Free Pizza Motivates People More Than Money Does, Study Says

Free Pizza Motivates People More Than Money Does, Study Says

Have pizza, will work.

By Aly Walansky

Oh, the things we'll do to try to get ourselves into the zone at work: downing a third or fourth (or fifth!) cup of coffee, cranking up the tunes, taking a couple of laps around the office. But some mornings, nothing quite kick-starts our day.

That's because we're going about it all wrong, as a new study reveals. Dan Ariely in his upcoming book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, announces study results that reveal there's one particularly effective motivator that gets people to work harder and be more productive. What is it? Pizza. Yes, pizza.

In his research, Ariely studied employees at an Intel plant in Israel. The workers there were given one of three messages at the start of the week, each promising an incentive for productivity: cash, compliments from their supervisor, or free pizza.  After the first day of the study, the promise of a free pizza led to the greatest increase in productivity.

Oddly, the least powerful motivator was a cash incentive—even though the amount promised was around $30, more than the cost of an average pizza. But over the course of the week, compliments did edge out pizza as a motivator (yes, a rare compliment tastes mighty good). Still, Ariely, as he tells New York Magazine, maintains pizza would have stayed in first place if he would have stuck to his initial plan for the treat to be delivered to the workers’ homes, making the reward more tangible.

The pizza effect isn't as surprising as it seems: It's been shown in studies to be the most addictive of foods. But is it simply our craving for melted-cheese-topped carbs that makes us want to work harder, even harder than we would for extra cash?

In a way, yes: Food thoughts have a particularly strong impact on our dopamine secretion. "The dopaminergic system ​does not originate in the rational part of the brain but in the reward centers that are part of our emotional brain,” corporate psychologist Dave Popple PhD, president of the Psynet Group, tells The Feast. Food is a direct motivator, and money is an indirect one. “As a result, food is more salient,” says Popple.

Of course, pizza is also a social food, an excuse to hang out with coworkers and take a breather. “It tends to be something we eat with friends," Popple adds. "The relational component creates a social obligation to do well on the task, not because of the food itself but because we feel friendly towards anyone who would give us pizza."

Sounds about right, and you don't have to ask us twice. 

(via NY Mag)

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