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Motivated by Meaning: Testing the Effect of Knowledge-Infused Rewards on Preschoolers' Persistence


  • This research was generously supported by Grant BCS-0843252 from the National Science Foundation to the second author. The authors thank the research assistants and participating families who made this research possible.


Research and theory suggest that young children are highly attuned to causality. This study explores whether this drive can motivate task engagement. Fifty-six 3- and 4-year-olds completed a motor task as many times as desired, viewing a picture of a novel item upon each completion. Forty-two randomly assigned children then received either: (a) causally rich information regarding the item, (b) causally weak information regarding the item, or (c) a tangible reward. The remaining 14 children participated in a baseline condition featuring no rewards. Preschoolers completed more trials when rewarded with causally rich than causally weak information, or when given no reward. Children also trended toward lengthier persistence in the causally rich than the tangible reward condition. Implications for theory and educational practice are discussed.