Extrinsic rewards undermine altruistic tendencies in 20-month-olds

Dev Psychol. 2008 Nov;44(6):1785-8. doi: 10.1037/a0013860.


The current study investigated the influence of rewards on very young children's helping behavior. After 20-month-old infants received a material reward during a treatment phase, they subsequently were less likely to engage in further helping during a test phase as compared with infants who had previously received social praise or no reward at all. This so-called overjustification effect suggests that even the earliest helping behaviors of young children are intrinsically motivated and that socialization practices involving extrinsic rewards can undermine this tendency.

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Reinforcement, Verbal
  • Reward*