Motivate Behavior Using Work-to-Unlock Rewards
A new study found that work-to-unlock rewards are highly motivating. What are they? And how do they work?
Researchers analyzed the flossing behavior of 1,700 people.
They tested different rewards:
- Work-to-Receive. Participants received $0.24 each day they flossed.
- Work-to-Unlock. Participants were required to floss for 3 days. Then they received $0.32 each day they flossed.
In both rewards, participants could receive $2.88 across 12 days. But they flossed more frequently when they needed to unlock the rewards (Sharif & Woolley, 2022).
In a follow-up study, researchers tested the same incremental amount: Both conditions would receive $0.02 for every 30-second workout they completed. But some participants needed to complete 4 workouts to start receiving the rewards. Even though these participants were paid less in total, they exercised more often.
Why Do These Rewards Work?
- Implicit Goal. Work-to-unlock rewards create a nearby goal that people strive to attain.
- Feeling Behind. Once people reach this goal, they feel behind — as if they're just starting now.
- Sunk Cost. If people give up, they'll be wasting the time and effort they spent to unlock the reward mechanism.
Other New Studies
- Products Seem More Sustainable With Less Saturated Colors - Subconsciously, a gentler color will seem gentler on the environment (Pichierri & Pino, 2023).
- Employees Perform Worse With Daily Monitoring - It increases anxiety. Instead, managers should work with employees to structure the style and frequency of supervision. This approach will maintain their autonomy, which is a key driver of intrinsic motivation (Zheng, Nieberle, Braun, & Schyns, 2023)
- Luxury Customers Shouldn't Hide Their Shame - Ironically, people seem authentic when they acknowledge their interest in luxury products. Suddenly their motivation seems intrinsic (e.g., enjoyment) rather than extrinsic (e.g., status seeking; Jung, Chen, & Yap, 2023).