Behavioural economics has made many gains in recent years, but much uncertainty persists about the effectiveness of different behavioural interventions. This column uses data from a large-scale experiment to find the relative effectiveness of multiple treatments within one setting, and to gauge the accuracy of academic experts’ forecasts of responses. It finds monetary incentives are strong motivators, non-monetary psychological inducements are moderately effective, and results using behavioural factors are generally consistent with models of social and time preferences. Further, the interviewed experts correctly anticipate several results, including the effectiveness of psychological inducements, but fail to predict other important features.
Stefano DellaVigna, Devin Pope, 29 May 2016
Michael Kosfeld, Susanne Neckermann, Xiaolan Yang, 08 May 2016
Employees care about more than just money. Understanding these non-monetary motivations can help organisations incentivise performance. This column presents evidence from a field experiment that explored the motivational effects of ‘meaningful’ work. Recognition and meaning are found to have substitutive motivational effects, while monetary incentives and meaning have additive effects.
Adrian Bruhin, Lorenz Götte, Simon Haenni, Lingqing Jiang, 07 September 2015
Evidence suggests that people are more likely to behave in a pro-social way if they are aware of others who behave in such a manner. This column finds evidence for this phenomenon among blood donors. For every unit increase in a donor’s motivation, there is a 44% spillover in motivation to their fellow tenant. There is an overall increase in donation rates due to such a social multiplier of 17.9 percentage points, instead of the 10 percentage points obtained by calling an isolated donor.
Bruno S Frey, Jana Gallus, 11 March 2015
Official awards are common in both monarchies and republics. Awards are bestowed not just by the state and the military, but also by cultural associations, academic institutions, and corporations. This column surveys the academic literature on the use of awards and their effect on motivation and performance. The authors argue that awards are a welcome means of honouring dedication and commitment. They delight their winners, motivate high performance, create role models – and come at low or even no cost.
Erika Deserranno, 11 February 2015
We know that financial incentives can affect behaviour by increasing the payoff to completing a task. With incomplete information about a job, financial incentives can also affect potential applicants’ behaviour by conveying a signal about the nature of the job. In the context of a recruitment campaign for a new position, this column presents the first empirical evidence of the signal conveyed by incentives and its strong effect on the selection of workers and the performance of the organisation.
Niklas Bengtsson, Per Engström, 28 October 2014
Critics of the ‘audit society’ and the so-called ‘new public management’ doctrines have gained momentum in recent years. At the centre of the critique is the so-called motivation crowding-out hypothesis. This column presents evidence from a field experiment involving Swedish non-profits. Far from crowding out intrinsic motivation, the threat of an audit improved all aspects of efficiency.
Holger Görg, Olivier N. Godart, Aoife Hanley, Christiane Krieger-Boden, 08 July 2014
Many firms are replacing traditional working hours with more flexible arrangements, reflecting new thinking on employee motivation. This column presents evidence from Germany that trust-based working time is associated with increased innovation. However, trust-based working hours also contribute to the blurring of workers’ professional and private lives, and may lead to excessive overtime. Careful design of trust-based working arrangements is required to reap the innovations gains while avoiding the health pitfalls.
Mirco Tonin, Michael Vlassopoulos, 28 May 2010
What motivates workers in their job? This column presents evidence from a recent field experiment suggesting that women are motivated by concern about the social cause pursued by their employer, while men are not. This may provide new insight into the gender earnings gap.