, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 333-343
Date: 25 Aug 2006

The Effects of Social-Comparison Versus Mastery Praise on Children’s Intrinsic Motivation

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Two studies examined the effects of social-comparison versus mastery praise on 4th- and 5th-grade children’s intrinsic motivation. Children received a high score and either social-comparison praise, mastery praise, or no praise for working on a set of novel puzzles. They then worked on a different task and were given either ambiguous feedback (Study 1) or positive feedback (Study 2) before completing measures of intrinsic motivation. Mastery praise enhanced intrinsic motivation and social-comparison praise curtailed it when uncertainty about children’s subsequent performance was introduced (Study 1) and, for girls, even in situations of continued success (Study 2). Social-comparison praise also tended to discourage children from seeking subsequent self-evaluative normative information. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Funding for this research was provided by the office of the Dean of Faculty at Reed College. We would like to thank Tracy Tomlinson, Penelope Stanton, and Annie Block for their assistance with data collection and Kathy Oleson for feedback on a previous draft of this article. We are grateful to the Portland Public Schools’ Research and Evaluation Department for their support and, of course, to the children who participated in this research.