A while ago I wrote about $10,000 diet. Believe it or not, some people are ready to pay this amount for nothing more than common sense science-based weight loss advice and a little counselling (not that I tried). The diet works and I guess its high price is one of the major factors of success. When you are paying $10,000 for something you want it to work, don’t you?
It also works the other way around. Getting paid for losing weight typically involves higher success rates. While money may be a powerful motivator, there is something even more powerful out there. The researchers from University of Michigan Health System wanted to see if offering money for meeting or exceeding weight loss goals will produce good results and whether there was a way to improve the results even further. As it turns out, it does produce good results, but not as good as when it was combined with peer pressure in competitive environment.
The researchers observed two groups of individuals. In the first group, participants were offered $100 cash prizes for meeting or exceeding their weight loss goals at the end of the month. In other group, $500 were split between five participants depending on how much weight was lost. In this group it was possible to earn more than $100 if other group members didn’t meet their goals. These group incentives led to nearly three times more weight loss than cash awards.
One might argue it’s about the ability to earn more money, but I think it’s much more complex than that. Many people are competitive by nature and will do effort for all kinds of reasons; proving themselves and social recognition being on the top of the list.
For example, there was a similar (or not so similar study) where Harvard Business School professor Ian Larkin studied the effect of social comparison at a large enterprise software firm. One group of individuals was offered performance-based cash prizes, while another group was offered to become eligible for a elite “club” membership, which was nothing more than a select group of highest-performing sales people. As weird as it sounds, people valued this imaginary “club” much more than immediate cash.
Social recognition is often much more motivating than money. If you think about money itself, many people consider it so valuable precisely because it’s associated with social recognition and not vice versa. Well, these are my speculations anyway. If you want to read the official info by University of Michigan here is your link.