Uncertainty? Guess What? It's Motivating

A new study has found that uncertainty can be motivating.

Say what?  For years experts have thought that uncertainty was disconcerting and was hurting the markets and the economy.

But now they're seeing that, when they compared the time, money and effort that people put into wining a certain reward versus an uncertain reward, they found that the uncertain reward was more motivating.

The researchers ran several experiments that established this motivation. For example, in one study they asked college students to drink a large amount of water in two minutes. Some were told they would receive $2 for completing the task, while others were told they would receive either $1 or $2. They found that more people finished the water to receive the uncertain amount of money

Here's why: making the unknown known — that is, figuring out what is in a wrapped package or finding out which reward one has earned — is a positive experience. Because people are excited to find out what they can actually get, working for an uncertain reward makes the whole situation more like a game and less like work.

 Counter-intuitive?  Maybe.

My husband hates uncertainty.  He does things the same way every day -- exercise first, then breakfast, then work, then more exercise, then home for dinner.  Every day.  That would drive me crazy (and has).  He's also that way about exercise.  Every morning, first the elliptical.  Then the bike.  Then sit-ups and push-ups.  You can set a clock by him.  He loves regularity.  He hates uncertainty.  So he probably would not be motivated by that.

I, on the other hand, wouldn't say I embrace uncertainty.  There's been enough of that in my life!  But I like when things are different every day.  In my new job I'm constantly being thrown new projects and having to understand new technology and terminology.  I love it.  Larry says he would hate it.

I guess each to his own.  But it's interesting that in a world that's so uncertain, people can still long for -- even enjoy -- when the outcome's not always known.


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