An Incentive Research Foundation project guided by Steve Genco, author of Neuroscience for Dummies, used biometric and facial coding techniques including eye tracking, galvanic skin response and signs of aversion and attraction to measure unconscious responses to cash vs. non-cash awards.
As a next step, the 42 participants in Conscious and Unconscious Reward Preference & Choice: A Biometric Experiment were then given time to examine and consider their non-cash and cash reward options. Almost two-thirds of ultimately chose a non-cash reward after engaging in cognitive thinking on the conscious level.
Behavior science has proven that what people say and what they feel are often very different things, yet this survey found that when it came to non-cash vs. cash rewards, this wan’t the case. Research by Daniel Kahneman supports the notion that people often make choices that they think they should make, as opposed to what they prefer—they don’t always make choices consistent with what motivates them the most.
This groundbreaking project was the first of its kind in the incentive arena. “It’s a fascinating study,” said Melissa Van Dyke, IRF President. “When rewards were made salient and multiple non-cash reward options were made available, 62 percent of the subjects chose a non-cash reward over an equivalent cash reward.”