Nav: Home

Monetary incentives for healthy behavior can pay off, says CU-Boulder study

April 01, 2016

Monetary rewards for healthy behavior can pay off both in the pocketbook and in positive psychological factors like internal motivation, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

While programs involving monetary incentives to encourage healthy behavior have become more popular in recent years, the evidence has been mixed as to how they can be most effective and how participants fare once the incentives stop, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Casey Gardiner, who led the new study.

The study - which encouraged daily consumption of fruits and vegetables in exchange for payment - not only showed monetary incentives worked, but that participants increased their internal motivation to eat fruits and vegetables over time.

"Some psychological research and theories suggest that if individuals have external motivations like payment to perform tasks, their internal, or intrinsic motivation can be undermined," said Gardiner of the psychology and neuroscience department. "But in our study the subjects who had been assigned to receive payment for eating fruits and vegetables were still consuming more of them than usual two weeks after the study ended."

In the study, 60 adults were randomly assigned to three different groups. Individuals in one group received $1 for every serving of fruits and vegetables they reported consuming daily over a three-week period, with the money delivered daily by PayPal.

People in the second group accrued $1 for every serving of fruits and vegetables eaten, with the money delivered in a lump sum at the end of the study. Participants in the third group reported their fruit and vegetable consumption daily for three weeks with no incentives.

Participants who received daily monetary incentives had the greatest increase in their fruit and vegetable consumption, Gardiner said.

"This finding highlights the importance of incentive design in health programs," she said. "Differences in the timing or type of incentive can alter their effectiveness."

Gardiner will present the study results at the Society of Behavioral Medicine's 37th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions March 30 to April 2 in Washington, D.C. The presentation is tied to an upcoming paper on the subject by Gardiner and CU-Boulder Professor Angela Bryan of the psychology and neuroscience department.

"One of our goals in the study was to look at potential psychological mechanisms that underlie incentive-induced changes in behavior," said Gardiner. "We essentially showed that incentives may be able to help people to 'jumpstart' behavior changes, but that changes in key psychological factors help people maintain the behavior when the incentives end."

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption by participants was associated with more positive attitudes and self efficacy - the confidence in one's own ability to succeed - regarding the consumption of such produce, said Gardiner.

The CU-Boulder findings provide a new direction for incentive research in terms of psychological factors related to changing behavior, said Gardiner.
-end-
The research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Beverly Sears Graduate Student Grant Program.

The Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) is an organization of researchers, clinicians and educators. Members study interactions among behavior, biology and the environment to help improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. For more information on CU-Boulder's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience visit http://www.colorado.edu/psych-neuro/. For more information on SBM visit http://www.sbm.org.

-CU-

Contact:

Casey Gardiner, 303-492-9549
casey.gardiner@colorado.edu

Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114
jim.scott@colorado.edu

University of Colorado at Boulder

Related Behavior Articles:

Is Instagram behavior motivated by a desire to belong?
Does a desire to belong and perceived social support drive a person's frequency of Instagram use?
A 3D view of climatic behavior at the third pole
Research across several areas of the 'Third Pole' -- the high-mountain region centered on the Tibetan Plateau -- shows a seasonal cycle in how near-surface temperature changes with elevation.
Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.
Whole-brain imaging of mice during behavior
In a study published in Neuron, Emilie Macé from Botond Roska's group and collaborators demonstrate how functional ultrasound imaging can yield high-resolution, brain-wide activity maps of mice for specific behaviors.
Swarmlike collective behavior in bicycling
Nature is full of examples of large-scale collective behavior; humans also exhibit this behavior, most notably in pelotons, the mass of riders in bicycle races.
More Behavior News and Behavior Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...