You raise a lot of interesting points, I agree with most of them. In my experience of managing people (across many disciplines), I've found that people go to work for two very basic reasons:
- Personal esteem
- Monetary compensation
The order of which depends entirely on the person and their circumstances at the time. The experiments don't take the latter into consideration. Could it be that someone in a desperate financial situation would actually perform exponentially worse than someone who was stable if both were offered a significant reward to complete the same task? Possibly.
The point that I agree with is taking money completely out of the equation. Its a stress that all of us could do very well without. If I had the capital, I'd happily start a company that existed solely to break even while paying its employees significantly higher than industry standard wages, me of course being one of them.
Think about it, we give developers nice quiet offices, catered lunches, free books, free gadgets, three monitors, ergo chairs .. hell, we'd give them kittens to purr in their lap if we thought it would help them concentrate. Yet, we miss the fact that our star ninja developer is lagging behind because s/he can't figure out a way to afford something that their family really needs. We effectively miss and fail to eliminate the biggest distraction of all.
Walk into that developer's office and say "Don't worry, the company will help you handle that" and the person may crap the next best collision proof hashing algorithm.
You are or will be in it for the money at some point. For some people, this dos not kick in until you find your own resources inadequate to handle something. That doesn't mean you go from one and become the other, it just means things happen and sometimes money is going to be more important to you than it was the day before.
I could have just said the value we place on rewards is far from static, but what fun would that have been?