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Factors such as an expected reward have been shown to severely undermine individuals' intrinsic interest in a given task. This "overjustification effect," or "discounting principle," has been demonstrated across the life span, except in the case of young children, who have been shown to be incapable of engaging in this cognitive process. This study investigated whether the negative effect resulting from socially-learned stereotypes of work and play would lead to decreasing intrinsic interest in a given task. A total of 27 3- to 5-year-olds were asked to complete 10 illustrated-story pairs of tasks. Each pair of tasks consisted of one activity that pretesting had shown preschoolers considered "fun" and one considered "not so fun." The children were instructed to give a reward to one of the two dolls in each pair that performed the tasks, and to determine which doll was working and which was playing. Unexpectedly, while children were able to distinguish between work and play tasks, they were no more likely to reward the doll who was working than they were the doll who was playing. The results appear to demonstrate that young children have not yet developed an understanding that rewards are typically paired with undesirable, work-like activities. (MDM)

Descriptors: Age Differences, Early Childhood Education, Play, Rewards, Social Cognition, Socialization, Work Attitudes, Young Children

Autor: Hennessey, Beth A.; Berger, Andrea R.


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