Rewards do not always work. See some examples.

When children were offered a reward for trying to taste a new beverage, they liked it less later than those who tried it without any external incentive.

ps, if you happen to have kids who are picky about their food choices:

Merit pay (performance-based payment) decreased teachers' motivation.

Rewarding students for attendance to classes increased it, but things went back to normal or worse after the reward was not in place anymore:

People who put off doing something were less likely to go back to the task and were more likely to procrastinate when the task had a promised reward!

Students become less-excited about learning once they receive a grade.

Interesting sources - Article by New York Times sums up some of the "failed" research on rewards, describing where rewards did not provide the expected outcome. NOTE: The opinion stated there is just what it is: 'opinion'. - Interesting summary of research on the effects of rewards on food habits.

Choi, Jongwoon and Presslee, Adam, When and why tangible rewards can motivate greater effort than cash rewards: An analysis of four attribute differences (May 1, 2022). AAA 2016 Management Accounting Section (MAS) Meeting Paper, 2016 Canadian Academic Accounting Association (CAAA) Annual Conference, Available at SSRN: or

Featured image by: Egor Myznik on Unsplash


It seems that we would like to have a silver bullet solution. A theory, that would work everywhere. How basic and easy that would be! Rewards work. Thats it. But the reality is much more complex and magical.

  1. Rewards will cause more harm than good when the person is already relying heavily on intrinsic motivation.
  2. Rewards cannot be used without thinking about efficacy. Avoid rewarding long and hard tasks. Focus on small improvements that are easy to attain and close the gratification loop as quickly as eating a fresh fruit.
  3. Rewards should not be mixed to replace/purge natural instincts, things that are encoded in our brain on a deeper level.