Fresh Carrots. New Ways of Rewarding in Response to the Negative Effects of Monetary Incentives



Fresh Carrots. New Ways of Rewarding in Response to the Negative Effects of Monetary Incentives

Authors

Jaco Berveling, KiM Netherlands Institute For Transport Policy Analysis

Description

The Dutch government has traditionally attempted to influence people’s behaviour through the use of rewards (carrots) and penalties (sticks). Good behaviour is for instance rewarded with money or gifts. In the Netherlands, this reward instrument is increasingly applied in the field of traffic and transport, as is the case in the so-called Spitsmijden (Rush Hour Avoidance) projects. Virtually all reward-based projects (84%) in the Netherlands in field of traffic and transport are of a monetary nature. However, in addition to monetary rewards, there are also social and moral forms of rewards. People are susceptible to social esteem in the form of compliments and “pats on the back”. Moreover, moral, intrinsic motivations can compel people to adopt a certain type of behaviour. Our research reveals that the social and moral forms of rewarding in the field of traffic and transport remain underutilised. The underlying psychological principles inherent to these forms of rewarding can be translated to the field of traffic and transport. The time seems ripe for “fresh carrots”.

Abstract

Governments have traditionally attempted to influence people’s behaviour through the use of rewards (carrots) and penalties (sticks). Bad or incorrect behaviour is punished with fines, for example, while good behaviour is rewarded with money or gifts.

Monetary rewarding
In the Netherlands, monetary rewards are increasingly applied in the field of traffic and transport. As is the case, for example, in the so-called Spitsmijden (Rush Hour Avoidance) projects, which are temporary projects in which motorists receive financial rewards if they avoid driving during morning and/or evening rush hours. These projects enjoy widespread public support and have proven to be effective. There are however disadvantages to this type of monetary rewarding. Once the rewards stop, the good behaviour also usually ceases. Moreover, there are also ethical objections: bad behaviour is rewarded. People who voluntary opt to drive outside of the rush hours do not receive rewards. Finally, evidence exists to suggest that financial rewards can also have adverse effects. Motorists are after some time only compelled to behave differently if the government opens its wallet.

Alternatives: social and moral forms of rewarding
Virtually all reward-based projects (84%) in the Netherlands in the field of traffic and transport are of a monetary nature. However, in addition to money or gifts, there are also social and moral forms of rewards. People are susceptible to social esteem in the form of compliments and “pats on the back”. Moreover, moral, intrinsic motivations can compel people to adopt a certain type of behaviour. Some people feel good about themselves when they do something positive for others (“the warm glow of altruism”). These alternate forms of rewarding have been comprehensively mapped. Experience has been gained in the use of social and moral forms of rewards in the fields of health, labour, the environment and energy saving, in particular.
The research findings of Fresh Carrots are based on a comprehensive literature study, interviews with seven Dutch experts from the fields of science and other professional practices (psychologists, marketing specialists and consultants), and from an inventory of numerous Dutch reward-based projects in the field of traffic and transport.

Fresh carrots
The research has revealed that the social and moral forms of rewarding in the field of traffic and transport remain underutilised. It is clear that these two forms of non-monetary rewarding are promising supplementary or alternative instruments. Our study shows that the underlying psychological principles inherent to these forms of rewarding can be translated to the field of traffic and transport. Moral and social principles such as “the impact of descriptive norms (people follow what most others do)”, “the seeking of social approval”, “the fear of letting down respected teammates” and “the role of image and statements” all influence behaviour and could be applied to the Rush Hour Avoidance projects in the Netherlands.
The time seems ripe for “fresh carrots”.

Publisher

Association for European Transport