Financial motivation undermines potential enjoyment in an intensive diet and activity intervention

Arlen C. Moller*, Joanna Buscemi, H. Gene McFadden, Donald Hedeker, Bonnie Spring

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The use of material incentives in healthy lifestyle interventions is becoming widespread. However, self-determination theory (SDT) posits that when material incentives are perceived as controlling, they undermine intrinsic motivation. We analyzed data from the Make Better Choices trial—a trial testing strategies for improving four risk behaviors: low fruit–vegetable intake, high saturated fat intake, low physical activity, and high sedentary activity. At baseline, participants reported the degree to which financial incentives were an important motivator (financial motivation); self-reported enjoyment of each behavior was assessed before and after the 3-week incentivization phase. Consistent with SDT, after controlling for general motivation and group assignment, lower financial motivation predicted more adaptive changes in enjoyment. Whereas participants low in financial motivation experienced adaptive changes, adaptive changes were suppressed among those high in financial motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)819-827
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Affect
  • Diet
  • Financial incentives
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Physical activity
  • Undermining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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