Is money really a motivating factor?

For a few decades now, a large body of research has been done on the effect of money and other extrinsic factors on worker and student psychological health, cognition, and performance. A lot of this research accumulated into a theory (in the broad sense of the word) called Self-Determination Theory. SDT is concerned with motivation and meeting people’s psychological needs. It states that the best psychological, behavioural, and productive results are found when autonomy and self-motivation are maximized. In other words, SDT emphasizes intrinsic motivation.

This was recently brought to light by Daniel Pink’s talk on TED, which was what inspired me in the first place to look through academic journals about motivation. His presentation does involve a few citations, and there is far more literature out there. Here’s the clip:

One of the studies mentioned in the video:
Large rewards have a negative effect on performance. [Ariely, D., Gneezy, U., Loewenstein, G., & Mazar, N., 2005. “High Large Stakes and Big Mistakes (link to PDF).” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Working Paper No. 05-11]

You will find that there are complexities in Pink’s argument about, for example, when intrinsic motivation works more (when tasks involve even minute levels of cognitive skill, lateral thinking and creativity) and when it works less (linear thinking and menial work). I was unable to find the research that backs up his specific points about this, but I’m sure it exists. As the research I will link to shows, extrinsic reward/punishment appears to always undermine intrinsic motivation and self-determination. This in turn effects performance.

With regards to the extremely menial tasks that Daniel Pink says are more positively affected by extrinsic motivation: A question we have to ask ourselves is, do we want to undermine the cognitive abilities and autonomy of workers and students who do the most menial tasks? If so, is a society that undermines the psychological health of its poorest citizens really a society that promotes happiness and well-being? I have my own critiques of the productivity- and efficiency-based aspects of our economic system, but that will have to be saved for another time.

Anyway, on to the science. I have collected a very small percentage of the literature out there.

Effects of intrinsic motivation on  performance, satisfaction, and cognition

Task significance increases job performance. Task significance has to do with how others perceive the work that you do, and how that work affects them. Task significance is considered an intrinsic motivational factor. In this study, there were several measurements of task significance that involved such things as perceived social impact and perceived social worth.
[Grant, A. M., 2008: “The Significance of Task Significance: Job Performance Effects, Relational Mechanisms, and Boundary Conditions.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 93:1]

According to one study, monetary reward has a physiological effect that undermines intrinsic motivation and negatively affects cognition.
[Murayama, K., Matsumoto, M, Izuma, K., & Matsumoto, K., 2010. “Neural basis of the undermining effect of monetary reward on intrinsic motivation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]

Intrinsic motivation, as well as extrinsic motivational factors that promote self-determination, increased student performance.
[Levesque, C., Copeland, K. J., Pattie, M. D., & Deci, E. L., 2010. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation.” International Encyclopedia of Education, Third Ed.]

Intrinsic motivation increases “deep learning” (understanding material), whereas extrinsic motivation increases “surface learning” (reproducing material without necessarily understanding it).
[Moneta, G. B., & Spada, M. M., 2009. “Coping as a mediator of the relationships between trait intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and approaches to studying during academic exam preparation.” Personality and Individual Differences, 46:5-6]

Self-determination and intrinsic motivation increase job satisfaction.
[Richer, S. F., Blanchard, C., & Vallerand, R. J., 2002. “A motivational model of work turnover.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32:10]

Extrinsic rewards and punishments have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation

A meta-analysis that examined 128 studies—a few of them meta-analyses themselves—about the effect of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation, concluded once again that reward has a negative effect on intrinsic motivation.
[Deci, E.L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R., 1999. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation.” Psychological Bulletin, 125:6]

Another study on the polarizing effect of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation.
[Wiechman, B. M., & Gurland, S. T., 2009. “What happens during the free-choice period? Evidence of a polarizing effect of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation.” Journal of Research in Personality, 43:4]

These studies have been going on for a while. A couple examples:
[Pritchard, R. D., Campbell, K. M., & Campbell, D. J., 1976. “Effects of extrinsic financial rewards on intrinsic motivation.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 62:1]
[Kruglanski, A. W., 1975. “Effect of task-intrinsic rewards upon extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31:4]

~ by owlcat on 20 February, 2011.

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