Cover image for Punished by rewards : the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes
Punished by rewards : the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise, and other bribes
Kohn, Alfie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 430 pages ; 23 cm
Skinner-Boxed: The legacy of behaviorism -- Is it right to reward? -- Is it effective to reward? -- The trouble with carrots: Four reasons rewards fail -- Cutting the interest rate: The fifth reason rewards fail -- The praise problem -- Pay for performance: Why behaviorism doesn't work in the workplace -- Lures for learning: Why behaviorism doesn't work in the classroom -- Bribes for behaving: Why behaviorism doesn't help children become good people -- Thank God it's Monday: The roots of motivation in the workplace -- Hooked on learning: The roots of motivation in the classroom -- Good kids without goodies.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
BF505.R48 K65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, Alfie Kohn points the way to a more successful strategy based on working with people instead of doing things to them. "Do rewards motivate people?" asks Kohn. "Yes. They motivate people to get rewards." Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished By Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.

Author Notes

Alfie Kohn was described by "Time" as "the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades & test scores." The author of the influential "No Contest" & "Punished by Rewards," he writes & speaks widely about human behavior, education, & social theory. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The idea that competition and reward are effective motivators forms the bedrock of our educational, economic, and managerial systems. Kohn, though, has strongly attacked the belief that competition is healthy and has documented its negative effects in No Contest: The Case against Competition (1986). Now he challenges the widely held assumption that incentives lead to improved quality and increased output in the workplace and in schools. He notes that the system of rewards and punishment is based on Pavlovian and Skinnerian behavioral theories, which are supported largely by experiments with laboratory animals. Kohn derides rewards as bribes and offers instead the proposition that collaboration (teamwork), content (meaningfulness), and choice (autonomy) will serve to motivate both students and workers. He marshals impressive theoretical support and, at the same time, uses humor disarmingly to argue his case. ~--David Rouse

Library Journal Review

Kohn, the author of other iconoclastic books, among them You Know What They Say: The Truth About Popular Beliefs ( LJ 8/90), here shows how rewards of all sorts undermine our efforts to teach students, manage workers, and raise children. Although aimed at a general audience, the book is based on extensive research and documented with almost 100 pages of notes and references. The first six review the behaviorist tradition and lay out in a clear and convincing manner Kohn's central argument that ``pop behaviorism'' is dangerously prevalent in our society. Here Kohn discusses why rewards, including praise, fail to promote lasting behavior change or enhance performance and frequently make things worse. The remaining six chapters examine the effect of rewards and alternatives to them in companies, schools, and the home. Recommended for all types of libraries.-- Mary Chatfield, Angelo State Univ., San Angelo, Tex. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.