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Giving elementary-school students small rewards, such as stickers and toys, helped encourage them to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, according to researchers. A study of students in 31 schools in England found that the incentives led students to consume on average 4.5% more fruits and vegetables than the control group, and even more was consumed when researchers turned the effort into a competition. The Conversation (Australia) (10/6)
Interesting. Of course it works. In the short term. But what are the unintended consequences?
I turned to Dan Pink's 2009 book Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. In writing about the problem of parents trying to get their children to empty the garbage, Pink refers to the work of Russian economist Anton Suvorov:
"By offering a reward, the (parent) signals to the (child) that the task is undesirable. If the task were desirable, the (parent) wouldn't need to prod. But that initial signal, and the reward that goes with it, forces the (parent) onto a path that's difficult to leave. Offer too small a reward and the (child) won't comply. But offer a reward that's enticing enough to get the (child) to act the first time, and the (parent) is doomed to give it again in the second. There's no going back. Pay your son to take out the trash--and you've pretty much guaranteed the kid will never do it again for free. What's more, once the initial money buzz tapers off, you'll likely have to increase the payment to continue compliance."
How much if I eat this carrot, mom?