Monday, February 21, 2011

Rewards and incentives can be OK

There’s a result from behavioral economics that increasing rewards and incentives for a behavior (e.g. to get kids to read more books) “crowds out” intrinsic motivation and leaves them less interested in books than before once the rewards dry out. Barking up the wrong tree notes a study that fails to find this when it comes to getting kids to eat vegetables. Good to know for those of us with kids.

Liking and intake of the vegetable were assessed in a free-choice consumption task at preintervention, postintervention, 1 month after intervention, and 3 months after intervention. Liking increased more in the three intervention conditions than in the control condition, and there were no significant differences between the intervention conditions. These effects were maintained at follow-up. Children in both reward conditions increased consumption, and these effects were maintained for 3 months; however, the effects of exposure with no reward became nonsignificant by 3 months. These results indicate that external rewards do not necessarily produce negative effects and may be useful in promoting healthful eating.