A regular review of interesting cultural shifts & marketing developments as viewed through the collective lens of the Stancombe Research + Planning Team

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Too much carrot can be a bad thing

I can't help but post up a blog almost every time after reading PsyBlog - the writers have a knack for picking great topics and making psychology theory sound interesting.

Their recent post talks about about what happens when you reward people that are already intrinsically motivated to perform a task. Studies have found that extrinsically motivating people with rewards (e.g. money, certificates, promotions etc) to perform a task, when they are already intrinsically motivated, actually reduces their productivity.

It seems counter intuitive right? That if you love doing something and someone comes along and say's "Hey, I'll pay you to do what you love", you start producing less or lower quality work.

The theory goes, that you can 'over justify' behaviour, i.e. we can get too caught up in the reward, start thinking too hard why we are performing a task and subsequently produce less/poorer quality

I think this quote sums it up nicely:

"We don't just work 'forwards' from our attitudes and preferences to our actions, we also work 'backwards', working out what our attitudes and preferences must be based on our current situation, feelings or actions"

I think this provides an interesting way to think about research, because we often talk to people about what they 'might do' or their 'intentions' or how they might react to a piece of communications in a group room...maybe we should be getting closer to what people actually do and work backwards from there?

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