Should You Use Rewards to Encourage School-Age Children? What Studies Suggest

Based on three reviewed studies, we suggest that material/money reward is either useless or detrimental to children's intrinsic motivation. However, salient or monetary reward can possibly enhance school age children's performance. 

Created on November 21 2015 at 08: 00 AM

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1: "A Meta-Analytic Review Of Experiments Examining The Effects Of Extrinsic Rewards On Intrinsic Motivation.," Psychological Bulletin, 1999, by EL Deci, R Koestner, RM Ryan. (Citations: 4165).

A meta-analysis of 128 studies examined the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. As predicted, engagement-contingent, completion-contingent, and performance-contingent rewards significantly undermined free-choice intrinsic motivation (d = –0.40, –0.36, and –0.28, respectively), as did all rewards, all tangible rewards, and all expected rewards. Engagement-contingent and completion-contingent rewards also significantly undermined self-reported interest (d = –0.15, and –0.17), as did all tangible rewards and all expected rewards. Positive feedback enhanced both free-choice behavior (d = 0.33) and self-reported interest (d = 0.31). Tangible rewards tended to be more detrimental for children than college students, and verbal rewards tended to be less enhancing for children than college students. The authors review 4 previous meta-analyses of this literature and detail how this study's methods, analyses, and results differed from the previous ones.

2: "A Cognitive-Developmental Approach To The Effects Of Rewards On Intrinsic Motivation," Child Development, 1981, by FW Danner, E Lonky. (Citations: 150).

2 experiments were conducted to examine the relationships between cognitive level, intrinsic motivation, and responses to extrinsic rewards and praise. In experiment 1, 90 4-10-year-old children were divided into 3 cognitive ability groups on the basis of their performance on a battery of classification tasks. When allowed to choose among learning centers which differed in the level of understanding of classification required, all 3 cognitive ability groups spent the most time in the centers which were just beyond their initial ability levels, and they rated these centers as most interesting and moderately difficult. In experiment 2, the children received either rewards, praise, or no rewards for working in a learning center which was either at, above, or below their predicted levels of classification interest. Rewards had little effect on intrinsic motivation among children whose motivation was initially low and decreased it among children whose motivation was initially high. Praise also had mixed effects-highly motivated children with an internal locus of control increased in intrinsic motivation following praise, while highly motivated children with an external locus of control decreased in intrinsic motivation following praise. The implications of these results for the understanding of intrinsic motivation and for educational practice were discussed.


1: "Can Salient Reward Increase Creative Performance Without Reducing Intrinsic Creative Interest?," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 1997, by R Eisenberger, S Armeli. (Citations: 221).

Abstract 1. Two experiments, involving 416 preadolescent school children, investigated the effects of monetary reward on generalized creative performance and intrinsic creative interest. In Experiment 1, the explicit requirement of novel performance in 1 task ( ...

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Should You Use Rewards to Encourage School-Age Children? What Studies Suggest

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