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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reward-driven people win more... except when there is a real reward

Just a psychological curiosity, I guess, but one that called my attention.

The so-called reward-driven individuals demonstrated at tests that they are more motivated to win in general and that they win more often than their "normal" peers. However a paradox was found: when there was a monetary prize, the "normal" players actually improved their performance, making the "winner" type win less and perform more like the rest.

Full story at Science Daily.

This suggests to me that "reward-driven" could be a misnomer and that in fact we are before a personality type that is more "success-driven", with or without reward. This may have its rewards (in form of unexpected or hidden prizes and in the open rewards they also get, even if at lower rate) but it may also be costly in terms of energy spent (both mental and physical and even economic resources maybe). I do hence suspect that both phenotypes are in dynamic equilibrium.


manju said...

I read this and thought of blogging about it. However, I couldn't relate it to the previous study that divides people into goal oriented and fun oriented.

But I found it interesting see, once reward sets the mind into certain pattern then winning becomes a habit whether these is a reward or not.

Also, dopamine is not a reward but a 'cue' to reward..thus a motivating factor?

Maju said...

I could not directly relate either. But it's clear that they are in the same line: normal people vs. super-achievers.

"Also, dopamine is not a reward but a 'cue' to reward..thus a motivating factor?"

Hmmm. Wikipedia's description sounds like a reward:

"Dopamine is commonly associated with the reward system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities".

Joy is very strong a reward and probably what really drives us. All joy no pain... that's what we like.

It's the Pavlovian hormone by definition.


"Dopamine is released (particularly in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex) by rewarding experiences such as food, sex, drugs, and neutral stimuli that become associated with them".

So it does seem highly associated with addiction and hence compulsive behaviors. If you get such an intense intimate reward for winning no matter the material prize, you will do your best to win in all circumstances because it just makes you feel good.

That's how everything is Eros in a Reichian sense: you can get the same kind of emotional reward for a mundane activity as for quality sex. Hence the motivations and basic psychology involved are the same.