Sunday, June 8, 2014

Debunkery: Motivation

A lot of ideas I took for granted when I was young now seem questionable, or just wrong. Motivation provides a good example. I used to think, if you don't want something to happen, attach a cost or punishment to it. If you want something to happen, attach a reward.
Psychologists have attacked this idea. Alfie Kohn wrote a book on this, titled "Punished by Rewards." Punishment is complicated by factors such as the certainty, swiftness, and severity. But even rewards have unexpected limits and complications. Intrinsic motivation taps in to persons' understanding of the world, their identity, and the meaning and significance of the activity. Motivation can be affected by group morale, effective leadership, and other factors. And none of this is uncontroversial, psychologists disagree with each other, and business consultants will be happy to sell you help based on theories old and new.
Maybe it's a good thing we can't quite figure his out. If it was easy, advertisers would have us buying robotically, our bosses would have us filling out TPS reports enthusiastically, and the legislature would prevent us from having any sort of fun.

No comments: