Anyone who has read a few of my blogs will, by now, be under the impression that I am not the biggest fan of rewards. Well, that is not entirely how I feel. Those that have read earlier blogs may remember something I said – “Rewards should recognise achievement, not be the achievement”. I also found myself saying in an email “Gamification at the moment is often nothing more than an attempt to illicit Pavlovian responses to external stimuli”. I know, how up myself does that sound – but it’s true. The way many people are using rewards are as a way to encourage people to do things – like giving a dog a biscuit for rolling over on command
When I was a kid a school (long before Harry Potter had been thought of – and gamification for that matter…), teaching methods generally sucked. A teach stood at the front of the class, dictated out ancient notes and you had to write them down in your exercise book. If you didn’t pay attention or did something the teacher did not like, you got a board rubber thrown at your head. There was no intrinsic enjoyment to be had from the learning process; it was all drained by the way we were taught. This was not unique to my school years; it had been this way for decades.
I have written about this whole thing quite a lot already, but I have some new insights based on things I have witnessed recently.
We know that extrinsic rewards are meant to demotivate people when doing anything that is even slightly creative. So why do we keep seeing them being used in gamification and marketing. On the face of it, that kind of thing works well. Offer a reward and ask people to do something simple. Like this, follow that, +1 the other and you can win a book. Low and behold you can get hundreds or thousands of these clicks – great. The question is, how many of these are valuable? What is the goal? If you are trying to develop new and worthwhile interactions and relationships. Does the same person liking everything you have ever written, just to win the prize, have any actual value long term?
Another quick one, prompted by an interesting behaviour exhibited by my daughter today that taught me rather a lot about extrinsic rewards.
I have mentioned before the research that has been done on motivation in the past by the likes of Edward Deci and the writing of Dan Pink and more. All of them point to the same thing, extrinsic rewards are bad for intrinsic motivation. The basic reasoning is that at some point, no matter how careful you are, the reward will become the reason to do the task. The extrinsic reward replaces the original intrinsic motivation.
A very quick blog this week, whilst I work on a few deeper ones (possibly)
An argument that is pretty constant in Gamification, is that of Extrinsic vs Intrinsic motivation / rewards. Things like badges, points and even money vs altruism, autonomy, status and more. The general consensus, based on the works of people like Deci and talks by people like Daniel Pink, is that extrinsic motivation is in no way better than intrinsic motivation. The research shows that being almost bribed to do stuff will actually decrease your effectiveness.