A research team from the University of Pennsylvania found that smokers feel more motivated to break their bad habit when their own money is at stake, rather than when they are promised a financial reward.
For their study, researchers surveyed more than 2,500 smokers and designed four types of quit smoking programs. They also learned that smokers that received cash if they managed to quit had a higher quit rate than those who received only the “usual care,” which included smoking cessation literature and advertisements.
But scientists also found that the type of incentives made a huge difference among wannabe ex-smokers. To learn what motivates a smoker to quit more, they designed four types of stop smoking programs based on four types of rewards.
In one of the programs, smokers were able to get $200 for free if they stayed away from cigarettes two weeks. After that point, the sum doubled if they added an extra 30 days to their smoke-free period. In the end, ex-smokers were awarded an extra $400 if they managed to stay off smoking for half a year.
In another program, smokers had to put their own money on the line and risk to lose $150 if they resumed smoking. Researchers hoped that social sciences experts were right when assessing that people feel more motivated when they fight to avoid a loss than when they have a promise of an easy win.
Another program stimulated smokers to quit their habit by grouping them and promising them larger rewards if the quit rate within their group was higher, while the last program was also group-based but with a more competitive tone.
In the end, Penn researchers learned that all their programs had positive results, but some were more effective than others.
They learned that people who risked their own money had the highest chances of quitting smoking for good. Those who made a $150 deposit out of their personal finances had a whopping 52 percent quit rate at the end of the program. People who were promised
$800 after a six-month period had only a 17 percent quit rate, while those who were “treated” with smoke cessation information only had only a 6 percent quit rate.
However, scientists argue that the results do not indicate that programs which imply a financial loss are more effective because people are less willing to join such programs. For instance, only 14 percent of smokers involved in the study agreed to join a program that put their money on the line, while more than 90 percent agreed to join a reward-based program.
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