Article | Contemporary Educational Psychology | July 1989

Immunizing Children Against the Negative Effects of Reward

by B. A. Hennessey, T. M. Amabile and M. Martinage


Two studies were conducted to examine the effect of intrinsic motivation training on children's subsequent motivational orientation and creativity in an expected reward situation. Past research has demonstrated the overjustification effect: Children who work on an interesting task in order to obtain a reward demonstrate lower subsequent intrinsic motivation than do children not working for a reward. Other studies have shown similar negative effects on creativity. The primary hypothesis of the present research was that the usual overjustification effect would be counteracted by directed discussion sessions focused on intrinsic reasons for working in school and explicitly dealing with ways to cognitively distance oneself from the reward contingency. Both studies provide partial support for this hypothesis. In fact, children receiving the intrinsic motivation training seemed to later treat reward as an actual augmentation of intrinsic motivation. Possible mechanisms for this phenomenon are discussed, including the role of individual difference variables such as self-esteem.

Keywords: Creativity; Motivation and Incentives; Training; Early Childhood Education; Learning; Teaching;


Hennessey, B. A., T. M. Amabile, and M. Martinage. "Immunizing Children Against the Negative Effects of Reward." Contemporary Educational Psychology 14, no. 3 (July 1989): 212–227.