Please consider for a moment how much of a money incentive you need to eat one of the following critters:
A: House cricket B. Mole cricket C. Field cricket D. Mealworm E. Silkworm pupa
Where are we going? To the impact of money on decision making.
Hoping to understand how money affects our decisions, a Stanford University economist offered $3 to $30 to 671 people if they consumed repulsive-looking insects that would not harm them. A key part of the experiment was the video selection given to a sub-group. In that group, the individuals who were getting more money tended to select the video that explained why it was good to eat bugs instead of the alternative telling why it was bad to eat bugs.
Because the people who received the most money were more likely to look at the video that supported their decision, the study’s author suggests that the money provided a dual incentive. It not only influenced the decision but also skewed the information used to assess the decision.
In a totally different second experiment, he gave 450 participants a grid with 450 randomly placed letters. Here, the subjects were aware of a reward or a penalty either before or after searching for Gs and Bs. Knowledge of the reward warped the search. People with the chance for a bigger reward tended to miscount the letters.
While certainly not conclusive, the results of both experiments indicated that we might distort our perception of relevant information because of a monetary incentive.
Our Bottom Line: Monetary Incentives
It is possible that monetary incentives could nudge individuals to access facts that minimize the cost and exaggerate the benefit of a decision. As a result, when we debate the merits of markets for organ donation and surrogate motherhood or even bonuses for military service, we should recognize that monetary incentives could affect the accuracy of the decision making process.