Incentive Research Foundation report

Biometric Technology Suggests Noncash Incentives Preferred Over Cash

The experiment supports the idea that experiences can be more effective than money at driving performance.

A new study by the Incentive Research Foundation details the use of biometric techniques to measure 42 subjects’ responses to choosing cash or noncash rewards.

The survey, detailed in Conscious and Unconscious Reward Preference & Choice: A Biometric Experiment, captured a range of measurements, including eye tracking, pupil dilation, galvanic skin response, and facial movements. The researchers used the data to assess each subject’s response to a type of reward at both the cognitive level and the reflexive, unconscious level by measuring responses before and immediately after a period of contemplation. The research was conducted by Flying Horse Communications with the help of Steve Genco, PhD, author of Neuroscience for Dummies

The experiment found that what people consciously choose as a reward doesn’t necessarily match what they unconsciously actually prefer. At an unconscious level, and after a period of contemplation, nearly two-thirds showed an unconscious attraction to noncash rewards.

When researchers offered subjects a choice of rewards ranging from financial rewards like a gas or Amazon gift card, to goods like a TV or grill, or travel rewards such as a cruise, family holiday, or beach vacation, eye dilation indicated that subjects were overwhelmingly drawn to the travel options.

In an experiment monitoring eye tracking, subjects took the longest time to fixate on cash, suggesting that it is not intrinsically motivating but rather a “default” choice.

However, the findings suggest that after considering the options, subjects realized that while noncash rewards would make them happier, when subjects felt under pressure to make a decision, they saw cash as the most fungible option.

Melissa Van Dyke, IRF President, said, “The IRF is excited that the experiment confirms the research findings in the 2015 Landmark Study in which the majority of survey participants displayed a preference for noncash rewards when the entire experience was considered.”








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