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How Rewards and Evaluations Can Undermine Creativity (and How to Prevent This)

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Abstract

Since the seminal publication of Amabile's (1983) Social Psychology of Creativity, creativity researchers have been aware of the negative impact that rewards and evaluations can have on creative performance. Her work, in turn, was rooted in well-established findings on the effects of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation, as described in The Hidden Cost of Rewards (Lepper & Greene, 1978). Although Amabile's basic idea has been refined and qualified to some extent (see, e.g., Amabile, 1996; Baer, 1997b, 1998b), the core insight remains: Extrinsic constraints, such as rewards and evaluations, tend to drive out intrinsic motivation. This often puts composition teachers in a difficult position, because (a) the development of writing skills often requires feedback on performance (i.e., students' work must be evaluated) and (b) students sometimes need to be bribed to do things they do not wish to do (i.e., students may sometimes need to be offered rewards to get them to write). This tension is part of a larger conflict between enhancing creativity more generally and helping students acquire skills and content knowledge (Amabile, 1983, 1996; Baer, 1997a, 2002, 2003; Kaufman & Baer, 2002, 2005, 2006); that conflict, in turn, is part of the larger question of the relationship between learning content and learning to think more effectively (see, e.g., Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988; Glass & Holyoak, 1986; Hirsch, 1996; Johnson-Laird, 1983; Karmiloff-Smith, 1992; Paul, 1990; Simon & Chase, 1973; Woolfolk, 2006). © Cambridge University Press 2009 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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