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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, As, Praise, and Other Bribes Hardcover – August, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Kohn, the author of other iconoclastic books, among them You Know What They Say: The Truth About Popular Beliefs ( LJ 8/90), here shows how rewards of all sorts undermine our efforts to teach students, manage workers, and raise children. Although aimed at a general audience, the book is based on extensive research and documented with almost 100 pages of notes and references. The first six review the behaviorist tradition and lay out in a clear and convincing manner Kohn's central argument that "pop behaviorism" is dangerously prevalent in our society. Here Kohn discusses why rewards, including praise, fail to promote lasting behavior change or enhance performance and frequently make things worse. The remaining six chapters examine the effect of rewards and alternatives to them in companies, schools, and the home. Recommended for all types of libraries.
- Mary Chatfield, Angelo State Univ., San Angelo, Tex.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The idea that competition and reward are effective motivators forms the bedrock of our educational, economic, and managerial systems. Kohn, though, has strongly attacked the belief that competition is healthy and has documented its negative effects in No Contest: The Case against Competition (1986). Now he challenges the widely held assumption that incentives lead to improved quality and increased output in the workplace and in schools. He notes that the system of rewards and punishment is based on Pavlovian and Skinnerian behavioral theories, which are supported largely by experiments with laboratory animals. Kohn derides rewards as bribes and offers instead the proposition that collaboration (teamwork), content (meaningfulness), and choice (autonomy) will serve to motivate both students and workers. He marshals impressive theoretical support and, at the same time, uses humor disarmingly to argue his case. David Rouse --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Replica Books (August 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735101388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735101388
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,098,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Alfie Kohn, in his book Punished by Rewards, uses extensive documentation to support his conclusion that behaviorism is an ineffective tool when dealing with people, whether employees, students, or children. He argues that the using the carrot method of "do this and you'll get that" leads to extrinsic motivation, where the reward is obtained by any means. This leads to less intrinsic motivation and people ultimate lose interest or care about the quality of work, or amount of learning achieved. He seems to want to over-turn the mainstream theory that the only way to achieve success is by one person over-powering another through their authority and bribes. Current beliefs in education include: teacher-centered classrooms, behavior-management programs, and learning achieved through bribes and grades. Mr. Kohn wishes to completely change this method of thinking, and instead create a "3C" classroom, with: collaboration, content, and choice. These classrooms eliminate rewards as the basis for learning, and instead create classrooms where kids want to learn for the sake of knowledge itself. The teachers and students work together, often through cooperative learning groups, to obtain knowledge and understanding relevant and interesting to the students in their day-to-day lives.
I think that Mr. Kohn's theory was well researched, explained, and is believable. He clearly explains the basic problem existing throughout American society with the use of rewards. As a future teacher, thinking about ideas to use in the classroom, I am eager to try his methods with "kids today.
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Format: Paperback
Kohn presents a well-written, clear path between the positive-sounding uses of rewards and their ultimately detrimental effects.

Unfortunately this path is rhetorical in nature. Punished By Rewards is a philosophical opus, and I highly encourage the reader to approach it as such. The primary literature Kohn references is poorly interpreted, or otherwise deliberately misrepresented. Likewise, Kohn mistakenly took a small sampling of similar studies from the general field of rewards/reinforcement (Google Applied Behavior Analysis) and its effects on intrinsic motivation, creativity, etc., or he deliberately picked the few articles supporting his position while ignoring the litany of articles that would be in his opposition.

Either Kohn is an unlucky fellow who has done his research but missed the larger point of what the research actually says, or he has deliberately chosen to ignore the larger bulk of studies that provide good evidence for why rewards/reinforcement are not only good strategies, but unavoidable outcomes of any education curriculum.

For readers seeking multiple sides to the story of the effects of rewards and students' success, I point you in the direction of Fred Keller, Douglas Greer, Robert Horner, or George Sugai. These educators were and are dedicated not to a philosophy that they perceive is what students should need, but that a student's progress demonstrates whether the teacher's current teaching method is successful or not. These educators' teaching philosophies are grounded in excellent basic, applied, clinical, and education research. If you prefer facts over folly, then I recommend reading Punished by Rewards to get an idea of what rhetoric without merit looks like, then check out some works by the authors mentioned, such as Greer's Designing Teaching Strategies. These folks are the ones Administrators come to when the status-quo teaching strategies fail to promote students' success. And their students do succeed.
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By A Customer on August 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
While no one will argue that talking to people and working with them to understand their motivation is important, these positive points in this book are far outweighed by the negative ones. The author misrepresents the whole field of behavior therapy when he states that it can be boiled down to "If you do this, then you get that". He also misrepresents the research on the effects of reinforcement on creativity, performance, and intrinsic motivation. It is much more complex than he suggests and does not lead to the conclusions he makes. The really scary thing is that for some situations (such as children with aggressive and disruptive behaviors) behavior therapy works and works better than anything else. Yet, after reading this book, parents and teachers might not even consider this approach, causing themselves and the children they care about continuing grief. I wish someone would write a good critique of this book to help set the record straight, but I haven't found one.
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Format: Paperback
Khon, Alfie (1993). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's as Praise, and Other Bribes. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company.
Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn, is a book that explains the negative aspects of receiving rewards. The author describes in great detail the effects that rewards have on people of all ages. The book is concerned with operant conditional learning. The basis of the book reflects the favoring of behaviorism. This is because behaviorists believe that everything we do can be explained by the principle of reinforcement and the learning of how rewards work. The book is mainly about the reasons why rewards are not effective and proving that rewarding a person can be negative. The author's purpose in writing this book was to open a new perspective to people's minds. He wanted to show that rewards are not the only way to help a person succeed. A good amount of people feel that rewards are beneficial and can be a positive way to influence a person. Kohn wanted to show proof that rewards could be almost classified as a punishment by making a person lazy or less motivated. He gave many examples, experimental statistics, and facts to back up his theory. One consisted on a series of ten studies that found with preschoolers working for toys, older children for grades, and adults for money, that they all try to avoid challenges (65). Another example found that kids are constantly fearful of getting things wrong, which is why they do as little as they can get away with (159). At first, I could not decide if I supported the author or not. I am in favor of the reward system just because I think that a person should be rewarded. On the other hand, the author gave many examples to support his theory of no rewards.
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