Praise as Good a Reward as Cash
> 4/29/2008 8:51:11 AM

Some parents give their children cash rewards for good grades, but a recent study by Dr. Norihiro Sadato suggests that praise would encourage them just as well. Dr. Sadato used fMRIs to scan the brains of 19 volunteers as they played either a gambling game or underwent an evaluation. Winning money in the card game activated the same region of the brain that was lit up when subjects received praised for their work.

This finding fits together with two studies this month published in Neuron that found the same activation pattern when subjects learned that they were doing better than others. This perhaps explains why praise is a valued reward; humans are more likely to survived and propagate if society views them as superior, something for which praise and peer performance are good indicators.

Parents and employers should recognize the value of praise. It elevates mood and reinforces good behavior, and it costs very little to say a few words.

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