Scores Are Important But It's How Fast They Rise That Counts

I got a number a little under 400 for my math score on my SAT.  And that's getting 200 points for spelling your name right!

Needless to say, I hate tests, and I hate scores even more.  But now a new study is saying that scores can count as motivation, even if they're inherently meaningless, reports.

Even if the score itself has no inherent meaning, it can serve as an effective motivator, as long as the score is accelerating, say researchers.

The study found that an accelerating number – even if the number itself is meaningless – can significantly affect performance.  Yes, I guess I would have felt better if the number was closer to 500.

We all know that people like high scores, but what is less known is how to give scores, Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Assistant Professor Luxi Shen. who began the research as a PhD scholar at Chicago Booth.
“Our research shows that what matters is neither how high the score is nor how fast the score increases, but rather the way it increases," says Shen. "It’s most motivating if the score first increases at a relatively slow rate and then increases faster and faster.”
In one experiment, participants were asked to complete online surveys evaluating advertisements. The participants were told that the three people who completed the highest number of surveys would receive a cash prize. Every time a participant completed a survey, the computer screen displayed a number of points, a meaningless figure the researchers again called the “X” number.
The researchers manipulated the pattern of the points to examine the survey takers’ motivations and found that the participants seeing an accelerating “X” number completed significantly more surveys than those seeing a decelerating figure. All three top performers in the task came from the accelerating “X” number group.
It turns out when it comes to keeping score, acceleration matters. People are more motivated by numbers that increase faster and faster than by numbers that increase at a steady fast rate.


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