I’ve decided to pay my kids $1 for each hour they play videogames. My wife isn’t too happy, but my sons are thrilled.
Turns out we’ve got this thing called “internal drive,” and money screws it up. According to Dan H. Pink’s book (Drive), there have been numerous studies on how external rewards can actually reduce someone’s intrinsic “flow” with something. Tell a kid who likes to draw that you’ll reward him for drawing, and he’ll actually draw less. This runs counter to typical motivational theory (carrot for desired behavior, and stick for bad), but I’m a psychology major. I rarely trust conventional wisdom.
Well, Mr. Pink. I’ll let you know how it works out. My wife isn’t very happy with this decision, and I told her if she reads Drive and still feels that way I’ll cancel the experiment. My two sons want me to wake them up at 5:00 am to start, and you can bet I will. If you’re right, this will temporarily motivate them to play more. But eventually they’ll lose their intrinsic desire to play the DS obsessively, and see it as labor.
I actually believe this will work. Our previous attempts to reward behavior (stars, stickers, cash) have indeed worked only temporarily. And I can relate to the depleted motivation that comes with something that is a means to cash instead of a creative outlet. I’ve found that when I get paid to make a video (sponsored) it feels less fun. I start noticing how much time it takes, and I’m often less excited by the outcome. Before long, I see the act of making even non-commercial videos as a chore.
This could explain YouTube burnout, which I’ve otherwise written off to the shallow, empty feeling of “popularity,” and the curse of making videos for other people (instead of for the satisfaction alone).
I can say with confidence that most of the top YouTube personalities are motivated by factors beyond money. Some are after artistic expression. Others want to help people or entertain them. Some may simply seek external approval or fans. The money that comes from YouTube’s Partner program is wonderful. But if it’s the primary focus, it becomes work. And then the videos suffer.
Whatya think? If my wife doesn’t squash my experiment, will it work?