Members in the Media
From: The Atlantic

Stop Worrying About Free Beer and Doughnuts. We’re in the Middle of a Pandemic.

I thought of this recently when a stream of grumbling turned up in my Twitter feed over incentives that are being offered to encourage Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine. These include moneybeerdoughnuts, and (in a brief campaign called “Joints for Jabs”) weed. Tweeted one commentator: “A sense of decency and community isn’t enough to make people do what is right to preserve the lives of others. They have to be cajoled and bribed to do it. Sometimes don’t you just hate humans?”

The idea that society is better off when people act on “intrinsic” motivation—that is, because they’re inclined to do the right thing—and not on“extrinsic” motivation, such as receiving a cash payment, is widespread. But is there something inherently wrong with bribing people to do the right thing? And on a practical level, does it work?

They’re not entirely independent questions, because humans are biased. Someone who feels that incentives are unseemly is probably especially open to the idea that they’re ineffective. Researchers are no exception; beginning in the early 1970s, a number of psychologists devoted themselves to pushing back against the theory that human behavior can easily be bent with a yummy treat. The result was the discovery of the “overjustification effect,” the notion that incentives don’t merely fail, but actually sap intrinsic motivation—meaning that people, especially children, who might otherwise be willing to do things become less willing to do them when incentives are placed on the table.

Read the whole story: The Atlantic

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