Actions do not always speak louder than words

Agata Ludwiczak, Zoe Adams, Magda Osman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Financial (dis)incentives (e.g., bonuses, taxes) and social incentives (e.g., public praise) have typically been proposed as methods to encourage greater cooperation for the benefit of all. However, when cooperation requires exertion of effort, such interventions might not always be effective. While incentives tend to be highly motivating when choosing to exert effort, evidence suggests that they have less of an effect on behavior during effort execution. The aim of this exploratory study was to incorporate these insights into empirical investigation of the effects of social incentives on cooperative effort. To this end, we modified a public goods game task to require effort contributions to a common good. Crucial manipulation involved incorporating social incentives into this task and linking them to (a) choices that people made or (b) effortful actions they exerted. Our findings suggest, in line with recent effort-based decision-making models, that social incentives have a stronger effect on cooperative effort when they are linked to choices that people make, rather than the actual effort they exert. This study demonstrates potential benefits of eliciting a priori declarations of cooperative effort tied to social incentives to encourage greater effort for the benefit of all.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-162
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2022


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