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


Worksheet81.46 KB

Language level

Average: 4.4 (92 votes)

Submitted by Ganna Hamdy Hissain on Wed, 25/01/2023 - 21:13


I believe that nothing could encourage a person to do something than self motivation that arises from inside of you!

Submitted by Nicole1889 on Mon, 23/01/2023 - 18:37


I get motivated when I'm studying something that suddenly makes more sense in my mind as if from that moment on, the world was no longer the same and I realized how ignorant I am

Submitted by Alaaseada on Mon, 02/01/2023 - 16:22


Honestly, I get motivated when I find that what I'm doing do have a real impact, and show promising results. For example, I feel enthusiastic to continue learning a language if I will use it more frequently whether with a friend or with people in a certain country. The same thing happens while learning a new programming language; the more I find application use it, the more excited I become to master it.

Submitted by Mariia.worker on Wed, 07/12/2022 - 06:14


I believe that motivation has two types as a result of being inspired or disciplined. More reliable is the second variant, but to start the mechanism of productivity, you should seize the moment of external encouragement. Since you have done this, congratulations!

Submitted by lipofrenichka on Thu, 06/10/2022 - 22:02


The concept of motivation is individual for everyone. Someone can be motivated by other people, someone by goals or dreams. I am inspired by myself. After all, I believe that to achieve something in this life, you don't need to rely on someone's help. It is worth considering yourself and motivating yourself with your achievements. You need to improve constantly, and these achievements will motivate you. In addition, I am inspired by my plans for the future. Every time I think that in the future, I want to buy myself certain things, I start working harder and harder.

Submitted by Sofiia Chuiguk on Thu, 06/10/2022 - 15:41


To get motivated I buy nice stationery before studying starts. I try to surround myself with beautiful things which inspire me. Also I watch motivational blogs on YouTube. Productive girls from the screen make me repeat daily routine after them. I provided little encouragements for doing homework: if I do everything I must, I will watch a movie or buy smth nice.

Submitted by JooryHamed on Fri, 02/09/2022 - 17:53


I have a question regarding Task1 the last question "People always work better when they start the day later and work into the night". Why is it False?
This is what was in the audio "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. "
I think it wasn't mentioned when people work into the night achieve better. so the answer is "NG" which different than "False"

Hi JooryHamed,

The speaker's point is that people who have the freedom to make choices about their work get good results. The existence of a choice implies that different choices exist (e.g. starting your work day earlier or later) and different choices suit different people. It implies that some people work better when they do not start the day later, which contradicts the question. Therefore, it cannot be true that people always work better when they start the day later - if they did, the idea of having freedom to make choices would be irrelevant (from the point of view of productivity, at least).

I can see why you might answer "not given" if this were an IELTS exam (for example), but there is no "not given" option in this exercise. Since the statement cannot be true, false is the best answer here.

I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, in my point of view it is wrong because The audio did not actually mention that people will be more productive when they delay their tasks or work on them during the night. Instead, the audio explained that people will be more creative when they are free to choose their working plans and times, and that doesn't mean that they have to do them at night because some can also be more productive in the morning too, do you get it ?

Submitted by RICYGOBY on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 10:48


Kids as the same as aldults, need to be respected of their passion, interests, strength. Making properly incentives, they will get great results.