This is the book that started it all for me. Alfie Kohn wrote it back in 1993 and while the science has definitely progressed (and some of Kohn’s arguments are due for an update), the general principles in this book are lifechanging. I quit my career after I read this, went back to school, and started on the path that brought me to where I am today. It’s not a light or easy book. It’s very provocative – even polarising. But this will always be one of my favourites.
The basic strategy we use for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you’ll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet. Drawing on a wealth of psychological research, Alfie Kohn points the way to a more successful strategy based on working with people instead of doing things to them.
“Do rewards motivate people?” asks Kohn. “Yes. They motivate people to get rewards.” Seasoned with humour and familiar examples, Punished by Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.