Was Mencius right all along?

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Was Mencius right all along?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun May 05, 2013 6:57 am

An interesting article I came across recently, by an economist named Friederike Habermann, argues that we do not innately think of our own self-interest, but are actively conditioned to behave in egoistic ways by material incentives. The studies recounted herein involve two- and three-year-old children, who are exposed to a situation where they are given the chance to help an adult with a minor task. The control group is given no positive feedback for helping; the second group is given praise; the third group is given a toy or a piece of candy.

Iterated tests reveal that the control and second groups continue to help the adult with the minor task; the third group, however, does not help with the task unless the reward is offered again.

Personally I find this very interesting, as it suggests psychologically that there is nothing inevitable about capitalist modes of exchange, and it also suggests that our behaviours are malleable in both directions - in similar studies among adults, business majors and economists were more susceptible to resorting to egoistic behaviour and uncooperative strategies, suggesting that such behaviour has to be consistently inculcated through societal influence or indoctrination.

Thoughts?
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Re: Was Mencius right all along?

Unread postby Zhai Rong » Mon May 06, 2013 3:33 am

In the examples cited, the giving of rewards signalled that a task that was formerly worthwhile in its own right was now one so unpleasant that it merits compensation. Why do it again for free?

I wonder what the results would have been had the task been unpleasant (eg. retrieve the pen from a bucketful of cockroaches) or unnecessary (eg. something that the adult could easily do). In the former case, the cost of performing the task is much higher and in the latter, the feelgood value is lower. In such circumstances, I'd imagine that compensation for effort or sharing of the benefits would be required.
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Re: Was Mencius right all along?

Unread postby Lady Wu » Mon May 06, 2013 4:56 am

I believe this is called overjustification in Social Psychology. Basically, the theory says that people are less intrinsically motivated to perform a task if there is an expected extrinsic motivation (such as a prize or a tangible reward). When people expect to be rewarded for doing something, they perceive the enjoyment of doing something for its own sake a lot less.
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Re: Was Mencius right all along?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Mon May 06, 2013 8:20 am

Lady Wu wrote: When people expect to be rewarded for doing something, they perceive the enjoyment of doing something for its own sake a lot less.


Like when I have to read theological books for an essay rather than for fun. :lol:
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Re: Was Mencius right all along?

Unread postby MhiHayoli » Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:14 pm

Sun Fin wrote:
Lady Wu wrote: When people expect to be rewarded for doing something, they perceive the enjoyment of doing something for its own sake a lot less.


Like when I have to read theological books for an essay rather than for fun. :lol:


That is not so far off there, Sun Fin. I'm happy that I have been born a helpful person, so it doesn't matter to me if I get rewarded or not for doing something. Even if it was something unpleasant (like washing the dog after he played in a load of cow dung...), I really like to do it, because I feel helpful :)
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