Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Delayed reinforcement and motivation

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Delayed reinforcement and motivation:
What is the effect of delayed reinforcement on motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]


Matt is struggling to find the motivation to study for his final exams. He would rather be out socialising and spending time with his friends. Matt is torn between the two, he still wants to do well in his exams to reach his long-term goal of completing a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, however, spending time with friends is fun. Why is it that Matt's motivation to study seems to deteriorate as the semester goes on?

Key questions
  • How can Matt increase his motivation to study?
  • Why does he struggle to resist the temptation to socialise rather than study?
  • Why does his motivation decrease as the semester goes on?

Answers to these questions can be found by analyzing psychological theories and research on reinforcement and motivation.

Reinforcement[edit | edit source]

Reinforcement comes from the behaviourist school of psychology and belongs to a phenomenon known as operant conditioning. Reinforcement is a consequence that follows a behaviour which increases the likelihood the behaviour will be repeated (Dayan & Balleine, 2002). For example, after a child has completed their homework (the behaviour) they are rewarded (reinforced) with television time. Reinforcement can create two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is behaviour driven by internal reinforcers such as enjoyment and personal satisfaction, conversely, extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards, such as a child receiving TV time for completing their homework (Dayan & Balleine, 2002). Having a strong focus on extrinsic rewards can lead to a phenomenon known as the extrinsic incentives bias, which decreases intrinsic motivation, resulting in motivation that is solely reliant on external rewards. Extrinsic motivation is not as strong as intrinsic and effort will disappear once the reward is removed. If Matt's motivation to enter his accounting degree was based entirely on obtaining a job with a high salary he is using extrinsic motivation and may fall prey to the extrinsic incentives bias.

Delayed reinforcement[edit | edit source]

Not all reinforcing events occur immediately after a behaviour is performed, instead it is delayed until a later time. When there is a significant period of time between a behaviour and the delivery of a reward, it is known as delayed reinforcement (Renner, 1964).

Obtaining a university degree takes a significant amount of time and is therefore a delayed reinforcer. In Matt's case, socialising with his friends provides him with immediate reinforcement, making it a highly appealing alternative.

Delayed reinforcement is often associated with a large reward as it will take time to obtain this reward and this can have a positive motivational effect for an individual (Dyan & Balleine, 2002). However, due to the extended time an individual must wait for reinforcement it requires significant self-control to resist immediate rewards. This often results in a lack of motivation from a lack of access to reinforcement (Dyan & Balleine, 2002). Therefore, to increase Matt's motivation to study he must make study more enjoyable by increasing his access to reinforcement more frequently (Dyan & Balleine, 2002).

fMRI of the brain during a decision making process of immediate or delay reward[edit | edit source]

McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, Cohen (2004) used function magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural correlates of time discounting as subjects made for either monetary reward which are different in the time delay of the delivery. As the decision process was being made, it was found that midbrain dopamine system including para-limbic cortex were activated (McClure et al., 2004). When the choice was made the region of the lateral prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex were activated with longer term options of reward producing more relative activity from frontal-parietal activity as a result of direct association from the two system of decision process and the final decision (McClure et al., 2004).

Expectancy of internal versus external control of reinforcement[edit | edit source]

Expectancy can effect a behavior choice through learned social and cultural behavior. This learned social and cultural behavior creates a history of the type of reinforcement that will be attributed to the type of behavior. This occur through an individual ability to develop and acquire knowledge of how their behavior will be reinforced over time creating the expectation that same reinforcement will occur for the same behavior (Rotter, 1996). The degree of a reinforcement being perceived by a person depends on the contingencies of their own behavior or how much of it is controlled by external forces that are independent of their action (Rotter, 1996).

Rotter (1996) described how individual needs for achievement that are derived from drive-reduction theory can be focused on the internal and external control of reinforcements. This increases the belief of their own skill or ability in determining the outcome of their behavior while individuals who are not motivated by the need achievement can still have a high belief in their ability to obtain the reinforcements from their behavior (Rotter, 1996).

Matt's expectation of being reinforced with good time from previous experience of performing that behavior of going to the party instead of studying. But there is a chance that the party might produce a different experience this time changing the expectation of the reinforcement will occur by going to the party. Also he wants to do well in the exam in order to achieve his goal which can be a motivating factor or he just simply has the belief of his own ability to complete the academic task required to do well.

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Motivation is the desire to perform a specific task and it is part of everyday life with every behavior that are being performed which are influenced by biological, social, emotional and cognitive forces (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Hackman & Oldham, 1976). The two type of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic, each reflecting different reasons for a behavior. Intrinsic motivation is when a person performed a behavior because it is interesting and enjoyable; while extrinsic motivation is behavior that influence by external factors through reinforcement such as reward (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Motivations usually depend on the interaction of both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated behavior.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Factors influencing intrinsic motivation is depend on the rewards, and studies have found that intrinsically motivated task that are reinforced with external reward tend to decrease motivation (Hitt, Marriott & Esser, 1992). Rewards as a form of reinforcement are often used to increase motivation in low interest task and study have shown that it can increased persistence on the task, but due to the undermining on intrinsic motivation of external rewards, motivation tend to decrease when the rewards become delayed (Hitt et al., 1992).

Delayed reinforcement tend to have effects extrinsic motivation due to the decrease in intrinsic motivation, as studies have shown that after early childhood, the development of abilities to critically think and make decision that are influences by external aspects of life such as social and cultural factors have effected the what influence decision making greatly (Ryan & Deci, 2000). As a child making decision, is usually based on their instinct of what makes them happy and people develop into older age they must consider what will please their social life, cultural expectation and future direction in life.

Consistent with Matt's current situation his task may have become less enjoyable as university progress due to the shift of the reason for the behaviour being performed to a mean to obtain the reward. Due to Matt’s lack of motivation to study, it shows that he will be performing academic tasks in studying for the exam by being extrinsically motivated by the delayed reinforcement. Even though it mean that he will miss out meeting his social needs while using his future direction in life a motivation to make decision to perform one behavior over another.

Theories of motivation[edit | edit source]

The two theories of motivation that are examined to help answer the problem Matt is facing are self-determination theory and cognitive evaluation theory. Both theories brings in both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the different role they play within each theory. Self-determination theories describe how reward as a form of reinforcement can be used to increase motivation, through a persons ability to distinguished the difference of autonomous and controlled motivation so they do not feel a loss of self-control ((Deci, Eghrari, Patrick & Leone, 1994). While cognitive evaluation theory explain why this sense of self-control is reduce with the used of reward and the motivation to obtain the reward through the increase of extrinsic motivation can lead to a negative effect on intrinsic motivation (Gagne & Deci, 2005).

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Self-determination theory uses the distinction between autonomous motivation and controlled motivation which categories under intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Gagne & Ryan, 2005). An aspect of self-determination theory is the variation between autonomous and controlled due to extrinsic motivation and under the type of regulation of external, introjected, identified and integrated people are able to regulate their behavior (Gagne & Deci, 2005).

The theory shows that people are able to perform a behavior without being interest and enjoyment through the different type of regulations due to the importance of the reward that arrives from the behavior. There are four types of regulation under extrinsic motivation where introjected and integrated are the two internal regulations which are involved with control and self-determination.

Introjected regulation is when a person accepts the value of the regulatory process but does not accept it as their own but instead it is performed through the inner control of the feeling of guilt or being satisfied with an individual own action (Deci, Eghrari, Patrick & Leone, 1994). Where introjected tend to the focus self control to the behaviour, integrated is not just taking the value of the activity but also identify with it by assuming full responsibility for performing it due to the value it has toward their goal (Deci et al., 1994).

Cognitive evaluation theory[edit | edit source]

Tangible rewards are used as a form of reinforcement to motivate a behavior by targeting extrinsic motivation (Gagne & Deci, 2005). Cognitive evaluation theory has suggested that this process can undermine intrinsic motivation due to a reduction in autonomy and change the perceived locus of causality (Gagne & Deci, 2005).

The external reward of reinforcement has already affected intrinsic motivation due to the reduction of feeling of self-control over the behavior as describe in cognitive evaluation theory. With the process undermining intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is subjected to higher influence from reinforcement and override feeling of autonomy and perceived locus of causality (Gagne & Deci, 2005).

This is where the student lost of self-control is due to the reinforcement of gaining a Bachelor degree which in turn will increase the opportunity of obtaining a job which pays well. These reasons tend to leave student to be controlled by contingencies and decreases their motivation level.

Self-determination theory suggests that the value of being reinforced with an accounting degree at the end of his university would be a motivation for Matt to perform the task necessary to study for his final exam through the acceptance of this value through the focus of introjected and integrated regulation by threat of going to party and feeling guilty. This adds pressure, tension and anxiety upon himself due to the rewards he wants to obtain in the near future. Where integration would suggest that Matt has accepted the responsibility of the behavior that must be performed to increase his motivation to perform what he has to do over what he wants to do.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Delayed reinforcement effects both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation differently according theories and studies of delayed reinforcement effects on behavior and motivational influences. Using a scenario that the reader can relate to they will be able to learn the process in which the psychological process of that are involved when a person goes through stages of the level of motivation. Because the level of motivation changes constantly and the reader can be aware of why people find it easier to choose immediate reinforcement over delayed reinforcements (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Reinforcement can either increase or decrease a behavior but delayed reinforcement generally produce a more valuable outcome. People does not have to be extrinsically motivated to perform a behavior, as theories suggest that peoples need for achievement can be a self-determination factor that pushes them to complete a task without being interested or enjoyable.

In answering questions about the scenario, the factors that would motivate Matt to study would be his goal of becoming a qualified accountant either through the self-determination of achieving the goal or through being reinforced with the accounting degree at the end university degree. These things tend to show that he is extrinsically motivated as it can be done without the enjoyment of the task. The reason he was conflicted with a challenging decision of hanging with friends or studying because studying would not immediately reinforce him once he completed the study and studies have shown that delayed reinforcement are more challenging to obtain but greater in value.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Employee Motivation and Money

Long-term goal achievement

Reward Dependence and Motivation

References[edit | edit source]

Dayan, P., & Balleine, B. W. (2002). Reward, motivation, and reinforcement learning. Neuron, 36(2), 285-298.

Deci, E. L., Eghrari, H., Patrick, B. C., & Leone, D. R. (1994). Facilitating internalization: The self‐determination theory perspective. Journal of personality, 62(1), 119-142.

Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self‐determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational behavior, 26(4), 331-362.

Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational behavior and human performance, 16(2), 250-279.

Hitt, D. D., Marriott, R. G., & Esser, J. K. (1992). Effects of delayed rewards and task interest on intrinsic motivation. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 13(4), 405-414.

Mackintosh, N. J. (1975). A theory of attention: variations in the associability of stimuli with reinforcement. Psychological review, 82(4), 276.

McClure, S. M., Laibson, D. I., Loewenstein, G., & Cohen, J. D. (2004). Separate neural systems value immediate and delayed monetary rewards. Science, 306(5695), 503-507.

Renner, K. E. (1964). Delay of reinforcement: A historical review. Psychological Bulletin, 61(5), 341.

Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological monographs: General and applied, 80(1), 1.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2 000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68