(The concept of Meaning drives performance (I

Topic: People are performing better when their work has even the simplest meaning.
Researchers: Dan Ariely (Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University, US), Amir Kamenitza (Professor of …, University of Chicago, US) and Drazen Prelek (MIT Professor).
Main Conclusion: People are performing better when they ascribe even the simplest meaning to their work.

Description of Experiment
a. Harvard students volunteered to build Lego robots for pay
b. All students were told that they will be paid $2.00 for the first robot they build and then 11 cents less for each additional robot (e.g. $1.89 cents for the second robot, $1.78 cents for the third robot and so forth).
c. All students were told that the robot built will later be disassembled
d. All students worked separately, with only the researcher present
e. Students were divided into two categories

  • Group A. – completed robots were placed in a box for future disassembly (so it was told to students)
  • Group B. – completed robots were disassembled in front of the students’ eyes, to be built again.

f. Group A. build an average of 10.6 robots per person, while Group B. build an average of 7.2 robots (only 68% of Group A. performance)
g. 65% of Group A. continue working even after pay per robot was less than $1.00 (half of original price), while only 20% of Group B. continue working at that point (only 30% of Group A. performance).

When even the simplest form of meaning can be ascribed to work performed, individual performance is improved significantly.