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Author Topic: Fascinating article about harm of monetary incentives: v. relevant to dc ideas  (Read 2737 times)
mouser
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« on: July 04, 2007, 02:12:43 PM »

This is an article about how offering people monetary rewards can have a negative effect on things.
Very relevant reading for dc ideas and stuff.  Definitely food for thought.

It may be behind NY times firewall for members so i'll make a lengthy quote.

I think some take home messages for donationware in general and DC specifically is:
  • As a donationware author, you are never going to make sufficient money to make this a good path for you if your aim is to make money.  That is, there isn't enough money to be made for it to be a dominant motivator, and if you try to look for money to be your motivator you are going to be in trouble.
  • It's not feasible for a site like DC to have money be the reward that motivates people.  And furthermore, care must be taken that the ability for people to receive donations doesn't actually diminish the pleasure that you get from doing stuff for the pure enjoyment of it.
  • In other words, don't focus on donationcredits here, they are a fun little extra way of people saying thanks -- not a way to measure your "success" or impact.
  • It means that a public thank you, or a nice note with a 0.01 donationcredit gift, might be more meaningful and make someone happier than a larger donation without a fun thank you note.

Quote
NEW YORK CITY has decided to offer cash rewards to some students based on their attendance records and exam performance. Diligent, high-achieving seventh graders will be able to earn up to $500 in a year. The plan is the brainchild of Roland G. Fryer, an economist who has been appointed as “chief equality officer” of the city’s Department of Education.

The assumption that underlies the project is simple: people respond to incentives. If you want people to do something, you have to make it worth their while. This assumption drives virtually all of economic theory.

Sure, there are already many rewards in learning: gaining understanding (of yourself and others), having mysterious or unfamiliar aspects of the world opened up to you, demonstrating mastery, satisfying curiosity, inhabiting imaginary worlds created by others, and so on. Learning is also the route to more prosaic rewards, like getting into good colleges and getting good jobs. But these rewards are not doing the job. If they were, children would be doing better in school.

The logic of the plan reveals a second assumption that economists make: the more motives the better. Give people two reasons to do something, the thinking goes, and they will be more likely to do it, and they’ll do it better, than if they have only one. Providing some cash won’t disturb the other rewards of learning, rewards that are intrinsic to the process itself. They will only provide a little boost. Mr. Fryer’s reward scheme is intended to add incentives to the ones that already exist.

Unfortunately, these assumptions that economists make about human motivation, though intuitive and straightforward, are false. In particular, the idea that adding motives always helps is false. There are circumstances in which adding an incentive competes with other motives and diminishes their impact. Psychologists have known this for more than 30 years.

In one experiment, nursery school children were given the opportunity to draw with special markers. After playing, some of the children were given “good player” awards and others were not. Some time later, the markers were reintroduced to the classroom. The researchers kept track of which children used the markers, and they collected the pictures that had been drawn. The youngsters given awards were less likely to draw at all, and drew worse pictures, than those who were not given the awards.

Why did this happen? Children draw because drawing is fun and because it leads to a result: a picture. The rewards of drawing are intrinsic to the activity itself. The “good player” award gives children another reason to draw: to earn a reward. And it matters — children want recognition. But the recognition undermines the fun, so that later, in the absence of a chance to earn an award, the children aren’t interested in drawing.

Similar results have been obtained with adults. When you pay them for doing things they like, they come to like these activities less and will no longer participate in them without a financial incentive. The intrinsic satisfaction of the activities gets “crowded out” by the extrinsic payoff.

An especially striking example of this was reported in a study of Swiss citizens about a decade ago. Switzerland was holding a referendum about where to put nuclear waste dumps. Researchers went door-to-door in two Swiss cantons and asked people if they would accept a dump in their communities. Though people thought such dumps might be dangerous and might decrease property values, 50 percent of those who were asked said they would accept one. People felt responsibility as Swiss citizens. The dumps had to go somewhere, after all.

But when people were asked if they would accept a nuclear waste dump if they were paid a substantial sum each year (equal to about six weeks’ pay for the average worker), a remarkable thing happened. Now, with two reasons to say yes, only about 25 percent of respondents agreed. The offer of cash undermined the motive to be a good citizen.

It is as if, when asked the question, people asked themselves whether they should respond based on considerations of self-interest or considerations of public responsibility. Half of the people in the uncompensated condition of the study thought they should focus on their responsibilities. But the offer of money, in effect, told people that they should consider only their self-interest. And as it turned out, through the lens of self-interest, even six weeks’ pay wasn’t enough.
...



from http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/ (great blog)
« Last Edit: July 04, 2007, 06:08:55 PM by mouser » Logged
skybright
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2007, 05:52:47 PM »

Exellent article smiley Something every person can learn from. thumbs up
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f0dder
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[Well, THAT escalated quickly!]

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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2007, 06:12:45 PM »

Quote from: mouser
it means that a public thank you, or a nice note with a 0.01 donationcredit gift, might be more meaningful and make someone happier than a larger donation without a fun thank you note.
Indeed!

I'm very thankful for the donations I've received, some have really helped in the tougher months, but the best donations are those with a comment (or a lot of digits, hehe).
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- carpe noctem
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