Introducing Uninteresting Tasks to Children: A Comparison of the Effects of Rewards and Autonomy Support


  • Mireille Joussemet, McGill University; Richard Koestner, McGill University; Natasha Lekes; Nathalie Houlfort, McGill University.

  • This study was funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche, Québec.

concerning this article may be addressed to Richard Koestner, Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montréal (Québec), Canada, H3A 1B1. Electronic mail may be sent to


Two experiments compared rewards and autonomy support as methods to promote children's self-regulation for an uninteresting vigilance task. Dependent measures were ratings of positive affect, perception of the task's value, and free-choice engagement. ANOVA results revealed some positive effects associated with autonomy support, whereas no effect for rewards was found in either study. The outcomes of most interest were correlations between free-choice behavior and self-reported measures of affect and value, reflecting the level of integration in self-regulation. As predicted by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 1991, 2000), rewards were associated with behaviors incongruent from affect and value, whereas autonomy support led to integrated self-regulation. This finding was first detected in Study 1 and later replicated in Study 2. Together, these results point to autonomy support as a beneficial alternative to the common use of rewards.