The Effort Paradox: Effort is Both Costly and Valued

40 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2018

See all articles by Michael Inzlicht

Michael Inzlicht

University of Toronto

Amitai Shenhav

Princeton University; Brown University

Christopher Y. Olivola

Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: January 13, 2018

Abstract

According to prominent models in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and economics, effort—be it physical or mental—is costly: when given a choice, humans and non-human animals alike tend to avoid effort. Here, we suggest that the opposite is also true and review extensive evidence that effort can also add value. Not only can the same outcomes be more rewarding if we apply more (not less) effort, sometimes we select options precisely because they require effort. Given the increasing recognition of effort’s role in motivation, cognitive control, and value-based decision-making, considering this neglected side of effort will not only improve formal computational models, but also provide clues about how to promote sustained mental effort across time.

Keywords: Effort, Value, Cognitive Control, Decision Making, Cognitive Dissonance, Learned Industriousness

Suggested Citation

Inzlicht, Michael and Shenhav, Amitai and Olivola, Christopher Y., The Effort Paradox: Effort is Both Costly and Valued (January 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3069591 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3069591

Michael Inzlicht (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

Department of Psychology
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.michaelinzlicht.com

Amitai Shenhav

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.princeton.edu/~ashenhav

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Christopher Y. Olivola

Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States

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