Contingencies of Exogenous Reward and Task Performance: On the “Minimax” Strategy in instrumental Behavior1


  • 1

    Research was supported by Ford Foundation Grant No. 7 (through Israel Foundation Trustees) to the first author, who was on leave from Tel-Aviv University and at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.


Subjects performed a task in return for monetary payment. In one experimental condition, the subject's pay was contingent on his working at the task for at least the time specified, in another condition, the pay was contingent on the subject's completion of at least the specified output standard; in a third condition, the amount of pay was contingent on the quantity of output. It was found that subjects in the time-contingent condition adhered most closely to the task's time specification, subjects in the standard-contingent condition adhered most closely to the standard specification, and subjects in the output-contingent condition produced the highest quantities of output. The results are discussed in reference to the idea that extrinsically motivated workers act in accordance with a “minimax” strategy: They attempt to perform the bare minimum of work sufficient for the achievement of maximal rewards.