Motivating Healthy Behaviors With Carrots or Sticks?


For years, psychologists have debated whether a carrot or a stick works best to motivate people in a specific direction. Do people respond better when they are gently encouraged with incentives to make certain positive decisions, or threatened with punishment if they don’t?  Researchers have discovered that effective motivational tools usually depend on the person, decision and situation.

During the past four decades, company wellness programs in America have grown in popularity as a way to help employees adopt healthier lifestyle habits and reduce the potential for costly medical expenses. Coordinators of wellness programs often struggle to find the right incentives to encourage the majority of employees to participate in opportunities to improve their health.

A recent article produced by Kaiser Health News and published by USA Today reported many businesses have discovered that luring employees into programs with a large reward for signing up to participate, leads only to short-term results. Instead they need to spread out the rewards by giving small, meaningful incentives incrementally to encourage employees to make positive lifestyle changes over the long term.


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