Effects of external contingencies on an actively caring behavior: a field test of intrinsic motivation theory

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Virginia Tech

Reward programs and incentive plans are popular methods of increasing desired behaviors in applied settings. Yet, opponents of "carrot and stick" interventions claim these programs are perceived as controlling and as a result are counterproductive to people's intrinsic motivation to emit a desired response. The current research studied intrinsic motivation theory in a community setting by combining written commitments with external rewards, and manipulating the time at which the reward was delivered (either prior to or subsequent to task completion). It was found that written commitments only had no effect on the rate at which the target response was emitted. Written commitments combined with contingent rewards increased the rate of responding during intervention, but upon withdrawal, response rates dropped significantly below baseline. Written commitments in combination with non-contingent rewards, offered in advance, increased response rates during intervention and were more effective in maintaining responding after the withdrawal of all contingencies. Additionally ~ the current research used the Actively Caring (A C) Model (Geller, 1991) in an attempt to predict who would be more likely to emit the AC target response. The model did not successfully predict the rates at which the target response would be emitted. The implications of this research are discussed from the theories of behavior analysis, intrinsic motivation, and equity. Directions for future studies of intrinsic motivation in applied settings are also offered.

reinforcement, commitment, consistency, altruism