Psychological Self-Help

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unemployed, etc. is an unpleasant chore. Why? Because we overlook
the potential intrinsic satisfaction in these activities! (See a long
A recent summary of 145 articles (Cameron, Banko, & Pierce,
2001) in this area shows that providing extrinsic rewards following a
behavior usually increases the intrinsic satisfaction one gets from
performing that act. The exception to this is when the behavior is
already quite interesting or satisfying and the reward entails some
pressure or external control on the actor, for instance the delivery of
the reward is contingent on successfully completing a specific step, or
the reward is provided in such a way that it communicates to the actor
that he/she is failing, doing poorly, or needs to speed up. A verbal
reward, such as praise or positive comments, almost always increased
the interest in the activity, even if it was already high in interest. Even
tangible extrinsic rewards, like an award, increased interest if the
rewards were given for simply finishing a task, for scoring above a
certain level, for doing better than others, and for just solving a
Intrinsic motivation is high when the activity is interesting, is
challenging but not too hard, requires some skill, arouses your
curiosity, and permits the actor to make his/her own decisions,
exercise control, set his/her own pace in pleasant surroundings, and
can get totally into the behavior as it occurs. (See the discussion of
flow near the end of the page.) Keep those points in mind as you
carry out this method being sure you realize the high-interest activities
may need to be reinforced with rewards in different ways than low-
interest tasks. 
Deci (1975) recommends that employers pay a good salary in
order to recruit a good employee and satisfy his/her basic needs. But
the salary should not be used as an incentive for greater productivity
because it interferes with intrinsic satisfaction from the work. How?
Because we may start working for a salary increase or a commission--
not for the pleasure of doing the work. Deci says the employee should
be given (1) interesting, challenging tasks and responsibilities, (2)
considerable control over how to solve the problems, and (3) support
and good relationships with co-workers, which add up to intrinsic
satisfaction. About the same recommendations are made for schools
by critics of traditional schools. 
To enhance the intrinsic satisfaction in an activity. 
To use the intrinsic satisfaction as our motivation instead of or
in combination with extrinsic rewards. 
STEP ONE: Carefully identify the possible sources of intrinsic
satisfaction in the activity.
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