Reward-induced decreased play effects

reattribution of motivation, competing responses, or avoiding frustration?

David G. Perry, Kay Bussey, John Redman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Children who have been promised and given an extrinsic reward for performing an intrinsically interesting response sometimes show decreased interest in the activity when extrinsic rewards are withdrawn. The present study tested the hypothesis that when reward for an activity is withdrawn, the activity acquires aversive properties through the arousal of anticipatory frustration, which causes the decreased interest. 7-year-old children initially performed a target activity (drawing) either with or without a promise of contingent reward. Subsequently during free play half the children in each condition were promised an additional reward (to be given at the conclusion of free play but not contingently upon drawing), whereas the other half were not. The promise of receiving the noncontingent reward was expected to prevent previously rewarded subjects from anticipating any frustration, thereby eliminating the children's motivation for avoiding the previously rewarded activity. The finding that the initial promise of reward for drawing reduced subjects' interest in drawing only when children could not anticipate a reward at the conclusion of free play supported this reasoning. Interpretations of the pattern of results in terms of self-perception and competing response theories were deemed unsatisfactory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1374
Number of pages6
JournalChild Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1977
Externally publishedYes

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