Friday, August 31, 2012

The surprising science of motivation

The myth that appealling to people´s self-interest is the key to motivating sustainable behaviour is dispelled in this fascinating TED talk by Dan Pink. This gives a great explanation of research showing that extrinsic motivations (e.g. money) only improve performance for a certain type of mechanical tasks with clearly defined end goals. For tasks involving any level of cognitive skill or creativity, extrinsic goals will either not work or hinder performance; that means for most tasks we are faced with today, instrinsic motivations - such as autonomy, mastery and purpose - are far more motivating. Here Dan Pink talks about this research in relation to the mismatch between the 40 years of evidence from social science research and how businesses motivate performance, although the prinicples also apply to motivating changing behaviour to more sustainable lifestyles. "This is one of the most robust findings in social science, and also one of the most ignored." The good news is that linking sustainable actions and lifestyles to people´s existing values of autonomy, mastery and serving a purpose larger than ourselves is an immediately accessible way of helping to promote more successful behaviour change.

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