Regular readers know that I have a keen interest in issues around motivation — my new book is titled Helping Students Motivate Themselves and I have a “The Best…” list on My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students.

Over the past week, I’ve read several good pieces worth sharing.

First, The New Scientist has published one of the best articles on the topic I’ve seen. It’s titled “The bonus myth: How paying for results can backfire.” You have to register in order to see it, but it is available for free. Here is an excerpt:

These studies suggest that offering rewards can stop people doing things for the sheer joy of it, an idea known as the overjustification effect.

The existence of the overjustification effect has been disputed. However, a 1999 meta-analysis by Deci and colleagues of 128 studies strongly suggests it is real (Psychological Bulletin, vol 125, p 627). “The facts are absolutely clear,” says Deci. “There is no question that in virtually all circumstances in which people are doing things in order to get rewards, extrinsic tangible rewards undermine intrinsic motivation.”

What’s more, the studies suggest that the greater surveillance, evaluation and competition that tend to accompany performance-related rewards further undermine intrinsic motivation, and that offering rewards can also stop people taking responsibility.

These findings suggest that in the kind of jobs many people do as much for love as for money – from healthcare to science journalism – any incentives specifically tied to performance, as opposed to a normal salary or unanticipated bonuses, may backfire. However, this clearly doesn’t apply to someone who gains no satisfaction from their job and does it only for the money. “If you are doing a boring, stupid task, rewards cannot undermine intrinsic motivation that you don’t have,” Deci says.

Here are three other posts/articles on the same topic worth reading:

Motivation, the Elusive Drive by Kevin Washburn

Motivation: It’s All About Me by Barbara Blackburn and Abbigail Armstrong

Disassembling Motivation by Ben Grey