MSN’s Pay-Dirt

Search_insider_masthead_2_1Fittingly, the first e-mail flagged by the spam filter at my new job was my own column. I really need to stop sending myself unsolicited e-mail. I’ll have an update on just where I landed as soon as the press release crosses the wires.

As for the column at hand, I looked at MSN’s new Search & Win promotion. I can’t claim my overall stance is original – I’m hardly the only one to offer a skeptical take about this. Yet I had fun reliving my psych major days and poring over the research to add another dimension showing why Search & Win could be a deal where everyone loses. This led to comparisons between psychology and economics. I can’t say I’m an expert in either field, but in a 750-word column, I have the liberty of throwing some ideas out there. If you’re better versed on either subject, or even if you’re just hazarding a guess like me, I welcome your take in the comments.

From today’s Search Insider:

Thanks in large part to Google Scholar, I took a cursory glance at psychological research on how external rewards impact intrinsic motivation. Much of the initial research that came out in the 1970s said that tangible rewards such as money hampered people’s motivation. Pay someone to do something he would have done anyway, and he will soon be conditioned to valuing the task for the reward, not for his interest in the task. More recent reviews of the entire body of research on the subject have shown the effects aren’t quite as pronounced…

Other reviews, finding the effects of decreased intrinsic motivation more pronounced, note that psychology often butts heads with economics, which assumes that anyone will do anything for the right price. There’s room for both theories. You’ve seen those Klondike Bar commercials, right? People will do crazy things even for ice cream. Meanwhile, NBC’s lineup proves that people will go to extreme lengths, such as eating bugs or sequestering themselves with Donald Trump, for a potential payoff.

MSN is thus choosing economics over psychology.

More at MediaPost…