Is Incentive Motivation Effective?

At some point in our lives, we’ve all needed some motivation. That demand has most certainly increased in the last year or two. Who hasn’t been trying to lose the weight they gained during the pandemic?

Who hasn’t been compelled to pretend to be excited about joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t tried to be enthusiastic about going back to work for another 9 to 5 (or longer if you include it in the commute)? It’s a sign of the times when you’re feeling “meh.”

Incentive motivation is a means to rekindle our passion, ambition, and commitment to the things we claim we desire most.

I’ll explain what incentive motivation is and how it works in this essay.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is a branch of psychology that deals with human motivation. What motivates us to move from couch potato to marathon runner? What motivates us to receive the Covid vaccine—or not? What is it that causes us to think or act the way we do?

The impact of objectives on conduct is the subject of incentive motivation. [1] By all accounts, it works if the reward is meaningful to the individual.

1. The Roots of Incentive Motivation

The origins of incentive motivation may be traced all the way back to our childhood. I’m sure many of us recall being encouraged to “eat all our vegetables” so that we might “grow up to be big and strong,” and that if we did, we’d be rewarded with a weekend vacation to our favorite carnival, amusement park, or playground.

That outing’s incentive was something we wanted badly enough to have an impact on our actions. As we get older, incentive motivation continues to play a significant part in our decision-making.

While we may not have liked the prospect of spending years studying, obtaining high grades, pursuing further degrees, and graduating with significant student loan debt, a large number of us chose to do so.

Why? Because the end objective of a profession, a sought title, and the financial rewards and joy of doing something we enjoy were tremendous motivators.

Dr. Holly Wyatt, a weight management specialist, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformative weight reduction program of the same name is one researcher who believes in the efficacy of reward motivation.

Her experience with customers has shown time and time again that when motivation wanes, she can help.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

2. Examples of Incentive Motivation

Whatever people pick, the goal must be something they truly desire, and the incentive must be meaningful enough to influence their behavior toward those objectives.

Some people are driven by a meaningful reward (a carrot), whereas others are motivated by a bad consequence or the loss of a privilege (the stick).

Companies and government bodies are presently giving advantages to those who receive the Covid vaccination, which is an example of incentive motivation in action.

Dr. Wyatt pushes her clients to commit to modifying only one habit that will help them accomplish their weight reduction objectives in terms of incentive motivation, which is particular to external motivators. Clients must then agree to either a “carrot” or a “stick” as a reward for doing what they say they’ll do or as a penalty for not doing so.

For example, if they accomplish the item they said they would do, they may get a spa day or be punished by jogging up and down the staircase of their apartment building a specific number of times.

Lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert tickets, free entrance to events, food discounts, and even free drinks at local restaurants and bars are being offered around the country.

The public is being provided with a long number of incentives to improve vaccination rates, many of which are extremely inventive. [2] These incentives are based on monetary, societal, and even moral considerations. Is this specific incentive motive, however, effective?

It’s important to remember that one of the keys of incentive motivation functioning is whether the individual prioritizes the reward over the final objective.

As a result, not all rewards drive people in the same way. Stephen L. Franzoi claims that“The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is one example of a motivational force that is based on outside causes. While incentives are effective in changing behavior, there are a few other choices that may be more in line with who you are and what motivates you to achieve your objectives.

1. Fear Motivation

Being driven by fear is, in many respects, the polar opposite of being motivated by rewards. Rather than seeking a reward, the avoidance of a negative outcome or unpleasant punishment motivates people to behave.

Married partners, for example, may “forsake all others” out of fear of being “taken to the cleaners” by their husbands if their infidelities are exposed, rather than out of love or commitment.

Another example of dread acting as a powerful motivator is the fear of poverty, which we’re hearing about more and more as we emerge from the epidemic.

Many people have stayed in jobs they despise because they are afraid of becoming destitute. Only now are we seeing a reversal, as headlines are shining brightly?

2. Social Motivation

Humans are sociable animals by nature. A strong motivation is the desire to fit in. This form of social motivation motivates people to act in ways that would ideally lead to them being accepted by a group of other people.

The emergence of the Internet and the growth of social media participation has had both beneficial and bad effects on our desire to be part of what we used to refer to as “the cool kids” or “cliques” in school (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.).

We’ve undoubtedly all felt the disappointment of “not being selected” at some point in our lives, whether it was for a team to play a game or as the winning applicant for a job or competition.

Before You Get Up and Go…

For example, reducing a specific amount of weight to fit into an outfit you want to wear for a public occasion could get you there.

Will it, however, hold up after your party? Will those pounds find their way back to you, or will they find their way back to you?

Will you be driven again and again for the same incentive if you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the sales charts and hustled to reach your numbers? Will you have to work more and harder to keep motivated?

Know that it’s “normal” and “good” to feel a lack of drive, especially during these trying times. Also keep in mind that external motivators, such as those mentioned in this article, might help you rekindle your passion. We’ve just touched on a few of them thus far. There is a slew of others, both internal and external.

Remember that external motivators, such as incentive motives, are only as effective as the individual’s value placed on the reward. It’s also worth noting that if internal motivation isn’t aligned, the results will most likely be short-lived.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to life, can endure with practically any ‘how,” according to Viktor Frankl, a 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning.

External motivators, such as rewards, are essential in influencing behavior, but the key is to match them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lasting.

So, how may incentive motivation affect you and your goal-setting behavior? Knowing the answer can help you stay enthusiastic no matter where you are on your path and help you achieve more achievement.


[1] ^ Britannica: Incentive motivation

[2] ^ National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives

[3] ^ very well mind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *