Decoupling appraisal from pay increases LO19896

Jon Krispin (
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 15:48:02 -0500

Replying to LO19874 --

Doug Merchant wrote:

>Long ago (in a far away place :-), I remember reading of a study where
>children were permitted to color pictures for the intrinsic joy of
>coloring and the number of pictures painted recorded. The children then
>turned "pro", they were paid for each picture they colored and the volume
>of pictures painted increased. When the extrinsic pay was discontinued,
>the volume of pictures painted dropped below the original rate.

>If I understand your comment correctly, you would argue that other factors
>were changed in the process, such as the adults running the study would no
>longer smile as much during the second round of intrinsic pay.

Actually, Doug, the explanation of why the rate of picture making declined
to below the introduction of "extrinsic" rewards following their removal
is much simpler than trying to find differences in the responses of the
experimenters in the second "intrinsic" condition. There are many studies
such as the one that you mentioned that have been offered as support of
the idea that intrinsic motivation is reduced by the introduction of
extrinsic rewards. However, there are many more studies that have been
done that suggest that conclusions such as those from the study that you
mentioned are really simply due to artifactual limitations of the reseach
design used in the study.

The depression of the picture making rate that they documented and
attributed to the detrimental effects of extrinsic reinforcement is
actually a post reinforcement pause that results from a short term
satiation of the activity performed. This phenomenon has been well
documented in behavioral analysis research for decades. Many behavioral
studies use a design very similar in structure to the one used in the
study that you mentioned to demonstrate the effects of reinforcement. They
measure the rate of a behavior (in this case, picture making) in its
naturally occuring state (providing no "extrinsic" reinforcement),
followed by the application of reinforcement (recording the change in the
rate of the behavior), followed by a return to the original condition
(again, no "extrinsic" reinforcement). The critical difference is not the
pattern of the study, but rather the length of time that the behavior is
monitored. In behavioral studies, the behavior is monitored for days, or
even weeks, not simply minutes or hours.

This research method (with data represented as either a run chart of the
behavior rate over time or a cumulative tally of behavior over time with
changes in condition marked clearly) is used to verify the impact of the
intervention (application of reinforcement) and demonstrate causality
using a within subjects design (most social-psychological and even
clinical psychological research uses variations on between subjects
designs ). What is typical is a baseline rate, followed by an increased
rate, followed by a short term (but "reliable") activity satiation dip,
and finally a return to baseline activity rates. If this pattern is
demonstrated, then the change in behavior during the "experimental" phase
can be attributed to the introduction of reinforcement, and the
restoration due to its removal (as opposed to another confounding

In the study that you mentioned, had the researchers monitored the picture
making behavior long enough in the "post" condition, they would have seen
the rate of picture making return to its original rate. This pattern has
been replicated literally hundreds of times. The depression isn't due to
any adverse effect of "extrinsic" reinforcement, or even to any change in
the experimenters, but simply because the subject needed a break from
picture making behavior following a particularly intense time of picture
making. The actual rate of behavior that occurs in a "free feeding" state
generally remains the same over time.

Jon Krispin


"Jon Krispin" <>

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