Alfie Kohn on Parenting

19 November 2008 at 2:03 am 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

A new item for our Alfie Kohn archive, courtesy of Joshua Gans.

One comment on the alleged crowding-out effect of extrinsic motivation. As I explain to my students, even when behavior is intrinsically motivated, extrinsic motivation can have powerful effects on the margin. For example, I didn’t go into academia for the money, but because I love research and teaching, I like keeping my own hours, I enjoy walking through leafy quads, and I look right smart in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. However, on the margin, the choice between teaching one more course or one less, attending this conference or that, working on one paper or another, is most definitely affected by monetary and other professional rewards. 

Likewise, I want my children to work hard, be kind to others, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms, and so on, not because of rewards and punishments, but because those are the rights thing to do.  But do I use extrinsic motivation to elicit marginal changes in behavior, subject to those general rules? You bet your Christmas Wish List I do.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory.

Utrecht Conference on Firm Governance Sentences to Ponder

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren  |  22 November 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Alfie Kohn is a living paradox. He has spent his entire life arguing that extrinsic motivation does not work. His motivation for doing so is entirely extrinsic.
    In particular, his charges against behaviorism are based on popular misconceptions. There is no such thing as intrinsic motivation. Motivational factors are either known and immediate: those are labeled extrinsic; the rest are unkwnown and part of the individual’s learning history, those are called intrinsic. All of this can be found in the literature that Kohn is unfamiliar with.

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