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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes
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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  2,124 Ratings  ·  225 Reviews
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 b ...more
Paperback, 398 pages
Published January 10th 1995 by Mariner Books (first published 1993)
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My daughter's gr. 1 teacher just announced that if the kids read 100 books, they'd get a reward. Instead of being enthusiastic, or eager to read, DD just got upset and worried that now she can't get the reward because 100 seemed way too many. How different is 100 from a bazillion to a gr. 1 kid who barely knows how to count that high?

Reading this book helped me to understand that frustration, and non-interest is a normal reaction to bribery. Kohn states that kids and adults alike see both rewa
Elizabeth  Fuller
Aug 12, 2007 Elizabeth Fuller rated it really liked it
A lot of what the author says - that the use of rewards as motivators (for children, students, employees, etc.) is not only ineffective, but often detrimental to morale and motivation - makes a lot of sense, and certainly represents a fresh perspective. Despite this, however, I couldn't shake a lingering feeling of disagreement. Not that I don't believe his arguments...but I also don't think he leaves enough room for individual difference. For example, while I do agree with him that intrinsic mo ...more
Mar 13, 2008 Sharlee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers, parents, any person in a management position
Recommended to Sharlee by: College peers/professors
As a college student, I had been very interested in Alfie Kohn's philosophies. After graduating and getting a job much sooner than expected, I decided to read this book. I am amazed by how much we control other people with rewards. I've never been a fan of any form. Which doesn't make me widely popular as a teacher. My students were stunned when I took over and explained that I do not give treats for asking questions or learning. I also explained to them that they are not dogs a ...more
Beth A.
Apr 19, 2009 Beth A. rated it liked it
Recommended to Beth A. by: Laura Dotson
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
I love parenting books, and I love exploring different ideas on how to parent , but this one was more difficult for me. The first few chapters are based on the assumption that no one human has the right to control another person. The idea is abhorrent to Kohn. This may be true in the workplace, but for parenting and to a lesser degree schooling, there are times when even the most lenient parent must have some control. You can’t exactly reason with a two year old that running in the street isn’t ...more
Lisa Delaine Youngblood
Nov 27, 2012 Lisa Delaine Youngblood rated it it was amazing
I have never read a book that so questioned societal norms, nor have I ever altered my views so much based on the concepts introduced in a book. The title of this book explains exactly what readers can expect. As with any book discussing parenting skills, work levels, and manipulation, readers will have to determine for themselves whether or not they can agree, disagree, or at least rethink their previous opinions. This book requires readers to look closely at the heart of motivations -- both in ...more
May 31, 2010 Marshall rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents, Teachers, Managers
Recommended to Marshall by: Joanie
I didn't give this book a 5 for fantastic writing. Although, Kohn is funny and insightful at times but he is also kind of repetitive (if you only read the first 5 chapters you'd learn everything you needed to know about the problem with rewards). The ideas in this book rang true to me as I read them. For example, achieving short-term compliance from my kids by offering them rewards (go get ready for bed without a fight and I'll read you stories until 7:30) is not only manipulative and selfish mo ...more
Brittney DeFriez
Mar 25, 2011 Brittney DeFriez rated it liked it
To sum it up, this book is how we are slaves and make each other slaves to rewards when, if fact rewards are actaully shown to decrease intrinsic motivation. Case studies showed children who were given a reward if they played with certain toys and then, once that reward was taken, the children were turned off to that toy. When I read it, I loved it. It seemed inspired and appealed to my soft spot for rebellion. I felt that the this might what was wring with public education.

Now, that I am finish
M.J. Lau
Mar 24, 2017 M.J. Lau rated it it was amazing
Every teacher should read this book--if this doesn't change your perspective on classroom management, you might want to seek an alternate line of work.
Mar 05, 2017 Amy rated it liked it
For a 24 year old book, Punished by Rewards remains relevant and thought-provoking. That said, it does suffer being read so long after publication when the related science has advanced so much. My rating here is heavily influenced by the fact that this is an older science book, not any deficiencies in the book itself.
Oct 02, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
The overarching premise of this book is that rewarding people can actually decrease the desired behavior. When people are manipulated by "if you do [x], then you get [y]" type rewards, the extrinsic motivator (the reward) starts to replace any intrinsic motivation the person might have towards the task and are much less likely to continue the behavior if/when the rewards stop. One quote that stuck out to me was that programs like "Book It!" (Pizza Hut) only serve to produce fat kids who hate rea ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Kate rated it liked it
this book is so great in the one main thing it set out to do, which is to point out 1) how totally saturated our culture is in giving people rewards to act the way you want them to (behavioralism, a notion/technique popularized by BF Skinner but around for ages), and 2) to point out all the subsequent research showing how giving rewards for a task/attitude/behavior kills the positive relationship between the doer and the deed. If you start paying kids to play their favorite game, they lose inter ...more
Jan 22, 2012 Keith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
By Alfie Kohn

Alas the book challenges so many of our cherished beliefs that I am beginning to see the the loss of motivation in a new light. It is disconcerting to see how widely his critique applies.

"Skinner spent his life denying the idea of choice and urging us to control reinforcers in the environment since they, in turn, control us." (p. 30)

The most notable aspect of a positive judgment is not that it is positive but that it is a judgment. (Page 102)

The legendary statistical consultant W. E
Jun 14, 2010 Clint rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
A great book. The book is written for two audiences, educators and business professionals. I only had to read the sections that pertained to education, but after reading them, I am curious to know if the business world is like the education world. I will not praise Alfie for writing a well informed book, but simply acknowledge that it is. Teaching second grade, I can already see in 7yr olds how praise, rewards, and other behavior manipulators have altered there perspective of life. The "whats in ...more
Sherry (sethurner)
It has been a while since I read Alfie Kohn's book. I heard him speak at a teachers' convention and was intrigued by his assertion that teachers and parents kill children's motivation by offering rewards/bribes. So, candy, stickers, certificates, cash and other incentives really don't motivate! It went along with my casual observation that students to whom I sent commendations soon lost their commendabe behaviors, and it went along with a university class I took in the 80's about motivational th ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Deborah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: educators, managers, parents
As a self-motivated person who takes pride in a job well done, I've always felt that incentives at school and in the workplace served to undermine the value of my personal achievements. Due to this perspective, Alfie Kohn's book resonated well with me; however there are some who feel that nothing is worth doing if it doesn't result in a $5 Starbucks card, a flimsy certificate, or some such trivial token. Such people will not like this book.

My one criticism of the book is that it begins to feel r
Megan Cooper
Jul 18, 2012 Megan Cooper rated it really liked it
A must read for parents, teachers, bosses. A little alarming, and left me wondering what to do in lieu of all the praises and rewards (although Mindset, as I recall, does offer both solutions and food for thought on how to just give useful feedback, and what that is). Well-researched, articulate; those who disagree would need to provide a lot of evidence to dispute the many findings that support the cautions in this book. And an afterward talks specifically about Accelerated Reader, something I' ...more
Sep 24, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it
Kohn articulates a lot of the concerns I have had with the overuse of rewards in the schools. I don't agree with everything he says (e.g. he thinks the whole grading system should be done away with), but most of it made a lot of sense to me. I wish more teachers would read this, and stop using so much candy and other bribes to get kids to learn. (Especially the candy!)
Mar 10, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
Not done yet, but writing this in case I don't finish it. It seems like an interesting idea, but it also seems like it could be a fraction of the size and be helpfully more succinct. I wish I knew where he was going with the whole thing....
Kristen Hovet
Mar 23, 2014 Kristen Hovet rated it it was amazing
A life-changer. This has changed my perspective on parenting, counselling, teaching, and being the subject of so many incentive programs and extrinsic motivators.

Well-written and clear, with compelling arguments and research overviews.
Aug 25, 2016 Molly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this as a student and it is one of the books that has stuck with me the most powerfully. I keep a copy in my classroom and I reference it all the time with my fellow teachers. More should read it. Seriously, it has shaped me as an educator and as a parent.
Jurgen Appelo
Rock-solid research offered with cheeky humor. Required reading for every manager, teacher, and parent.
May 24, 2012 Jasonlylescampbell rated it liked it

Review of Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn

Perhaps the best way to go about describing this book is to begin with what was most impacting to my life and way of thinking, then proceed to interesting asides from the book and then to end with a word or two of negative criticism.

Punished by Rewards (PBR (ha!)) went a long way to deconstruct some of my typical reactions to my children when they are doing wrong. Doing wrong is obviously a much in need of qualification but I will define it further as
Feb 02, 2012 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicole by: Alicia
I like how the book is broken up so you could essentially just read about what interests you in regards to rewards whether work, child rearing or school. I felt all pertained to me.

This book depressed me! It was written in 1993 & he presents a lot of supporting research, yet NOTHING has changed in public education!! Then here I am with this information that makes sense & have very little power because to make these lasting changes would require drastic measures in the world of education
Corinne Campbell
Dec 30, 2012 Corinne Campbell rated it really liked it
Every, teacher, parent, manager, politician, administrator should read this book.
Dec 09, 2014 Elizabethe rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Everyone in America should read Part 1 of this book. This book was written in 1993 and revised in 1999, but it is still very influential and the culture Kohn argues against is still pervasive. Kohn's basic argument is that much of the way we attempt to incentivize people is based on a view of humanity informed by pop-behaviorism. Behaviorism fundamentally denies the personhood of humanity, seeing humans as nothing more than the sum total of their actions. There is no self, no soul, no conscience ...more
Jan 26, 2017 Gregg rated it really liked it
Most useful book out of my teaching program. All about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Nov 15, 2010 kat rated it liked it
In a certain way, this was a really interesting book. Its main ideas were refreshing and surprising: Rewards demotivate people. Praise can do the same, plus insult them to boot.

In another way, this was quite a boring book. The author seemed to have difficulty trusting that he had properly conveyed his points to the reader. The basic claims and the reasoning behind them were reiterated far too frequently. I kept wondering if the book had originally been published as separate articles for differen
Jen Marin
In Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn challenges many of the sacred ideas that fuel our modern culture. Despite the widespread use of both punishments and rewards, the evidence is strong that neither approach is very effective at motivating people. From the corporate world to the classroom, the tradition of behaviorism is almost ubiquitous, where gold stars, grades, prizes and even cash are dangled before people under the common perception that doing so will improve their performance.

Research sho
Jul 08, 2011 Eric added it
Do rewards motivate people? Absolutely. They motivate people to get rewards

Definitely glad to have read this book. I hope that having read this book I can avoid the trap of "I like how you did Nice Thing X".

Dunno, maybe it just gels so nicely with my general world view and it's just cognitive dissonance confirmation bias (damn brain, used the wrong word) talking; Alfie's right because he says what I want to hear. Paying kids for grades/chores always felt "wrong". Praise always felt like an insu
I had previously read Unconditional Parenting by the same author, which I found very intriguing (but unsatisfying in some respects) and read this book in the hope of further developing my thoughts on these issues. Unlike Unconditional Parenting, which of course focuses on parenting, this book also discusses the negative effects of extrinsic motivators in schools and workplaces.

I agree wholeheartedly with Kohn that extrinsic motivators are not ideal in any of these realms. I find it comforting to
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Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken
More about Alfie Kohn...

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“In a word, learning is decontextualized. We break ideas down into tiny pieces that bear no relation to the whole. We give students a brick of information, followed by another brick, followed by another brick, until they are graduated, at which point we assume they have a house. What they have is a pile of bricks, and they don't have it for long.” 26 likes
“Some who support [more] coercive strategies assume that children will run wild if they are not controlled. However, the children for whom this is true typically turn out to be those accustomed to being controlled— those who are not trusted, given explanations, encouraged to think for themselves, helped to develop and internalize good values, and so on. Control breeds the need for more control, which is used to justify the use of control.” 25 likes
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