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Children's Task Interest And Performance

Richard A. Fabes, John C. McCullers, Harry L. Hom

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This study explored the effect of extrinsic reward on children's task interest and performance. A total of 48 third-grade children participated in groups that differed in whether or not rewards were offered and the task used (mazes or block design). Each child participated twice. The baseline session was designed to assess initial nonreward levels. The experimental session, which occurred one week later, was identical except that half of the children received rewards for their participation. Results revealed that the effects of reward on subsequent intrinsic interest were found to vary as a function of the task. Lowered interest under reward conditions was found only for those children in the block design task. However, rewards were found to adversely affect immediate task performance on both tasks, supporting McGraw's (1978) prediction model. Reward subjects also perceived the task to be of greater difficulty than did nonreward subjects. These findings suggest the effects of rewards on performance and interest are not directly related and that task characteristics, particularly perceptions of task difficulty, may be important mediators of reward effects.