May 12th 2011.
It’s a lie that parents tell their kids all the time, and it’s usually about food. But now there is evidence that even if kids don’t like, say, an icky vegetable, if you can get them to keep sampling the food eventually they will grow to enjoy it.
This finding flies in the face of all kinds of evidence that pay for play, while a great motivator in the short run, rarely leads to actually enjoying an act you did not previously enjoy. In fact, Edward Deci, psychology professor at the University of Rochester, found the reverse to be true: stuff you enjoy becomes less enjoyable the minute you are paid to do it.
In a study, Deci looked at groups of people performing a variety of tasks they enjoyed, like working a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. He found that rewarding them for the task detracted from the experience. “There is significance to rewarding people,” he told me. “You get them to do what you want them to do, but not what they want to do.” Hence they stop doing it once the pay stops. Call it sticker shock.
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By Dan Kadlec