People focusing on losing a reward rather than gaining it are more motivated to exercise, a new study finds.
The research shows that exactly the same financial rewards can produce markedly different levels of motivation when framed in different ways.
Professor Kevin G. Volpp, one of the study’s authors, said:
“Our findings demonstrate that the potential of losing a reward is a more powerful motivator and adds important knowledge to our understanding of how to use financial incentives to encourage employee participation in wellness programs.”
The study compared workplace rewards for physical activity.
Some people in the program were given $42 and then had $1.40 taken away for each day they didn’t exercise.
Others were told they would simply receive $1.40 for each day they exercised.
Both of these were compared with a control group.
Financially, it amounted to exactly the same thing, but the first framing emphasises a loss of money and the second framing emphasises the reward.
Fascinatingly, the reward-framing had no effect over and above offering no reward for exercise.
However, the loss-framed incentive increased by 50% the amount of times people reached their exercising goals compared with the control group and the reward-framed incentive.
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The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine (Patel et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Rewards image from Shutterstock