Aspects of the Development of Competence

By W. Andrew Collins; Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology | Go to book overview

5 Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Children: Detrimental Effects of Superfluous Social Controls

Mark R. Lepper Stanford University

My goal in this chapter is to present an overview of a research program concerned with the effectiveness of different techniques of social control in influencing a person's behavior in subsequent situations in which salient extrinsic controls are minimal. In particular, I wish to examine some of the conditions under which initially successful, but functionally unnecessary, social-control techniques-involving the use of rewards, threats of punishment, and other forms of extrinsic constraint--may sometimes have detrimental effects on subsequent behavior in settings in which such external constraints are no longer salient.

My more specific aims are several: First, I wish to describe briefly a set of studies concerned with the effects of threats of punishmnent on children's "internalization" of adult prohibitions and their behavior in subsequent situations in the absence, of further prohibitions. Second, I wish to consider in greater detail more recent research concerned with the effects of extrinsic rewards on children's subsequent intrinsic interest in the activities for which rewards had been previously offered. Both lines of investigation, I wish to suggest, provide evidence that the use of unnecessarily powerful techniques of social control to achieve initial compliance with an adult request may lead to lessened later internalization or subsequent intrinsic interest.

After sketching out these two lines of research, I wish to place this research in a broader context--to make clear that the phenomena examined in these studies are only a small (though, I think, an interesting) part of the larger picture of the ways in which social-influence attempts may affect subsequent behavior and the factors that determine the effects of extrinsic incentives on subsequent behavior. Finally, I wish to conclude with some speculations on

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