The current research examines how exposure to performance incentives affects one's desire for the reward object. We hypothesized that the flexible nature of performance incentives creates an attentional fixation on the reward object (e.g., money), which leads people to become more desirous of the rewards. Results from 5 laboratory experiments and 1 large-scale field study provide support for this prediction. When performance was incentivized with monetary rewards, participants reported being more desirous of money (Study 1), put in more effort to earn additional money in an ensuing task (Study 2), and were less willing to donate money to charity (Study 4). We replicated the result with nonmonetary rewards (Study 5). We also found that performance incentives increased attention to the reward object during the task, which in part explains the observed effects (Study 6). A large-scale field study replicated these findings in a real-world setting (Study 7). One laboratory experiment failed to replicate (Study 3).
- Performance incentive
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science