The study, published in Behavioural Brain Research, looked at the connection between reward and effort when it comes to achieving goals.
The scientists discovered two key stages in the decision-making process. In the first stage, they found people are motivated by rewards when they first set out to do something. Yet once plans are in place, they start to focus on the difficulty of the effort required, rather than the reward.
Exploring this relationship between effort and reward further, the scientists presented participants with different options. Combining high or low effort with high or low financial reward, they asked participants to choose the option they preferred.
They discovered that at first, participants were motivated by the amount of financial reward. But when it came to executing the task, their performance was determined by the amount of effort they needed to put in.
Lead author of the study, Dr Agata Ludwiczak, noted that “often, high rewards are not enough to ensure people put in the effort they need to achieve their task.”
She went on to point out that in order to achieve goals, people mustn’t pay too much attention to the rewards. “When we face the reality of our choices, we realise the effort is too much and give up. For example, getting up early to exercise for a new healthy lifestyle might seem like a good choice when we decide on our new year’s resolutions, but once your alarm goes off on a cold January morning, the rewards aren’t enough to get you up and out of bed.”