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Incentives part 2: Which of these appeals would you give to?

The power of (dis)incentives

I attended a RSA Lecture entitled 'Carrots & Sticks' last week, in which Professor Ian Ayres talked about the way rewards and punishments can help motivate people to do things.

It was a fascinating lecture and there were a couple of things in particular I wanted to share with you.

First of all he talked about lessons from his website

The idea of Stickk is simple, but at the same time very clever.

It uses a number of economic and psychological principles to help people acheive goals.

You set a goal e.g. give up smoking, lose weight etc and sign an online contract.

The first clever bit, is that you then have to put up a stake/forfeit if you don't achieve your goal, which behavioural and economic research shows increases the probability of achieving your target.

A referee is then appointed (usually a friend) to monitor your progress and to activate the stake if you miss a target.  This accountability also increases your chances of succeeding.

Finally, you are encouraged to share your challenge with your friends /family and for them to offer support and encouragement.  Again, research has shown that sharing your goals increases the chances of you achieving them due to you not want to humiliate yourself in front of your supporters and/or you want them to be proud of you.

Ian explained a couple of neat twists to the basic premise as well.

For example, he found that using an anti-Charity increases your chances of succeeding even more.  He gave the example of a liberal having to give to a right wing charity (or vice versa) if they failed as increasing motivation.

He also explained how he sold his commitment contract to the highest bidder on e-bay, which again increased his motivation to achieve his goal.

Next time, I'll take a closer look at what this means for fundraisers and some possible uses for the theory.