Competence and the overjustification effect: A developmental study

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Examined the conditions under which information regarding competence would mitigate the negative side effects of rewards on the intrinsic interest of preschool and middle elementary school children. 144 nursery school and 3rd-5th graders engaging in a task of high initial interest anticipated a reward made contingent either upon meeting a standard based on absolute performance level or upon task engagement alone, or they were not rewarded. In addition, Ss were provided with direct information concerning competence presented in terms of social comparison. Results indicate that the preschool children were primarily affected by information about meeting the absolute standard but not the social comparison information. That is, the overjustification effect did not occur when attaining a reward was made contingent on meeting an absolute standard of performance. Social comparison information superseded the effect of the contingency of the reward on subsequent interest in the target task for the older children. (26 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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