Incentives may not really work

Posted on under Today's research

For a long time I have admired the work of Kennon  Sheldon, a professor of psychology at the University of Missouri. His latest paper, published today, is therefore of great interest. He details research into what causes happiness and what makes it lasting, or not. It is really relevant to firms and corporations in that it shows that a pleasurable experience—such as getting a material incentive—does not last long because the brain normalizes the event and then seeks more. Thus the pleasure of most forms of incentives is self-limiting. (It is well worth re-reading his seminal 2001 study on what makes satisfying events satisfying: