Dan Ariely on motivation

My previous post was actually inspired by a TED talk from Dan Ariely a while ago, in which he did a fascinating study with people and lego. Can’t recommend this enough.

Seeing the fruits of our labor may make us more productive
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The Study: In a study conducted at Harvard University, Ariely asked participants to build characters from Lego’s Bionicles series. In both conditions, participants were paid decreasing amounts for each subsequent Bionicle: $3 for the first one, $2.70 for the next one, and so on. But while one group’s creations were stored under the table, to be disassembled at the end of the experiment, the other group’s Bionicles were disassembled as soon as they’d been built. “This was an endless cycle of them building and we destroying in front of their eyes,” Ariely says.
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The Results: The first group made 11 Bionicles, on average, while the second group made only seven before they quit.
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The Upshot: Even though there wasn’t huge meaning at stake, and even though the first group knew their work would be destroyed at the end of the experiment, seeing the results of their labor for even a short time was enough to dramatically improve performance.

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