Reinforcing value of a stimulus and its effects on 'intrinsically' motivated performance

Since the introduction of Self-Determination Theory and Overjustification hypothesis a belief that rewards have detrimental effects on the intrinsic motivation perseveres. This assumption has led to the criticism of the reinforcement-based interventions, as reinforcers are often mistaken with rewards. The results of meta-analyses indicate that mentioned detrimental effect depends on multiple factors. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of two types of edible reinforcers, high-preferred and low-preferred, on intrinsically motivated performance. Behaviors maintained in the absence of socially mediated reinforcers were considered as intrinsically motivated behaviors. Engagement in the preschool activities preferred by participants served as the dependent variable. Three 5 years old typically developing children were participants in the study. A single subject A-B-A-C-A design with a prebaseline phase was used. The implementation of each type of edibles was randomly assigned to one of the two intervention conditions, and next they were withdrawn during the baseline phases. The results show that after the removal of the lowpreferred stimulus the level of behavior has increased in subsequent baseline above initial level, whereas removal of the high-preferred stimulus was followed by a decrease in the level of behavior. Side effects of extinction along with the competing response hypothesis might account for the results. The second explanation refers to the potential alteration of the value of intrinsic consequences due to the introduction of external reinforcers.