Why We Do What We Do

Edward L. Deci, Author, Richard Flaste, With
Edward L. Deci, Author, Richard Flaste, With Putnam Publishing Group $24.95 (230p) ISBN 978-0-399-14047-1
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Univ. of Rochester psychology professor Deci and Flaste, former science and health editor for the New York Times, here compile decades of experimentation and research on human motivation conducted by Deci and his colleagues. The product is an insightful and provocative meditation on how people can become more genuinely engaged and successful in pursuing their goals--in school, the workplace and relationships. Concerned with what makes people want to succeed, Deci conducted extensive studies demonstrating that when subjects are encouraged to pursue a task for its own sake, they do it better and enjoy it more than those told to do it for a reward or informed that they will be punished if they don't do it correctly. These results lead to his conclusion--amply illustrated through anecdotal and scholarly evidence--that authoritarian motivational strategies such as the reward/punishment systems commonly used in American schools and businesses alienate people from their work, make them less productive and leave them less fulfilled. Deci calls for ``autonomy-supportive'' behavior from those in positions of authority to encourage motivation emanating from within. (June)