamwork in classrooms lead to better academic outcomes and psychosocial development. These findings support my critique of competitive environments and the importance of promoting cooperation rather than pitting students against each other.

Studies on the impact of praise, such as the work of Henderlong Corpus and Elliot Dweck, have also shaped my conclusions. Their research demonstrates that excessive praise can undermine intrinsic motivation and foster a dependence on external approval. This evidence reinforces my recommendation of providing specific and meaningful feedback instead of relying on generic and excessive praise.

In summary, my conclusions are extensively grounded in a range of research studies and scientific evidence. The work of Deci and Ryan, Dweck, Johnson and Johnson, and Henderlong Corpus and Dweck have significantly influenced my perspective on intrinsic motivation, mindset, competition, and praise, providing a robust foundation for the arguments presented in my book.

16.How do you suggest teachers and parents should praise children in a way that doesn’t undermine their intrinsic motivation?

Praising children in a way that supports and nurtures their intrinsic motivation requires a nuanced approach that avoids the pitfalls of extrinsic rewards and empty praise. As Alfie Kohn, I would propose the following strategies for teachers and parents to praise children in a manner that preserves and enhances their intrinsic motivation.

First and foremost, we need to move away from excessive, general praise that focuses on the outcome rather than the effort or process. Instead of continually uttering statements like “Good job!” or “You’re so smart!”, we should give specific feedback that highlights the child’s effort, progress, or strategies employed. For instance, one might say, “I noticed how much time and effort you put into researching that project. You must be really proud of yourself!” This type of targeted praise reinforces the child’s internal sense of competence and determination.

Furthermore, it is important to avoid praising children for tasks that they are already intrinsically motivated to do. When a child enjoys drawing, for example, constant praise for their artistic ability may actually undermine their intrinsic motivation. Instead, engage in conversation and ask open-ended questions to show genuine interest, such as “What inspired you to create this beautiful drawing?” or “Tell me more about the colors and shapes you used.” This kind of engagement focuses on the child’s process and encourages them to take ownership of their work.

Another crucial aspect is to provide autonomy-supportive environments where children can make meaningful choices and take responsibility for their own learning. Teachers and parents can encourage autonomy by allowing children to set their own goals, make decisions regarding their assignments, and follow their passions. Praise should focus on the process of decision-making and the child’s ability to reflect on and learn from their choices, rather than the outcome itself.

Lastly, it is essential to foster a growth mindset in children by praising their effort, resilience, and willingness to take on challenges. This type of praise emphasizes the development of skills and encourages children to embrace the learning process rather than seeking perfection or being praised solely for their abilities. For instance, saying “I admire your persistence in solving that math problem. You showed great determination and didn’t give up!” highlights the child’s effort rather than their innate talent.

In conclusion, praising children in a way that supports their intrinsic motivation requires a shift from indiscriminate and outcome-focused praise to targeted and process-oriented feedback. By focusing on effort, progress, autonomy, and growth mindset, teachers and parents can foster environments that promote intrinsic motivation and nurture the development of self-efficacy, resilience, and a love for learning.

17.Is it possible to transition from a reward-based system to one that fosters intrinsic motivation? If so, what steps would you recommend taking?

Yes, it is possible to transition from a reward-based system to one that fosters intrinsic motivation. In fact, my work as a behavioral psychologist and education advocate emphasizes the importance of nurturing intrinsic motivation in order to facilitate true learning and personal growth. Moving away from extrinsic rewards and towards intrinsic motivation requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach. Here are some steps that I would recommend:

1. Reflect on the current system: Begin by critically evaluating the existing reward-based system and its impact on motivation. Acknowledge the limitations of extrinsic rewards in truly engaging individuals and consider the possibility that they may actually hinder intrinsic motivation.

2. Educate and involve stakeholders: Engage teachers, parents, and students, as well as other relevant parties, in a conversation about the research on intrinsic motivation and its impact on long-term success and well-being. Share evidence that demonstrates the benefits of fostering intrinsic motivation over relying on rewards.

3. Focus on autonomy and choice: Offer individuals greater control over their own learning. Provide opportunities for students to make choices and decisions in their academic pursuits. Allow them to explore their interests and passions, tailoring the curriculum to their needs whenever possible.

4. Offer constructive feedback: Shift from using rewards as a way to evaluate performance and instead provide timely, meaningful, and constructive feedback. This helps individuals develop a sense of competence and mastery, which are key aspects of intrinsic motivation.

5. Foster a growth mindset: Encourage a belief in growth and the notion that abilities can be developed through effort and perseverance. Emphasize the value of learning and personal growth as opposed to simply achieving grades or obtaining rewards.

6. Create a supportive learning environment: Cultivate a classroom or organizational culture that encourages collaboration, risk-taking, and learning from mistakes. Normalize setbacks by emphasizing that they are valuable opportunities for growth and improvement.

7. Focus on intrinsic motivators: Seek out and highlight the intrinsic motivators in the learning process, such as curiosity, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Design assignments and activities that tap into these motivators, fostering a sense of intrinsic motivation.

Transitioning from a reward-based system to one that fosters intrinsic motivation requires a shift in mindset, values, and practices. It may not happen overnight, but with persistence, open dialogue, and a commitment to nurturing intrinsic motivation, individuals can experience greater engagement, joy, and personal growth in their learning journeys.

18.What alternatives do you propose for motivating students or employees without relying on rewards?

To motivate students or employees effectively, it is crucial to acknowledge that rewards and incentives do not yield sustainable motivation in the long run. As Alfie Kohn, I would propose alternative approaches that focus on fostering intrinsic motivation, promoting autonomy, and creating a meaningful and engaging environment.

Firstly, I would emphasize the importance of intrinsic motivation, which stems from a genuine interest in the task itself rather than external rewards. Instead of relying on rewards, I would encourage educators and employers to tap into individuals’ passions and interests. This could involve providing opportunities for exploration and discovery, allowing students and employees to choose from a range of tasks or projects, and promoting collaboration and problem-solving. By aligning tasks with personal interests and providing a sense of autonomy and ownership, intrinsic motivation can be nurtured.

Moreover, I would emphasize the significance of autonomy and empowerment. Students and employees who feel a sense of control and ownership over their work are more likely to be motivated. Allowing them to have a say in decision-making processes, offering choices, and encouraging self-directed learning can foster a sense of ownership and autonomy. Providing supportive feedback that focuses on growth and improvement rather than solely on outcomes can also fuel motivation and boost individuals’ confidence to take ownership of their work.

Finally, creating a meaningful and engaging environment is crucial to motivate students and employees without relying on rewards. This can be achieved by connecting tasks to real-life contexts, highlighting the relevance and significance of the work being done. Setting clear goals and expectations, providing regular feedback, and involving students and employees in the process of shaping the learning or working environment can enhance motivation. Additionally, incorporating diverse and stimulating learning opportunities, such as project-based learning or job enrichment, can promote engagement and motivation.

In conclusion, the alternatives proposed for motivating students or employees without relying on rewards revolve around fostering intrinsic motivation, promoting autonomy, and creating a meaningful and engaging environment. By focusing on individuals’ passions, providing autonomy, and tying tasks to real-life contexts, motivation can be sustained in a way that rewards cannot achieve. It is through nurturing intrinsic motivation, granting autonomy, and creating a meaningful environment that students and employees can truly thrive and find fulfillment in their learning or work.

19.Since the publication of your book, have there been any changes in society’s understanding and acceptance of your ideas about rewards and motivation?

Since the publication of my book, there have indeed been significant changes in society’s understanding and acceptance of my ideas about rewards and motivation. Over the years, I have witnessed a growing recognition of the limitations and drawbacks of traditional reward systems, as well as a shift towards more progressive and holistic approaches to motivation.

One of the most noticeable changes has been the increasing acknowledgement of the harmful effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. In the past, it was widely believed that rewards such as money, grades, or praise were effective tools for motivating individuals. However, my work challenged this conventional wisdom by highlighting the research that shows how rewards can actually undermine intrinsic motivation, creativity, and long-term commitment. I argued that authentic motivation arises from a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose – factors that are hindered by a reliance on external rewards. Today, this perspective has gained considerable traction, with educators, psychologists, and even some employers recognizing the need to foster intrinsic motivation rather than relying solely on external incentives.

Furthermore, discussions on the detrimental effects of competition and the importance of collaboration have become more mainstream. In my book, I emphasized the value of cooperative environments and the damage that competitive structures can cause. I argued that competition often leads to a focus on winning at all costs, damaging relationships, and undermining cooperation. Now, there is a greater appreciation for the benefits of collaboration and a recognition that healthy competition should be balanced with a cooperative mindset.

Finally, I have observed a growing interest and investment in alternative models of assessment and evaluation. As more educators and institutions recognize the limitations of traditional grading systems, there has been a push towards more authentic forms of assessment that focus on individual growth rather than ranking and comparison. This aligns with my critique of extrinsic rewards and my call for a more holistic approach to motivation and evaluation.

In conclusion, the reception to my ideas about rewards and motivation has become more favorable and accepted over time. Society’s understanding has evolved, and there is now a greater recognition of the limitations of extrinsic rewards, the drawbacks of competition, and the need for more authentic forms of assessment. While there is still progress to be made, these shifts in thinking offer hope for a future that prioritizes intrinsic motivation, collaboration, and meaningful evaluation.

20. Can you recommend more books like Punished by Rewards ?

1. The Gifts of Imperfection” by Dr. Brené Brown:

In this powerful book, Dr. Brené Brown explores the concept of wholehearted living and encourages readers to embrace their imperfections. With her warm and compassionate voice, Brown reveals how embracing vulnerability and cultivating self-compassion can lead to a more fulfilling and authentic life. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to live with courage and authenticity.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie:

Dale Carnegie’s timeless classic offers practical advice on how to navigate interpersonal relationships and achieve success in both personal and professional arenas. Carnegie’s insights into leadership, conflict resolution, and effective communication are accompanied by compelling real-life examples. Reading this book will equip you with the tools to build meaningful connections and positively influence others.

3. Stop Walking on Eggshells” by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger:

Written as a companion and guide for individuals dealing with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD), “Stop Walking on Eggshells” provides readers with valuable insights and strategies to navigate difficult relationships. Drawing on proven therapeutic techniques, Mason and Kreger provide practical advice on setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and promoting healthy communication while managing the challenges of BPD.

4. Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl:

Written by psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, this book delves into the search for meaning and purpose in life. Frankl’s personal experiences in Nazi concentration camps during World War II form the backdrop for his exploration of the human capacity for resilience and finding meaning in even the most challenging circumstances. This thought-provoking book serves as a profound reminder of the power of hope and inner strength.

5. Atomic Habits” by James Clear:

In “Atomic Habits,” James Clear unveils a practical framework for creating positive habits and breaking bad ones. With an emphasis on small but meaningful changes, Clear guides readers through the process of habit formation, debunking common myths and providing actionable strategies along the way. This book enables readers to understand the power of tiny habits and their ability to lead to remarkable personal and professional transformations.

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