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12/07/2010

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How does that blog "finding" compare with the research that has consistently proven that most decisions are aversion-driven? Or do I remember that wrong? Thought it was well established that people will choose to minimize risk rather than maximize benefit, or something like that.

Wonder about some of those studies you cite... I didn't have sufficient reason to stop smoking (my only stress reliever) until I had my heart attack, after which I quit cold turkey after 40 years of smoking a few packs a day. And cross-correlations might show different results from the conclusions that negatives don't sell... maybe the type A threatening managers are in troubled organizations where all are running scared, while the positive cheerleading types might be in prosperous firms where everything is great. Of course, everything is easier to do when you are relaxed and optimistic rather than worried and anxious. I sure don't know the answer.

The psychology of human behavior is vital and central to our tradecraft. The fascinating book "Predictably Irrational," for example, agrees that money is the most expensive way to motivate.

Thanks for a very stimulating post, Derek.

Jim - you jumped in where I was going to start as well. But as I thought of those experiments showing how "loss-averse" we are - I realized that we are talking about different things here - in one case short term versus long term and in the other decision criteria for new behaviors versus engagement.

When looking at changing behaviors in the short-term we are loss-averse. We make short-term decisions (which is what incentives really are - decision architectures.)

But what we're talking about here isn't about motivation - it's about engagement. Very different things (unfortunately we lump them together too often.)

Engagement is a "feeling" - a sense of connection - not motivation. I might make different decisions based on my engagement but that isn't the same as what I might do under an incentive program.

Also, the examples used have a lot of other baggage associated with them that could be the culprit (white teeth = more desirable therefore more female/male attention - probably the most important motivator :-) ) and with the whales there is a current social consensus affect going on with respect to environmental issues and responsibility that may come into play as well.

That said however, positive positioning is a key element of driving culture in an organization so at the core the message is still a good one.

Great points, Paul. The underpinnings of each study affect the results.

Wonder what would happen to zoos if films of chimpanzees using sign language to complain of bad treatment were shown?

Positives always outdraw negatives, in general. Although it's easier to destroy than to build, most people would rather create something.

Excellent points, Jim and Paul. I like that, Jim -- "it's easier to destroy than to build, but most people would rather create something."

It's similar to the conclusion of the Psyblog summary -- we'd rather keep a happy thought in mind than a sad or mean one.

I know I'm certainly more productive with better results when I've been appreciated than when I've been belittled. Sure fear will drive me, but it will also cloud my judgment and my output.

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