Department of Management

Does the size of rewards influence performance in cognitively demanding tasks?

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Classic micro-economic and psychology theories propose different implications of monetary incentives on performance. Empirical studies in sports settings show that athletes generally perform worse when the stakes are higher, while a range of lab studies involving cognitively demanding tasks have led to diverging results, supporting positive, negative and null-effects of higher (vs. lower) stakes. In order to further investigate this issue, we present a pre-registered, randomized, controlled trial of 149 participants solving both anagrams and math addition tasks. We do not find a statistically significant effect of the size of the reward on neither performance, self-reported effort nor intrinsic motivation. We propose that future studies should contrast the potential impact of rewards on different kinds of task, e.g. compare tasks that solely require cognitive effort vs. tasks that require motor skills, as in sports.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240291
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume15
Issue10
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

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