As a massive fan any opportunity to watch clip of “Friends” had to be taken! In this clip there is a very clear example of incentives being used. When Phoebe asks Rachel if she can enter her daughter Emma into a baby pageant she instantly says no. She does not only just refuse, but justifies her decision giving Phoebe a list of reasons why she is so against it. However, as soon as Phoebe mentions that there is a prize of $1000, Rachel wastes no time in signing the form to enter Emma.
The prize acts as an external reward; Rachel is entering Emma for the reward of money; without the money Rachel would not enter Emma.
A study by Deci (1971) demonstrates the effect of an external rewards on motivation. Participants were required to solve a puzzle on three separate occasions. At Time 1 there was no reward, at Time 2 an external reward was given and at Time 3 the reward was taken away.
Table 1: Mean number of seconds spent working on puzzle
It was found that participants spent longer on the puzzle at Time 2 when they were given a reward and less time at Time 3 when the reward was taken away; even less than when they had initially spent at Time 1 (see Table 1). This shows how the presence of a reward makes people do activities they wouldn't do had the reward not been there in the first place or taken away.
Rachel had no interest in entering Emma until she found out that she could be rewarded if she did so. Phoebe was no fool in asking Rachel to do something she did not want to do as she knew as soon as she presented the incentive of money she would change her mind (after all think of all the money she could spend in “Bloomies”)!
Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18, 105-115.