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Neuroeconomics study makes new link in rewards programmes

Research from IRF reveals positive, verbal recognition and monetary or travel rewards are treated equally in brain

Pictured: Melissa Van Dyke, IRF president

How best to use behavioural economics to motivate employees has been explored in a new study from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).

The study, Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience, applies scientific findings to employee motivation and rewards.

It found that all forms of reward are processed in the brain's 'master reward centre', the striatum, meaning rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money or trips, are treated equally in the brain.

Melissa Van Dyke, IRF president, said: "From studies on oxytocin to dopamine to the pre-frontal cortex, there is no shortage of emerging neuroeconomics research on what makes humans tick. Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience curates and explains the research so that incentives, rewards, and recognition professionals can use this knowledge to better understand what motivates employees and ultimately create more engaging and productive work environments."

Other key take-aways from the report, available to download here, include the Halo Effect, which informs us that more highly positive, emotional experiences increase positive emotion associated with the company; Emotional Stamps, which help us retrieve the memory, reinforce necessity for incentive and recognition programmes; and Frequency Bias, which suggests the more reward and recognition that happens in a company, the more it will become a normal part of business.

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