The question I would ask (related to this thread) is this. DOES praise raise social skills, thinking skills, and motivation? Because, for my kids, I do not think it does.
No praise does not help any of those things you list. There is an extremely fine line between praise and manipulation. A great example was given by a pp, where she mentioned a "how nice you look today!" comment from a parent being interpreted by the child as "you normally look like crap and I find that disappointing" (paraphrased). This was how my mother talked to me, and you should have seen how I dressed/acted in my college years (dyed black hair, long hippie skirts, doc marten boots, smoker). I think it was my way of saying "I won't be what you wish I was". Her thoughts were largely administered via "praising" what she wanted to see.
I just finished reading both Unconditional Parenting and some of Kohn's essays on education they were all so satisfying to read. I think he's really got it figured out. One example I think of is my DD's weekly spelling tests. Every Friday we would get home from school and when the test came out of her folder, it just never felt right to say "AWESOME JOB!!" If I give a huge reaction to when she does well, how will she feel when she doesn't? Also, I don't actually care about the tests; I don't even think I first grader should have to take them. Sometimes I'll say "cool you got them all this week" or "tricky ones this week, whatever" when she doesn't get many right. My DD, unlike many or her peers, never has test anxiety. Her teacher actually complained to me about the fact that she is not interested in finishing artwork, writing, etc so that it can be hung in the hallway for all to see. "Who cares?" my DD told her.
She listens intensely to the lessons and is interested in learning the new material...but praise? It's not on her radar. Academic motivation has
to be intrinsic to last (and to be enjoyable!).
She's been offering to help set the table lately. We tried last year to have her set the table to earn an allowance (it never took off), yet here she is, doing it on her own for some reason. I mentioned to DH when she did this last night, how some might feel this is the appropriate time to praise her, to say "what a great helper!" or something, and if this was said, my next thought would be (if I were her) "what, do you think I'm such a lousy person that this is so surprising??"
It seems counterintuitive, but I think praise from parents can easily have a negative effect.