HN Books @HNBooksMonth

The best books of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Alfie Kohn · 8 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes" by Alfie Kohn.
View on Amazon [↗]
HN Books may receive an affiliate commission when you make purchases on sites after clicking through links on this page.
Amazon Summary
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 humor and familiar examples, Punished By Rewards presents an argument unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.
HN Books Rankings
  • Ranked #7 this week · view
  • Ranked #22 this month (may/jun) · view

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
The Essential Deming[1] is probably the gold standard for now, though it can be a little dry. It's one of those "suggested readings" in basically any safety or process management higher education curricula.

Not really 100% about Deming but very relevant, I would recommend Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards" [2] as a supplement to understand some of the implications of what happens when Deming's ideas are implemented without understanding the human condition.

Otherwise, Deming wrote and published plenty of his own work that is worth reading.



For a different view, see "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes".[1]

It's about extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the person and is what's typically used by organizations to try to motivate people: salary, praise, bonuses, etc. Intrinsic motivation comes from within.

[1] -

I think this is frequently short-sighted. Surgeons are intrinsically motivated to be surgeons and help people, and they are trained to think clinically (pun somewhat intended) about risk-reward. They realize that trying to help high-risk patients will ultimately result in them being able to help fewer patients.
Luckily in most businesses incentives are used by the people designing the incentives to

1) cost as little as possible to the business

2) "optimize" their own pay/career

(There was a study saying that over 80% of sales people would deny their employer a million-dollar contract if it netted them $500 personally, so compared to that this is nothing)

Which makes sure that the incentives are not aligned with the business goals.

Now I guarantee that the best way to destroy intrinsic motivation, bar none, is to provide extrinsic motivation for things that aren't aligned with the business' goals.

> I imagine there is no good, scientific method to determining how someone should be motivated that we can train teachers with.

I've been reading "Punished By Rewards" ( and it got into a lot of that. Pop behaviorism has really deep roots on the collective American psyche.

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes

Jun 07, 2009 · Alex3917 on 48 of 48
"The quickest way to fix the education system in this country is to basically pay kids to learn."

No, it's not.

HN Books is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or
~ yaj@
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.