Arts & Sciences

Sum of incentives dictate efforts

Research from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences looks at how different incentives affect effort. (Image: Shutterstock)

When there’s a difficult task at hand, intuition tells us that the more motivated we are to complete it — the stronger the incentives — the harder we’ll work.

And the assumption has been that the relationship is linear — the better the incentives, the harder people will work. Rarely, however, do people have just one motivation.


A research team in the lab of Todd Braver, PhD, a professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, with appointments in radiology and neuroscience in the School of Medicine, at Washington University in St. Louis, wanted to know if the brain could integrate different sources of motivation into a single factor that affected performance and which brain regions are involved.

Their results, published April 21, in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that there is an additive integration process, and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) appears to play an integral role.

Before there was working from home, there was working out of an office, and there’s one reason people typically give for going to their job: to get paid.

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