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Media Coverage Of Mayo Clinic’s Research On Paying People To Lose Weight — Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees

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As regular readers of this blog and my books now, I’m not a believer in regularly using rewards as a motivating tool. As a result, I’m always looking for research on the topic.

This week, the media has been awash with reports of a new Mayo Clinic study that supposedly shows that people can loose weight successfully by being paid to do so.

There have been lots of reprints of the original AP story on it. However, many, if not most, omitted some key lines from the original Associated Press article on the study:

Incentives are “not like training wheels where people learn healthy habits and then will continue them on their own” – you have to keep them up for them to work, said one study leader, Dr. Steve Driver of Mayo in Rochester, Minn.

“You have to prove these schemes work otherwise it’s just money down the drain,” said Eleni Mantzari, who studies financial incentives in health at King’s College London. People often revert to unhealthy habits once the financial motivation is gone, she said.

Both of these often omitted lines point out the commonly-agreed problem with incentives — once the rewards go away, so does the behavior.

One other  AP original line that appeared to be deleted by even more of outlets that reprinted it was the information that Dr. Driver, who, based on the above quote seems to understand the shortcomings of extrinsic motivators, nevertheless is a part owner and staffperson of a company that sells a SmartPhone app that…provides financial incentives for people to exercise.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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