Now rewards the ticket to the good life

test taking rewardThe reason you’re “studying” is because when you finally get that piece of paper, it will be the ticket to the good life……………. a better job, earning more money, more money will mean a nicer house, a nicer car etc.

Sounds great.

But, although your brain can imagine the future, it struggles to feel the future. This is why, Mother Nature thoughtfully provides a little incentive to get us moving, we know exercise is good, but it is hard to get off the couch in the moment. 

This weeks Neurotechnology Tip suggests you reward yourself NOW. NOW rewards are how the brain really thinks.

Test taking explored

Researchers at the University of Chicago discovered the “right” reward at the “right” time, was able to jump start the performance of students attending Chicago-area schools, by a wopping six months, in standardized diagnostic tests.

The standardized tests, test mathematics and English skills, the tests are “spot” tests, meaning learners can’t really prepare for them in advance.

The team experimented with both the timing of “The Reward”………as well as the type, doling out rewards and then measuring the change in student performance.

The nature of a good reward

Juniors were encouraged with non-financial rewards, such as trophies and certificates, money was the language used to motivate older students.

The reward effect was most obvious in the younger students, but older students still responded to being rewarded. The bigger the cash prize, the better the performance, so a $10 reward did not deliver as much of a punch as a $20 reward.

NOTE : The research team were on a budget so they did not get to explore the impact of $ 100 rewards, but I suspect if the pay off had been a little bigger, the effects in high schoolers would have been just as dramatic as in the little ones. After all money makes the world go round, whether your 16 or 60 – having more money is almost always, motivational.

When is NOW

The optimum time for a REWARD, was immediately prior to taking a BIG test.

Writing the test with the reward in sight, spurred the best performance. Delaying the distribution of the reward until after the test writing ordeal was over, didn’t produce the same spark in performance.

NOTE : To clarify, the reward was not just for writing the test, failure to perform to the required standard, meant the reward was lost i.e. the reward that had been eye balled during the test was taken away.

The benefit of NOW rewards

The researchers suspect that the instant reward, encouraged the brain to take the whole test taking experience, more seriously.

And, because the brain really does live in the NOW, the now effect, had little to no influence on what happened the next time round.

Bribe your brain

I wish I could say that I was always motivated intrinsically i.e. by a still small voice that said, you can and must do this. My brain needed a little bribery. Luckily my Mom came to the party – providing financial incentives to perform academically. And it worked.

Maybe your brain also needs a little help. Show your Dad this post – maybe you can get him to open up his wallet and get on board with your brain bribe programme. If not, improvise, brain rewards can be animal, vegetable or mineral.

Brain bribes

So, give yourself a reward for just showing up to write the test, really give yourself the reward – display it on your desk, literally or figuratively.

As you write the test, cast glances at it.

But….. you only get to keep the reward if your performance is up to par. A less than stellar performance will require the reward be “RETURNED”.

The Behaviorist Goes to School: Leveraging Behavioral Economics to Improve Educational Performance.  National Bureau of Economic Research  paper no 18165. Steven D. Levitt, John A. List, Susanne Neckermann, Sally Sadoff.

To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

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Further reading

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For big decisions bringing in the bladder to “help” the brain is best How to avoid choking in an exam To motivate your brain nibble on chocolate covered carrots

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

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Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

Hire Dr Sandy from a Spoonful of Science to be the keynote speaker at your next event.

Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

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