During the recent efforts by many governments to get more people vaccinated, one of the most visible ones has been the “vaccine lottery”.
There are a couple of things to learn here from the results. First, the overall premise of the vaccine lottery is that the possible upside for a very little effort, is perceived to be huge. Humans are not good when dealing with statistics and at the moment of decision, it is very hard to factor in the probability, we all only look at the prize. This is what some savings incentives and other similar ones have been based upon. Most of them have been quite successful.
It was expected that the vaccine lotteries would be a raging success, however, it seems that objective measures of their effectiveness have been mixed.
And this is another thing to be learned here. The introduction of monetary, or tangible rewards for doing something, can backfire, especially if the individual’s identity is linked to impartiality, critical thinking, or moral compass. The tangible reward becomes “offensive”, and individuals may chose not to participate to avoid the risk as being seen as motivated solely by the prize.
We have seen this type of decisions in business, most notable when some Global Systems Integrators stay away from participating in programs that offer hard cash as incentives.
Designing incentives can be a really hard thing to do. Best is to test.