App research

Motivation for behavior change: Negative vs positive reinforcement

A study conducted in Bangladesh sought to find whether improved access to sanitation and other health technologies is better achieved through monetary subsidies or shaming techniques:

Negative reinforcement app:

GymPact ( Gym-Pact takes money out of your bank account when you don’t go to the gym. The money it collects is then redistributed to those in your network who actually went.

Positive reinforcement apps:

Zamzee ( is designed to increase physical activity using an accelerometer.  Games designed for kids.

Carrot ( organizes your short term goals and the rewards you set for yourself for accomplishing them.  Crowdsources encouragement from other users.

Culture differences:

“A crucial tradeoff arises in the model between the benefits of encouraging self-improvement and the benefits of promoting initiative and new investments. In this context, self-esteem maintenance (self-enhancement) and high sensitivity to shame emerge as substitute mechanisms to induce efficient effort and investment decisions, generating a \North American” equilibrium with overconfidence and low sensitivity to shame, and a \Japanese” equilibrium with high sensitivity to shame and no overconfidence. The analysis identifies the key equilibrium costs as well as the benefits of reliance on each mechanism, and the implications for welfare.”

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation:
Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.


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