Characteristics of the rewarder and intrinsic motivation of the rewardee (Deci et al., 1981)

Deci, E. L., Nezlek, J., & Sheinman, L. (1981). Characteristics of the rewarder and intrinsic motivation of the rewardee. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40(1), 1-10.

Most of the studies on the effects of rewards and constraints have indicated that rewards decrease intrinsic motivation. However, many activities for which intrinsic motivation seems desirable occur within the context of external rewards and constraints. This begs the question: How can rewards and constraints be used in a way that will maintain or enhance intrinsic motivation? In this article, the authors found the following:

  • Children whose teachers were oriented toward controlling them are less intrinsically motivated and have lower self esteem than children whose teachers were oriented toward supporting autonomy.
  • Control-oriented teachers use rewards controllingly (to control people’s behavior); autonomy-oriented teachers use rewards informationally (to convey positive information about people’s competence in the context of self-determination).
  • Children perceived autonomy-oriented teachers as facilitating personal responsibility and internal control more than control-oriented teachers.

Thus, they recommend that rewards be administered in a way that does not emphasize control but rather signifies competence.

Cognitive evaluation theory – there are two psychological processes through which rewards or other situational factors can affect a person’s intrinsic motivation:

  1. A change in perceived locus of causality (PLOC) – when the PLOC is internal, people feel self-determining. When people are rewarded for or constrained in doing an activity, the PLOC tends to become more external; when they do an activity in the absence of rewards and constraints, the PLOC tends to become more internal.
  2. A change in perceived competence – If people’s perceptions and feelings of competence are enhanced, their intrinsic motivation will be increased. Can be due to success experiences or following positive feedback.

One’s perceived competence appears to affect one’s intrinsic motivation only if it occurs within the context of self-determination.

All rewards and constraints have two functional aspects — a controlling aspect which brings peoples’ behavior under the control of the reward or constraint, and an informational aspect, which provides people with information about their competence.

Authors argue that the rewarder’s orientation toward control or autonomy affects which aspect of the reward would be more salient.

CET treats intrinsic motivation as a general motivation toward competence and self-determination. However, Harter has argued for component dimensions — 3 motivational dimensions (desire for challenge; curiosity/interest; desire for independent mastery) and 2 evaluative dimensions (independent judgment and internal criteria for success).

The paper contains three main hypotheses:

H1: A relationship exists btw rewarder’s attitude toward control/autonomy and the intrinsic motivation of the rewardee. [data supports]

H2: A relationship exists btw rewarder’s attitudes toward control/autonomy and the rewardee’s independent evaluation. [not related — teachers affect children’s desire for learning but the basis the judging their performance seems to become more internal simply as a result of maturation.]

H3: When rewarders are very controlling, the recipients of those rewards are likely to feel less good about themselves than when the rewarders promote autonomy. [General self-worth and cognitive competence were most affected by teacher orientation.]

Assumption is that when teachers have different attitudes, they will behave differently and their different behaviors will lead to children’s perceiving their classrooms and teachers to be different. Teachers who were more autonomy oriented would create the type of classroom climate that facilitates intrinsic motivation. When children perceive the classroom to be more supportive of autonomy, they will be more intrinsically motivated and have a higher self-esteem.

deCharms (1976) found that children will be more intrinsically motivated in autonomy-oriented classrooms–those that facilitate internal control, goal setting, goal-directed behavior, accurate perception of reality, personal responsibility, and self-confidence.

Survey measures used:

  1. Perceived Confidence Scale for Children (Harter, in press-c)
  2. Scale of intrinsic versus extrinsic orientation in the classroom (Harter, in press-b)
  3. Classroom climate questionnaire — assesses children’s perceptions of the extent to which their teachers and classroom procedures support intrinsically oriented behavior (deCharms, 1976)
  4. Measure of teachers’ control versus autonomy orientation
    1. “Highly controlling” – teachers make decisions about what is right and utilize highly controlling sanctions to produce the desired behavior
    2. “Moderately controlling” – teachers make the decisions and emphasize that the children should for their own good perform the desired behaviors — the control is more covert
    3. “Moderately autonomous” – teachers encourage children to compare themselves with others to see how to handle the problem
    4. “Highly autonomous” – teachers encourage children to consider the relevant elements of the situation and to take responsibility for working out a solution to the problem

Teachers seem to have had a clear and important impact on the children that occurred and stabilized in the first 6 weeks of the school year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: