Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Symposium #430
Research, Pop Psychology, and Motivation: The Controversy and Real-World Application of Motivational Theories
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Vevey 3 & 4, Swissotel
Area: OBM/TPC; Domain: Translational
Chair: Daniel B. Sundberg (ABA Technologies)
Discussant: Douglas A. Johnson (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Motivation and the source of control of behavior is a topic of great interest for many, both within and outside of behavioral science. One sub-domain of cognitive psychology advocates for distinguishing motivation based on its supposed source. Advocates suggest that “intrinsic motivation” comes from within the individual, and is independent of outside sources of control, and “extrinsic motivation” which comes from external sources. There has been a resurgence of interest in the topic of intrinsic motivation being applied to business, much of which can be attributed to the 2009 New York Times bestselling book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Dan Pink. The impact of this book and the theory of intrinsic/extrinsic motivation on applied practice will be discussed, as well as ways that behavior analysts can use and discuss this research in a proactive manner. The talk will conclude with a case study of an organization that has taken a behavior-based approach to applying some of the suggestions from Pink’s book.
Keyword(s): Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation, Motivation theories, OBM, Overjustification effect

It All Started With Monkeys and Raisins: The History of the Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation Debates

MERRILYN AKPAPUNA (Western Michigan University), Douglas A. Johnson (Western Michigan University)

Scientists have long studied the motivation to perform certain behaviors. Motivation has been proposed as a way to explain why people engage in goal-directed behaviors and is sometimes invoked as an explanatory construct/fiction. Behavioral scientists often avoid the problems associated with such constructs by conceptualizing motivation in terms of antecedent and consequences that impact goal-directed behavior. A long-standing debate emerged many decades ago about how to best motivate behavior and this debate has been one of the centerpieces in the divide between behavioral and non-behavioral perspectives. Although many theories such as the cognitive evaluation theory and the overjustification effect have been proposed, the argument comes down to one key issue: Do rewards/reinforcers provided by external forces harm ones natural interest in performing certain behaviors? How this question is answered has profound implications for business, education, or any other settings where it is important to manage the behavior of others. Six decades worth of objections to external rewards will be summarized, along with their counterarguments and the implications for organizational practices. Understanding this contentious history is important in order to critically evaluate the more recent variations of this debate, such as the arguments outlined in popular books such as Drive.


Evaluations of the Overjustification Effect: A Replication of Deci

KERRI P. PETERS (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida)

The utility of reinforcement-based procedures has been well established in the behavior analysis literature. The overjustification effect is one commonly cited criticism of programs that use tangible rewards. The overjustification hypothesis suggests that the delivery of an extrinsic (socially mediated) reward contingent on engagement with an activity that previously occurs at some level without apparent socially mediated reinforcement will result in a reduction in the amount of engagement in that activity from baseline levels when the reward phase is discontinued. One of the most commonly cited series of studies on the overjustification effect was conducted by Deci (1971). Deci evaluated the effects of money and verbal praise on undergraduate students performances on a puzzle task. Deci concluded that intrinsic interest decreased when money was used as a reward. This study is a direct replication of the landmark study evaluating the overjustification hypothesis conducted by Deci. The subjects were undergraduate psychology students. The findings did not replicate those obtained by Deci, and the results did not provide support for the overjustification hypothesis. Additional investigations of the overjustification effect with first grade children will also be presented leading to implications for the use of rewards in child behavior management will be discussed.


Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water? The Surprising Implications of Dan Pink's Drive

DANIEL B. SUNDBERG (ABA Technologies), Alyce M. Dickinson (Western Michigan University), Manuel Rodriguez (ABA Technologies, Inc.)

In 2009 Dan Pink published what would become a New York Times best-selling book for 159 weeks, thereby rekindling the longstanding debate over intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and the adverse effects of reinforcement on performance. This talk will build on the foundational overview of the research presented in previous talks, and will discuss the implications of Pinks book, and contemporary debate around motivational theories. This talk will critique Pinks arguments and conceptual analysis of extrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the research base of his book, and his contentions that if-then rewards are out of place in todays creative workplace. Implications of this perspective will be discussed, particularly in the context of Organizational Behavior Management, including a discussion of why we as behavior analysts should not be too hasty to dismiss out of hand all of the suggestions made by Pink. The talk will conclude by suggesting ways that behavior analysts can make practical use of Pinks book, both as a source of data, and a method for addressing organizational performance.


A Behavior Analysts Approach to Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose: A Case Study

BRET MIXON (JG Management Systems, Inc.)

Despite the debate around the history and theory of Dan Pink's conceptualization of motivation, his notions of Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose can be put to use in the workplace by applied practitioners. This framework can easily be broken down into behavioral principles and procedures, and used as an approachable toolset. For example, Mastery and Autonomy are facilitated through meaningful goal-setting during an evaluation period, the use of shaping techniques for successive approximations of independent functioning, intermittent feedback on worker performance, and dependent and independent group contingencies for team project completion. Purpose is established and maintained via the articulation of the organizations mission and values, the explanation of individual employees role in this mission, and the crafting of setting events that easily connect an individual employees behavior to the organizations mission. This talk will present a case study to demonstrate to audience members how Pinks approach has been integrated with the principles and procedures of ABA in both a school setting, and a human resource setting in a non-behavior analytic government contracting firm.




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