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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday


  • Shankar Vedantam - When Play Becomes Work -
    Psychologists have long been interested in what happens when people's internal drives are replaced by external motivations. A host of experiments have shown that when threats and rewards enter the picture, they tend to destroy the inner drives. Paychecks and pink slips might be powerful reasons to get out of bed each day, but they turn out to be surprisingly ineffective -- and even counterproductive -- in getting people to perform at their best.

    This interesting topic is discussed in some depth in Dan Arially's book "Predictably Irrational" where he devotes a chapter to it, "Why we are happy to do things but not when we are paid to do them. It is the distinction between social norms and market norms and the problems that occur when we mix them. One example he used was of a children's daycare that had a problem with parents picking up their children on time. In an attempt to encourage them they started charging them a fee when they were late. They moved from the social norm of it's not polite to keep people waiting to a market one I'm paying for it. The result was a worsening of the situation the customers no longer view it in social terms reasoning that if I'm paying for it the social responsibility of being on time no longer applied. But that was only the beginning of the problem. When the daycare abandoned their misguided attempt at encouraging on time pickups the situation didn't improve. They had destroyed the social contract by injecting money into it


    You can consider this a strong recommendation for his book. It also has great chapters on the fallacy of supply and demand and behavioral economics, as well as the costs of zero. Try this ask someone if they would rather have a $10.00 gift certificate for free or a $20.00 gift certificate for $7.00.

  • Grow Your Own - Allison Arieff - By Design - Opinion - New York Times Blog
    “Edible landscape” seems to be going head to head with “staycation” as the most popular catch phrase of Summer 2008. Lawns may not be disappearing before our very eyes, but citizens are definitely swapping out blades of grass for bushels of beans in increasing numbers.

  • The Satirical Political Report - An Offbeat Look at the Hot-Button Issues of the Day » McCain Complains About TOO MUCH Press Coverage

  • Dozens blinded in India looking for Virgin Mary - Telegraph

  • Cassocks and Codpieces

    Hitchens on Rushdie

    Salman Rushdie is so much identified with seriousness—his choice of subjects, from Kashmir to Andalusia; his position as a literary negotiator of East and West; his decade and more of internal exile in hiding from the edict of a fanatical theocrat—that it can be easy to forget how humorous he is. In much the same way, his extraordinary knowledge of classical literature sometimes causes people to overlook his command of the vernacular. Here are two examples of wit and idiom from his latest fiction, The Enchantress of Florence. In the first, an enigmatic wanderer, appareled in a coat of many colors, enters a splendid city:

  • BBC NEWS | UK | England | West Midlands | Council ban on atheist websites

  • Senator Ted Stevens Has Reportedly Been Indicted - good!



re: dozens blinded

well, learn somthing new everyday! if you tell me there's been yet another of those stupid incidents where masses of people damage themselves looking for the image of the virgin mary in the sun (happens all the time, dun'it?) india would not be high on my guess list as to where it might have occurred. are there lots of christians in india? and freaky ones at that? who would have figured?


Re: Predictably Irrational

Considering that just this morning I ran across a long forgotten, unused, and probably expired six-year-old $10 gift certificate of mine, I would posit that, at least for some individuals, there is a perfectly appropriate economic rationale for the the gift certificate example of supposed irrational behavior. Just sayin’…

I wonder why the Democrats think they have a chance of getting a Democrat in to replace Stevens. I think of Alaska as being super red - the people living/working there WANTING oil drilled there and being against environmentalists for stopping that and for their stance on clear-cutting. The times I've traded emails with Alaskans they've said 1) we in the lower 48 don't have a clue how much land is up there and then 2) the big question was how many people are ever going to come up there (as if the point of environmentalism is to make sure we have places to vacation.)

re: dozens blinded

Yes, Jonathan, there are a lot of Christians in India - mainly Catholics. On a visit to Chennai I was driven around the city by "Joseph", a catholic tuk-tuk driver with religious images on his dashboard, and was taken to the shrine of St Thomas (Doubting Thomas) in the Cathedral there. The beauty of Chennai then was that the population was mainly tamil Hindus with a VERY tolerant attitude towards other beliefs.

thanks for the memories, pedantsareus.

Paychecks and pink slips might be powerful reasons to get out of bed each day, but they turn out to be surprisingly ineffective -- and even counterproductive -- in getting people to perform at their best.

Why should this be surprising? It is being inspired that motivates a person. Money and punishment may be important reasons to work because of reasons of life and death, but they don't inspire anyone's creative desires.

Why it takes a psychologist to figure this out, well...


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