The Timing and Magnitude of Monetary Reward: Testing Hypotheses from Expectancy vs. Reciprocity Theory
Lehman, Philip Kent
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Social psychologists have noted that compliance strategies based on the social norm of reciprocity can be an effective tool for changing behavior (e.g., Cialdini, 2001). In contrast to expectancy-based behavior-change strategies, which offer a reward after a behavior is completed (post-behavior reward); reciprocity-based strategies present the reward first in the form of a gift (pre-behavior reward). Although there are no explicit contingencies attached to the gift, a sense of obligation to reciprocate may be a powerful motivator to comply with the request. It was hypothesized that pre-behavior rewards would be more effective than post-behavior rewards at low magnitudes of reward, and that both strategies would be effective at higher levels. This study examined effects of the timing and magnitude ($1 vs. $10) of a cash reward on compliance with a request to use a specially designed thank-you card recognizing prosocial and proenvironmental behavior. The hypotheses were not supported. The highest rate of compliance occurred in the post-behavior $10 condition, where 35.5% of participants complied, followed by post-behavior $1 (18.8%), pre-behavior $1 (12.9%) and pre-behavior $10 (8.8%). Pairwise comparisons revealed compliance in the $10 post-behavior condition was significantly higher than the rate of compliance in the $1 and $10 pre-behavior conditions, Chi-Square (1, n = 62) = 4.31, p < .05 and Chi-Square (1, n = 65) = 6.82, p < .01 respectively. The lack of evidence for the effectiveness of pre-behavior reward strategy is discussed and contrasted with previous findings.
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