Why people are unaware of what motivates them

Posted on 01.12.2014

 In 2009, university professors in psychology Shaffer and Arks investigate an issue that was known since long but unexplained up till then. Consider the question whether employers should use cash or non-cash incentives. Employees report a preference for cash incentives when given an explicit choice between the two, however, employees receiving non-cash incentives impressively outperform their peers receiving the cash equivalent. They found the answer to why people are so keenly unaware of the factors that motivate them.

 The gist of it? When offering a choice between cash and non-cash, people use fungibility – i.e. the degree of exchangeability – as the main criterion. Since money can be spend on anything, cash wins in this scenario. In reality however, employers use one of the two. And evaluated separately, it is the affective dimension that makes non-cash come out on top with regard to impact on motivation.

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