A very useful post. I love the example of the paediatric nurse and how she handled your daughter by keeping the needles hidden and only exposing them one at a time.
I believe breaking down a painful task into small chunks is very effective — I have used it myself when studying for exams or writing dissertations and I think most people probably do something similar when doing a task themselves.
On the other hand, I have noticed very few people using this simple method in their dealings with others.
In most occupations (at some point) we need to get others to do things which are boring, uncomfortable, or stressful and it is puzzling to me why people don’t use this simple and effective method to make it easier for people to do them.
Those rare people that do tend to be excellent motivators — I believe this is an important skill for any manager (or leader) to have.
One of my beliefs is that the way that problems are framed can alter their perception and I believe that this can provide some insight into appropriate incentives to use based on the situation.
I believe that this is another way of examining Relatedness Theory as well.
For example if someone is doing a particular kind of task which they have framed in their mind as being “for the greater good” then introducing a financial incentive can reframe the task in a more negative light.
Bringing money into the situation makes the task less meaningful — and I believe this is because the incentive becomes incongruent with the task.
If someone is doing something which they believe is charitable or valuable to other people then bringing money into the situation crushes that aspect of it.
At that point it simply becomes a financial transaction and if it is a task which is not directly pleasureable, then unless you are paying very handsomely,- the task will no longer seem worthwhile.
I suppose you could say that it damages the autonomy and relatedness dimensions of the task.
I believe Dan Ariely talks about this incentivisation issue in his most recent book “Payoff” — and I’m hoping to read it shortly.