Quantifying Efficacy of Workplace Reinforcers: An Application of Behavioral Economic Demand to Evaluate Hypothetical Work Performance

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Behavioral economics is an approach to understanding decision making and behavior using principles of behavioral science and economics (Hursh, 1980). An area of investigation in behavioral economics includes evaluating demand for a commodity (such as drug and nondrug reinforcers), given changes in price, using hypothetical purchase tasks, which are a reliable and efficient assessment method. Given recent calls for organizational behavior management to examine work performance from a behavioral economic perspective (e.g., Wine, Gilroy, & Hantula, 2012), the present studies sought to extend the demand and hypothetical purchase task literature to work tasks and workplace reinforcers. Undergraduate participants completed 2 hypothetical work tasks—a variation of the hypothetical purchase task. Respondents indicated the likelihood they would complete an increasing work requirement for a fixed amount of money at 2 delays to payment (1 hr vs. 4 weeks). Exponential demand curve analyses provided excellent fits to the data and revealed (a) that individuals with and without experience completing the work behavior responded similarly, and (b) that there was higher demand for the 1-hr delay condition. These results suggest the hypothetical work task is a promising method for assessing demand for workplace reinforcers.

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