The BPS Research Digest covers a recent study finding that volunteers are actually more committed than paid staff in an organisation, in line with studies showing that payment tends to reduce people’s productivity and enjoyment for the same work compared to when it’s done for free.
A recent study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics tested this by asking students to complete ‘IQ test’ style questions for varying amounts of money, or by ‘incentivising’ some students on a charity collection day while others collected for free.
In this paper we have provided quantitatively precise evidence, in a controlled environment, of the effect of the introduction of monetary compensation on performance, which includes a precise comparison of the cases in which the reward was given in different quantities or not given at all. The result has been that the usual prediction of higher performance with higher compensation, when one is offered, has been confirmed: but the performance may be lower because of the introduction of the compensation.
In other words, those who were paid more worked harder than those who were paid less, but the hardest work was done by those not paid anything at all.