British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 2 Issue 2 (June 1984), Pages 95-190

Intrinsic motivation and delay of gratification in preschoolers: The variables of reward salience and length of expected delay (pages 149-156)

The undermining effect of reward on the intrinsic motivation of 100 preschool children was tested under six reward conditions and a control. The reward conditions varied the children's attention to rewards (salience) and length of expected reward delay to test predictions derived from the delay of gratification hypothesis. The results disconfirmed the prediction of greater decrements in intrinsic interest with increases in length of expected reward delay and, in fact, showed the opposite trend. The pattern of significant effects supported the role of reward salience. Cognitive script theory is discussed as an explanation of these results and elaborated to incorporate developmental changes in cognitive processes. The combination of attribution theory and the elaborated version of cognitive scripts is proposed to account for the undermining effect in young children and adults.

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