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Overjustification Effect: Reaping Rewards, Losing Passion

The Overjustification Effect is a fascinating thing in psychology. It helps us understand how rewards and prizes from the outside can sometimes make us less interested in things we naturally like to do. This is important in many areas of life, like school, being a parent, and working at a job.

In this article, we’ll explore the overjustification effect in greater detail. We’ll explain what it is, why it happens, and how it affects our everyday lives. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of why too many rewards can sometimes be a problem.

What is the Overjustification Effect Psychology?

The overjustification effect, also known as the undermining effect, is when getting a prize or reward makes you less interested in something you already like doing. Simply put, if you enjoy doing something, like drawing, and then someone starts giving you money for it, you might stop enjoying it as much. This happens because you start focusing on the money instead of the fun of drawing. So, when the money goes away, you might not want to draw anymore.

For example, think of a kid who loves drawing pictures. They have a great time using crayons and paper to make beautiful art, just because it’s fun. But then, their parents give them money for each drawing they make. Now, the child might think more about the money than the joy of drawing. So, if the money stops, the child might not want to draw pictures anymore.


The Psychology Behind Overjustification

To understand the overjustification effect better, we need to look at how our minds work. There are two types of motivation:

  1. Intrinsic Motivation: This is when you do something because you want to and it makes you happy. You do it for yourself because you like it.
  2. Extrinsic Motivation: This is when you do something because you’ll get something in return, like money, gifts, or recognition.

The overjustification effect happens when these two types of motivation clash. When you really enjoy doing something for your own satisfaction (intrinsic motivation), and then someone offers you rewards or prizes (extrinsic motivation), your focus might shift from enjoying the activity to wanting the rewards. Over time, you might start to care more about the rewards than the fun of the activity itself. This can lead to you losing interest in the activity when the rewards go away.

Experimental Evidence

Psychologists did different tests to see if the overjustification effect is real. One famous test in 1973 by Mark Lepper and his friends shows this idea. They used kids and split them into three groups:

  1. Group 1: These kids drew pictures just because they wanted to, without any prizes.
  2. Group 2: These kids were told they’d get a small reward for drawing.
  3. Group 3: These kids were also told they’d get a reward, but it was more than what Group 2 would get.

What they found was interesting. Group 1, the kids who drew for fun, kept drawing even after the test. But Group 2, the ones with small rewards, didn’t want to draw as much when the rewards stopped. Group 3, with bigger rewards, had an even bigger drop in wanting to draw when the rewards were gone.

This shows that the more significant the reward, the more it can make you lose interest in what you are doing just for fun.

Learn About: Pluralistic Ignorance (Breaking the Chains of Collective Misconception)

Implications of the Overjustification Effect

Understanding the overjustification effect can have a big impact on different parts of our lives:

  1. Education: In schools and at home, it’s important to be careful when using rewards to motivate kids. While rewards can help sometimes, using them too much can take away a child’s natural curiosity and excitement for learning. We want kids to enjoy learning for its own sake.
  2. Work: In the grown-up world, bosses need to find the right balance between giving money and recognition as rewards and making sure employees feel good about their work. If we rely too much on rewards, it might make people lose interest in their jobs over time.
  3. Hobbies and Being Creative: When people do things they love, like painting or playing music, they should do it because it makes them happy. Adding rewards can make it less fun. So, it’s essential to do these things just for the joy they bring.
  4. Parenting: Parents should encourage their kids to explore what they love and enjoy, not just for rewards. This way, kids can grow and have fun while doing what they like, instead of thinking about getting stuff as a prize.

Tricks to Make Rewards Work Better for You

To make sure the overjustification effect doesn’t cause problems, we can follow some simple ideas:

  1. Use Rewards Carefully: Don’t give rewards all the time. Save them for when you really need to motivate someone, especially for tasks they might not find interesting.
  2. Talk About the Good Parts: Remind people why they enjoy doing something. Focus on the fun, personal growth, and getting better at it.
  3. Let People Decide: Allow individuals to have control over what they’re doing. This can make them feel like it’s their choice and boost their natural motivation.
  4. Surprise with Rewards: Sometimes, it’s good to give rewards as a surprise. This way, people won’t expect a reward every single time they do something. It keeps the fun and motivation going.

These ideas can help us enjoy the things we do without worrying too much about rewards.

In summary, the overjustification effect teaches us how important it is to balance external rewards and our inner drive to do things. While rewards can help motivate us, using them too much can make us less interested in what we’re doing naturally. This is important for teachers, parents, bosses, and anyone who wants to keep people motivated.

To use this knowledge wisely, we need to find the right balance – using rewards when needed while still keeping our love for what we do. This way, we can keep enjoying our favorite activities without losing the joy that comes from within.

3 thoughts on “Overjustification Effect: Reaping Rewards, Losing Passion”

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