College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

The Real and Imagined Harmful Effects of Rewards: Implications for Clinical Practice

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-26-1998

Keywords

Psychotherapy, Behaviorism, Reward, Reinforcement, Intrinsic motivation

Publication Title

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

ISSN

0005-7916

Volume

29

Issue/No.

2

Abstract

In recent years, a number of researchers and social critics have cautioned against the widespread application of behavioral interventions on the grounds that the philosophy of behaviorism is fundamentally manipulative and damaging to creative and intrinsically motivated behavior. Most central to their arguments are concerns about the harmful effects of “extrinsic” rewards. Though concerns about the allegedly harmful effects of “rewards” on intrinsically motivated actions may have been partially allayed by a recent meta-analysis, proponents of the view that intrinsic interest is eroded by the delivery of contingent rewards will likely continue to attest to the dangers of operant conditioning and its application to human behavior. The present manuscript addresses the content of claims about the harmful effects of extrinsic rewards. While consideration is given to the existing behavior therapy literature and its treatment of “natural” versus “arbitrary” rewards, some surprising convergences between the views of self-determination theorists and behavioral practitioners are noted.

DOI

10.1016/S0005-7916(98)00011-1

Peer Reviewed

Find in your library

Share

COinS