So I’ve been grappling (solely in my head) with issues of intrinsic motivation and reward… how do I use rewards in a “wise” way?
One interesting way to think about this question comes from and
Here’s the cool result:
Causal facts are the best reward (for getting these preschoolers to persist on a boring task) and statistically indistinguishable from stickers!
The authors note that even though these causal facts may be reducing the intrinsic interest in the pegboard task itself (boohoo), at least this kind of reward is consistent with a broader “pleasure of learning”! Even though rewards might reduce interest in the task at hand, perhaps a reward like this one might support interest in more learning! This is a trade-off I’m more willing to take.
To me, I think thinking about causality has also made me realize why I think melanin is a more satisfying answer to young children’s race questions! It’s a causal explanation (e.g., melanin as protection from sun; folks from sunnier places have more melanin). I wish I could get a student interested in knowing whether causal explanations helps kids be less racist than non-causal ones (which I mostly find in these race books — “different races are beautiful”).
So for the question, “Is knowledge its own reward?” the answer turns out to be YES! But only some kinds of knowledge!!!
[Here’s a blog post by Garth Sundem on the same study from Psychology Today.]