Carrots that stick: Rethinking pleasure and pain as human motivators

Man thinking on a train journey.
How to motivate – an age-old question. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s an eternal question for parents, teachers and managers the world over – how does one person go about motivating another to perform a task, and to perform it well? Even on a personal level, we often struggle to muster the enthusiasm to achieve the goals that we set ourselves – whether it’s to exercise regularly, to answer all those emails, or to learn Mandarin.

The traditional answer to these motivational challenges is reward and punishment – carrots and sticks. Bonuses can encourage employees to up their sales performance, for example; and for children, the prospect of not being permitted to go out and play often ensures that homework gets done.

But perplexingly, incentives and disincentives don’t always work.

Check out the latest Up Close podcast I recorded with Professor E. Tory Higgins, Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, Professor of Management at Columbia Business School and Director of the Motivation Science Center.

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