A talk about motivation

A talk about motivation

Listen to the talk about motivation to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



So, we think we know how to motivate people, right? Offer them a reward. Do this and you'll get this. Do this faster, earn more money. Do this better than everyone else, here's a promotion. We offer incentives when we want people to do things. We do it at work, at school, even at home with our kids. Tidy your room and you can watch TV.

But when social psychologists test whether incentives work, they get surprising results. Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, America, set people a problem to solve and told them he was going to time them to see how long they took. Then he put them in two groups. He offered one group a reward for finishing fast. Five dollars for anyone finishing in the top 25 per cent and 20 dollars for the person who finished the fastest of all. To the other group he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time.

The first group, the ones with the reward, solved the problem faster, you'd think, right? Well, no, they actually took three and a half minutes longer than the group who just thought they were being timed. Incentive didn't work. In fact, it made them slower. This experiment has been repeated, with the same results, many times. But in business we still offer bonuses, promotions and rewards to staff.

That's fine if we want them to do something simple, like chop wood. We'll pay you more if you chop the wood faster. An incentive works then. But if we want someone to do something complex, something creative, something where they have to think, rewards don't work. They might even have the opposite result, and make people perform worse. Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task. The reward made them focus so hard on the result that they couldn't think creatively any more.

And this all matters because more and more simple jobs will become automated. We'll be left with creative, problem-solving jobs that computers will never do. And we need to find a way to motivate people to do those jobs when we've proved the traditional incentives don't work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. Companies that give employees time during the week to work on things that interest them and are not part of their regular job achieve amazing things. Some of the big tech companies are good examples of this, with ping-pong tables and areas to relax in …

Task 1

Task 2


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Submitted by marcialopes on Thu, 14/09/2023 - 15:47


I take pride in doing my best in everything I do, be it work, studies, or even exercise in the gym. If I feel too tired to train, for example, I rest and come back the next day. Because I don't want to start anything if I am not able to do my best. This sense of satisfaction motivates me to complete tasks and enjoy my leisure time. Otherwise, I overthink and can't relax.

Submitted by DashaRaspberry on Wed, 06/09/2023 - 15:18


For good motivation I must love my job and be dedicated to the company I work in. I should feel that my job helps me to improve my skills and gives me better expirience.

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Submitted by Ramiro Solana on Thu, 10/08/2023 - 17:17


I feel motivated every time I find an interesting challenge to solve. I don't like to do repetitive activities even if they are well rewarded. I like to face new problems and think of different ways to solve them. Then I also like to develop practical solutions and implement them, because I like to see things done and be able to measure the results.

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Submitted by Anwarow on Wed, 26/07/2023 - 14:26


for me i get motivated by the deadlines, when i got a job or a home work or some one wants me to do a job most of the time i feel lazy and i chill on the internet or do my daily job. when ever the deadline is i put a presure on my self and finally do the job.

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Submitted by allayarprimov on Mon, 10/07/2023 - 19:21


Hi, can I download the audio?

Hi allayarprimov,

If you are using a computer, you can right-click on the audio and then choose "Save audio as ..." (or similar option).


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by TARIQ GHARAIBEH on Fri, 26/05/2023 - 09:21


3. The people who were offered smaller rewards in Ariely's experiment performed better than those offered bigger rewards.
The right answer for this question in False (you must recheck the key) because this result according to Glucksberg experiment.

Hello Tariq,

I would say that the answer to question 3 is 'True' because the subject of rewards and performance was explored by Ariely as well. The speaker shows this when she says:

Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task.

'the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed' means that the people who got bigger rewards did the task worse than the people who got smaller rewards.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
LearnEnglish team