Effects of reward contexts on young children's task interest

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10 Scopus citations


Two studies designed to examine the consequences of rewards and the contexts in which they are used on children's task interest are presented. In Experiment 1, 56 preschoolers in three reward conditions (performance contingent, task contingent, and no reward) were presented with blocks, some of which they were free to use and some of which were not allowed to be used. After performing, all children were observed during a 5-min nonreward session in which they were free to choose whether to play with the blocks. Although immediate compliance and interest were comparable for all groups, the no-reward group evidenced significantly greater free-choice interest than did the two reward groups. It was suggested that rewards may undermine intrinsic interest by heightening the salience of the restrictive context. In Experiment 2, this suggestion was tested. Twenty-eight children were presented with the blocks in an experimental design that differed in context (permissive vs. restrictive) and in whether rewards were offered. Rewards were found to undermine interest only within the restrictive context. I concluded that rewards may affect task interest by influencing the social milieu of adult-child interaction. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • General Psychology


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