The Motivating-Uncertainty Effect: Uncertainty Increases Resource Investment in the Process of Reward Pursuit

15 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2016

See all articles by Luxi Shen

Luxi Shen

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Ayelet Fishbach

University of Chicago

Christopher K. Hsee

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Date Written: February 1, 2015

Abstract

Can a reward of an uncertain magnitude be more motivating than a reward of a certain magnitude? This research documents the motivating-uncertainty effect and specifies when this effect occurs. People invest more effort, time, and money to qualify for an uncertain reward (e.g., a 50% chance at $2 and a 50% chance at $1) than a certain reward of a higher expected value (e.g., a 100% chance at $2). This effect arises only when people focus on the process of pursuing a reward, not when they focus on the outcome (the reward itself ). When the focus is on the process of reward pursuit, uncertainty generates positive experience such as excitement and hence increases motivation. Four studies involving real rewards lend support to the motivating-uncertainty effect. This research carries theoretical implications for research on risk preference and motivation and practical implications for how to devise cost-efficient consumer incentive systems.

Suggested Citation

Shen, Luxi and Fishbach, Ayelet and Hsee, Christopher K., The Motivating-Uncertainty Effect: Uncertainty Increases Resource Investment in the Process of Reward Pursuit (February 1, 2015). Journal of Consumer Research, February 2015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763553

Luxi Shen (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Ayelet Fishbach

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Christopher K. Hsee

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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