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Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation Paperback – August 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Richard Flaste, former Science and Health Editor of The New York Times, led the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1987.
Top Customer Reviews
What the book does is summarize findings in the psychology of self-determination and intrinsic motivation, the main fields of research of the author, who has published two books on this subject previously.
Deci starts from the position that individuals have something that can be called a "true self," and that people wish to act in accord with this "true self." They wish to be autonomous (authentic) rather than controlled. If they act autonomously (authentically), they are self-motivated. If they act autonomously, they also respect others because the "true self" wishes to be related to others (a point on which Aristoteles would have agreed, and Thomas Hobbes would have strongly disagreed). Deci assumes that human beings are cooperative by nature, rather than competitive.
The "true self," of course, is an artificial construct, a theory. And even if we assume that there is such a "true self," it is conceivable that there are people whose "true self" is competitive as well as people whose "true self" is cooperative. Some people may simply enjoy open confrontations whereas other people may abhor disharmony and clashes. Deci's book is mostly silent about such issues of personality, and his assumption that the "true self" is expressive of human connectedness is just that - a very general assumption.Read more ›
However, this occurs on the highest or most surface level of motivation. From the title, I expected a deeper, more complex work examining the many layers of motivation, internal and external, conscious and unconscious, biological and psychological. This book is not so much a psychological study as a sociological or philosophical one. The author seems to work backwards from a strong stance of egalitarianism (which in psychology is called humanism), finding an area of social psychology research that affirms that stance strongly. That is, he talks both about how he thinks things should be, and how they are. he mixes an aspirational point of view with an empirical one. Humanism tends to simplistically insist on sameness as a condition of justice. Where he does find evidence of difference, such as gender differences (in one study women were discernibly more demotivated by ambiguous praise than men) rather than get enormously curious and study the difference, he goes on to modify experimental conditions so that this difference disappears! Is that true science or is that politics? Influence over others is treated as intrinsically bad (rather than just risky for misuse) The topic of leadership, authority, legitimate inducement have no natural take off point from his thesis.
The book is well written, easy to read, with examples of case studies a layman can easily understand. It was written by a professional but specifically written for the average reader. I found that refreshing. So many professionals write to satisfy their peers that they lose the average reader.
Deci advances some ideas that are contrary to the conventional wisdom of getting the most from employees. However his ideas are very compelling and sound.
For example, our system of rewards tries to control a person's behavior. The results of one of the case studies showed that when the rewards were offered with an intent of controlling behavior it sabotaged the desired results.
The only motivation that actually works long term is intrinsic motivation. Deci points out ways that we can foster intrinsic motivation. Unfortunately most of our efforts foster extrinsic motivation using either rewards or threats. Remove the rewards or the threats and the motivation disappears.
While it is well written and contains many valuable lessons, for most readers it will be a new way of thinking and will require periodic reinforcement.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this is a must read and has changed the way I see everything! what a brilliant theory for those who crave autonomyPublished 4 months ago by Ezekiel J. Lyons
Short but packed with easily readable and relatable information. Love this author's engaging and inspiring style with cutting edge data.Published 6 months ago by L. S. Luster
I've used this book to help with academic work. It's great for work, school, and personal life. I'd recommend this to anyone who is responsible for getting others to do things.Published 8 months ago by SunDevilGirl
Great info. It has me seriously rethinking my sales comp plans.Published 11 months ago by Robert Zamora