Intrinsic rewards in school crime

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Reed Larson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The systemic structure of a school provides opportunities for both prosocial and antisocial behavior. Actions in a school may be motivated by (1) the extrinsic mechanisms of discipline and grades, (2) the means-end relationship of school behavior to students' long-term goals, and (3) the immediate intrinsic satisfactions obtainable in different activities. This chapter treats the third type, intrinsic motivation. Using previous research, the authors propose that the state of enjoyment occurs when a person is challenged at a level matched to his level of skills. According to the model, the experience of meetable challenges requires the perception of a constrained set of possible actions, clearly defined goals, and opportunities for unambiguous feedback. The system of rules in a formal game provides these prerequisites. The systemic structure of a school can also provide the conditions of enjoyable involvement. Ideally, learning should involve systemic involvement in sequences of challenges internalized by students. However, evidence indicates that such involvement is rare and is often subverted by the school itself. Without such opportunities, antisocial behavior provides an alternate framework of challenges for bored students. Disruption of classes, vandalism, and violence in schools are, in part, attempts by adolescents to obtain enjoyment in otherwise lifeless schools. Restructuring education in terms of intrinsic motivation would not only reduce school crime but would also accomplish the goal of teaching youths how to enjoy life constructively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationApplications of Flow in Human Development and Education
Subtitle of host publicationThe Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789401790949
ISBN (Print)9401790930, 9789401790932
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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