The field of social psychology is sometimes accused of doing no more than ratifying common sense, so it’s worth paying attention when its findings are genuinely surprising. Case in point: the discovery that when we are rewarded for doing something, we tend to lose interest in whatever we had to do to get the reward.
This outcome has been confirmed scores of times with all sorts of rewards and tasks, and across cultures, ages and genders. Yet many teachers, parents and bosses persist in using versions of what has been called “sugarcoated control.”
Psychologists often distinguish between intrinsic motivation (wanting to do something for its own sake) and extrinsic motivation (for example, doing something in order to snag a goody). The first is the best predictor of high-quality achievement, and it can actually be undermined by the second. Moreover, when you promise people a reward, they often perform more poorly as a result.
Weird, but that’s what all the literature and culture has told us is the way to raise our children. And look where that has gotten us as a society.
Maybe it’s the same people who have been in charge of official nutrition and dietary advice.