Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Overjustification Effect

Blog post at You Are Not So Smart
Related to intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation

According to the research, in modern America the average income required to be happy day-to-day, to experience “emotional well being” is about $75,000 a year. According to the researchers, past that point adding more to your income “does nothing for happiness, enjoyment, sadness, or stress.”

In 1980, David Rosenfield, Robert Folger and Harold Adelman at Southern Methodist University revealed a way you can defeat the overjustification effect. Seek employers who dole out reward – paychecks, bonuses, promotions, etc. – based not on quotas or task completions but instead based on competence.

The results of the study suggested when you get rewarded based on how well you perform a task, as long as those reasons are made perfectly clear, rewards will generate that electric exuberance of intrinsic validation, and the higher the reward, the better the feeling and the more likely you will try harder in the future. On the other hand, if you are getting rewarded just for being a warm body, no matter how well you do your job, no matter what you achieve, the electric feeling is absent. In those conditions greater rewards don’t lead to more output, don’t encourage you to strive for greatness. Overall, the study suggested rewards don’t have motivational power unless they make you feel competent. Money alone doesn’t do that.

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