Behavioural Economics and Learning Theory (#MSLFM11)

Economics is better defined as a study of incentives that guide or determine human behaviour. Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman, laid down the foundation of behavioural economics. Elinor Ostrom work on Social Commons got her a Nobel. Behavioural Economics and Social Commons view is the new direction economics is taking and both these trends can also be extrapolated to the field of education. Social Commons in the field of education include Wiki, MIT-OCW and initiatives like Academic Earth.

Related with behavioural economics is Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us’. Pink identifies three thresholds of human motivation – Motivation 1.0, Pink says, was when biological drives, like food and security alone guided human behaviour (elsewhere described as ‘Maslow’s Basement’); Motivation 2.0 is extrinsic rewards (carrots and sticks) guiding our behaviour – where we largely are today; and, Motivation 3.0 is when intrinsic rewards (challenge, novelty, meaning…) guide our behaviour and Pink argues this is where we are moving towards. Pink describes the 21st century motivational operating system as ‘AMP – Autonomy (self-direction), Mastery and Purpose’.

Juxtaposing these three thresholds of human motivation alongside Learning Theories reveals an interesting correlation (and also causation?):

Motivation 1.0 = Behavioural Learning Theories

Motivation 2.0 = Cognitivist Learning Theories (stockpile knowledge and learn to earn, grade as carrot and stick)

Motivation 3.0 = Humanist Learning Theories (learn to fulfill meaning/purpose in life)

As Pink puts it, “compliance gets you through the day, but engagement alone will get you through the night”!

What combination of learning theories or a new learning theory will fire-up a lifelong yearning to learn?

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