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Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes Paperback – Sep 30 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; New edition edition (Sept. 30 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618001816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618001811
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 16.8 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
I have stated in a previous review how I feel about prizes/awards and the punitive tone I feel often accompany them.
In 1965 the Queen of England presented the Beatles with the MBE Award. John Lennon refused his and some several years later, returned it to the Queen. He felt that he could not, in good conscience accept an award that had previously been given to people who had killed others in combat.
I was so impressed by John Lennon's brave stand against the award. It showed a real strength of character and convictions and it showed not compromising one's standards. I even cheered John's stand on this and his refusal of the award.
In my earlier review, I criticized what I call "lollipop" awards. Lollipops are simply uniform prizes given to all participants. I hate the lollipops because they are patronizing and insulting. The message contained therein is, "Don't count on being able to earn a real prize. Just be content with a lollipop." I could never, at any point in my life accept a "lollipop." The three times I received "lollipops" as a child were three occasions those lollipops were promptly disposed of. I remember even then consciously thinking that "if I don't get a REAL prize fairly, then I won't get one." I just could not accept a lollipop. Receiving such an ersatz prize can really hurt one's pride and undermine confidence. Although lollipops are usually dispensed with good intentions, it often backfires.
John Lennon set a good example. He did not accept something he did not feel he earned.
I like the way the author brings home the point that people are NOT a series of conditioned responses.
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Format: Paperback
This work is sheer brilliance. Mr. Kohn makes a very good and very unshakable case against dispensing awards. I have long believed that COMPETITION KILLS COOPERATION and that creating rivalry among people often undermines the outcome in the long run.
I have always had a constitutional aversion for "lollipop" awards; that is, awards passed out like lollipops to every participant. In some instances all participants receive a uniform prize. Nobody's performance is being distinguished, so therefore a prize is asinine and meaningless. As well intentioned as this is, no playing field can ever be level and merely dispensing such uniform "lollipops" flies in the face of what awards are really for. I personally detest the "lollipop" awards and I, for one, would not ever be able to accept one in good conscience. For me, it has to be earned fairly and honestly or it doesn't count.
If I had my way, there would be no prizes and awards. All they do is breed rivalry and negative competition. I feel they often undermine cooperation and in many instances preclude cooperation. I like "intrinsic rewards" wherein a person feels good about their accomplishments and receives positive verbal feedback. My favorite uncle was a grand champion at intrinsic rewards -- just knowing he felt you had done a good job or that he was pleased with something you did was a major ego booster. His way was to offer words of gentle encouragement and his motto was simple: if one expects the best, then one can reasonably believe they will GET the best performance. He did not pass out any type of award and he had a strong sense of self and ethics. This highly gifted man has imparted a real gift -- the gift of hard work and taking pride in it.
This book is an excellent statement to the above. I would highly recommend it to anyone. People are more than conditioned responses and rewards often feed into behaviorist thinking.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eeks on June 26 2007
Format: Paperback
I give this book a qualified 5 stars. (qualified because I'm only 2/3 of the way through.)

Those who criticize Mr. Kohn because he confuses rewards with reinforcers actually agree with the author more than they realize. A reinforcer maintains or increases the likelihood of a particular behaviour occurring again. He examines the attempted use of rewards as reinforcers. If you read his arguments, what he is really saying is that rewards work as reinforcers only some of the time, when they do work they usually only work short term, and......most importantly, even if rewards act as a reinforcer, what motives underlie our desire to increase that behaviour in the first place?

The point of the book is to critically examine the following:
1) Here is what we want (to have self-reliant yet caring children, to have motivated yet cooperative employees, etc.)
2) Here is what we do to get it (use behavioural reinforcers).
3) Is what we do leading to the result we want?

This involves a shift to big-picture, long-term thinking. Our society is by its very nature focused on the short-term, the quick fix. So this shift is really difficult for people.

In a given situation, a person is not behaving the way you want them to. You have a choice of how to respond.

First, examine your reasons for wanting them to behave differently (is it in their interest, or your own interest? Is it to help them, or to control them?) This requires more self-criticism than many people are willing to subject themselves to.

You can threaten to punish the person. You can promise them a reward if they comply. Neither of these pay any regard to the reason behind the behaviour. The third option is to consider why the person is behaving as they are.
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