What you know could hurt you


Research shows that people choose quick payoffs over long-term results, even when they know better.

The more you know may hurt you long-term. At least that's what University of Texas at Austin psychologists are proposing. A recent study of 78 subjects showed that when given a choice between two options, one with short-term results and the other with long-term benefits, people tend to go for the quick payoff. Not surprised? Here's the twist: Participants who were clued-in on the advantages of pursuing long-term benefits were twice as likely to go for the instant gratification than those who weren't.

The study, conducted by associate professor Bradley Love, presented participants with 250 trial questions through a computer program. Each optional answer allowed subjects to accumulate points, one offering more points instantly and the other leading to even more points down the line. A small cash bonus motivated subjects to accumulate as many points as possible.

Many participants who were given false or no information about the rewards and strategies went for the initial higher scoring options. But not as many as the informed participants who were told that in order to rack up the most points, they would need to pass on the instant gratification. So, even when given the big picture, people tend to seek the small rewards, potentially making them worse off.

Do you have shortsighted employees? Use tangible rewards, such as a raise or promotion, to reinforce good decision-making and successful behavior.

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