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Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation Paperback – August 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Univ. of Rochester psychology professor Deci and Flaste, former science and health editor for the New York Times, here compile decades of experimentation and research on human motivation conducted by Deci and his colleagues. The product is an insightful and provocative meditation on how people can become more genuinely engaged and successful in pursuing their goals?in school, the workplace and relationships. Concerned with what makes people want to succeed, Deci conducted extensive studies demonstrating that when subjects are encouraged to pursue a task for its own sake, they do it better and enjoy it more than those told to do it for a reward or informed that they will be punished if they don't do it correctly. These results lead to his conclusion?amply illustrated through anecdotal and scholarly evidence?that authoritarian motivational strategies such as the reward/punishment systems commonly used in American schools and businesses alienate people from their work, make them less productive and leave them less fulfilled. Deci calls for "autonomy-supportive" behavior from those in positions of authority to encourage motivation emanating from within.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Edward L. Deci, Ph.D., professor of pyschology at the University of Rochester, is director of its human motivation program.
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
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.
It goes without saying that people are more motivated to perform certain tasks if they are inherently motivated in performing that task. However, interestingly, rewards such as money may be detrimental to maintaining inherent motivation. For example, if you reward a person to do a task that they are already motivated to do and then withdraw the reward, the motivation to do the task actually decreases. Although the person was originally motivated to perform the task without the presence of a reward, after giving the reward the person is not motivated as much to perform the task if the reward is not present (this may be due to the possibility that the individual has now become conditioned to the presence of a reward for performing that task and thus automatically expects a reward to be present).
Of course, one can always motivate people by rewarding them with money, status, power, etc., however, the performance of the behavior is not maintained once you withdraw such reward unless their autonomy, self-competence, and relatedness to people was enhanced during the performance of the task.
I gave the book 5 stars because of the importance of the subjects covered. However, the book is sometimes a little boring to read.