Rewards and creativity: Building a bridge between two theories

Iwona K Horelik, Pace University


The effect of extrinsic motivation on creativity can be positive or negative, depending on the circumstances of the given task, and perhaps also depending on gender of individuals. Cognitive evaluation theorists have demonstrated that reward offered for completion of a task has a negative impact on creativity. Behavioral theorists have demonstrated that reward offered for explicitly creative performance has a positive impact on creativity. The purpose of this project is to bridge this isolation of theories, by demonstrating that reward can have positive as well as negative effects on creativity, depending on its contingencies. This study examined the difference between the effects of performance contingent rewards (PCR; only students whose projects are rated as top five in creativity receive a reward) and completion contingent rewards (CCR; everyone who completes the project receives the reward). It was expected that students who were offered a performance contingent reward would produce projects that would be evaluated as more creative than those who were offered a completion contingent reward. Gender differences were also examined, as were interactions between gender and condition. The participant sample consisted of 57 seventh- and eighth-grade students attending a parochial school in a suburban town. Participants were randomly divided into two groups, one of which was offered a PCR, and the other was offered a CCR. Four creativity tasks were administered (verbal and nonverbal creativity tasks judged according to the consensual assessment technique or CAT; verbal and nonverbal creativity tasks from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking or TTCT), along with the Children's Sex Role Inventory, which was used to measure any differences between the results of children who were rated as more masculine, feminine, or androgynous than others. Results indicate that the overall creativity did not differ between the projects produced by participants of the two conditions; however, significant interactions between condition and gender were found in several measures of creativity, particular in the tasks using CAT. As predicted, the creativity demonstrated in the projects of the girls who worked for PCR decreased in comparison to those who worked for CCR; whereas the creativity demonstrated by the boys in the PCR group increased relative to the boys in the CCR group. Implications have been made for teachers on encouraging creativity most effectively among their students.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Psychology|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Horelik, Iwona K, "Rewards and creativity: Building a bridge between two theories" (2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3287778.



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