Preferences for seeking effort or reward information bias the willingness to work
Müller T., Husain M., Apps MAJ.
Research suggests that the temporal order in which people receive information about costs and benefits whilst making decisions can influence their choices. But, do people have a preference for seeking information about costs or benefits when making effort-based decisions, and does this impact motivation? Here, participants made choices about whether to exert different levels of physical effort to obtain different magnitudes of reward, or rest for low reward. Prior to each effort-based choice, they also had to decide which information they wanted to see first: how much physical effort would be required, or how large the reward would be. We found no overall preference for seeking reward or effort information first, but motivation did change when people saw reward or effort information first. Seeking effort information first, both someone’s average tendency to do so and their choice to see effort first on a given trial, was associated with reductions in the willingness to exert higher effort. Moreover, the tendency to prefer effort information first was associated with reduced vigorous exercise and higher levels of fatigue in everyday life. These findings highlight that preferences for seeking effort information may be a bias that reduces people’s willingness to exert effort in the lab and in everyday life.