Students will learn that people respond predictably to positive incentives (rewards) and negative incentives (penalties). They will identify incentives in their daily lives at home and school. Students will discuss which incentives have worked to influence their decisions and why.
What Are Incentives?
When parents or teachers want you to behave in a certain way, they sometimes offer incentives to encourage you or influence you to make a choice. Offering incentives is one way to get people to do what you want. When a teacher offers stickers to students who finish their work on time, this is an incentive. When a parent offers ice cream to their children to finish their vegetables, this is an incentive. Incentives often work to influence people’s behavior. However, not all incentives work for all people. Let’s learn more about the incentives offered to you. Which incentives influence you? Which do not?
- Understand that incentives are used to encourage or influence people to behave in a certain manner.
- List incentives at home and in school that are used to influence choices that children make.
- Identify which incentives are positive (rewards) and which are negative (penalties).
- Understand that people’s views of rewards and penalties differ because people have different values.
- Explain which incentives worked to influence them and tell why.
- Incentives & You: Use this interactive activity to assess students knowledge and understanding of incentives.
- Inventive Incentive: This is an additional EconEdLink lesson teachers can use to teach students about incentives.
- Economic Incentives in Our Community: This is another EconEdLink lesson teachers can use to teach students more about incentives, choice, and decision making.
Activity 1: Incentives at Home & School
Let’s look at some common incentives found at home and in school. After you read the list below, brainstorm with your partner to come up with two more incentives at home and two more at school. Think about the incentives that your parents and teachers offer.
Incentives At Home
- Getting an allowance for doing chores.
- Time out for being rude to parents.
- Grounded for fighting with sister.
- Extra $ for raking leaves.
- Lose TV time if room is not clean.
- Hugs for being helpful.
- Can you think of two more incentives at home?
Incentives At School
- Stickers for turning in homework on time.
- Note home to parents for misbehaving in the lunchroom.
- Good grades for studying.
- No recess if class work is not finished.
- If you lose a library book, you can’t check out new ones.
- Field trips for classes that behave well.
- Can you think of two more incentives at school?
Activity 2: Rewards & Penalties
Look above to the list of incentives at home and in school.
Positive Incentives make kids better off if they choose the correct behavior.
These are called rewards. Can you find the rewards above?
Negative incentives punish kids and leave them worse off if they do not choose the correct behavior. These are called penalties. Can you find the penalties above?
Read the stories below and discuss the questions with your partner.
Mr. Lopez told Brandon he had to clean his room to earn his allowance. Mr. Smith told Jacob to clean his room or he won’t be able play outside. Both parents want their children to choose to clean their rooms. They offered incentives to help influence their kids.
- Who offered a reward?
- Who offered a penalty?
- Which incentive might work better?
- Which incentive would influence you and get you to clean your room?
- What about your partner?
Mrs. Chun told the students that if they turned in their homework on time, they would each receive a new pencil. Mrs. Jones told her students that if their homework was not turned in, they could not go out to recess. Both teachers want the students to turn in homework. They are using different incentives to encourage their students to choose to do their homework.
- Who used a reward?
- Who used a penalty?
- Which incentive would influence you and get you to turn in your homework?
- What about your partner?
Activity 3: Incentives: How Do They Influence You?
There are many incentives offered to you at home and school. You decide if the incentives will affect your behavior. Sometimes you will want to earn a positive incentive like extra recess, money, or stickers, and you will behave in a certain way to receive the incentive.
However, some incentive that does not interest you enough to make you try to earn it. Not all incentives work for all people. Let’s review what you have learned about incentives and find out which incentives influence you. Click here to complete and activity called “Incentives & You Activity”
Read the questions below and think about which incentives influence you. Record your responses on your printed activity sheet.
- Was there ever a reward that you wanted so much, you had to earn it?
- Was there ever a reward that just did not interest you, so you decided against earning it?
- Was there ever a penalty so awful that you had to behave so you would not get it?
- Was there ever a penalty that just did not bother you, so you did not care if you earned it?
Now you recognize that incentives are used to influence your behavior and choices at home and at school. Think about incentives you have been offered and the choices you have made.
- Do rewards work best with you?
- Do you like to earn special time, activities, or goodies?
- Or, do you respond better to avoid penalties?
- What types of incentives do you think work best for you?
1. Class discussion:
- Does your school offer more positive or negative incentives?
- Do your parents offer more positive or negative incentives?
- Which types of incentives work best?
- Do all incentives work the same?
- Which types of incentives work best in influencing you? Why?
- Can you think of incentives that DID NOT work to influence you? Why didn’t they work?
- What incentive would have worked?
- How can the same incentive offered to a roomful of people produce different results?
Discussion should come back to individual preferences; values and views will determine whether an incentive will work on that person.
2. On the back of their Interactive Activity papers, have the students write the answer to the following question: “Explain why certain incentives work and others do not work to influence you. Give specific examples and explain what caused you to make the choice you did.”
Use the students’ worksheets, essay question, and their class participation to determine if students are able to:
- understand that incentives are used to encourage or influence people to behave in a certain manner.
- list incentives at home and in school that are used to influence choices that children make.
- identify which incentives are positive (rewards) and which are negative (penalties).
- understand that people’s views of rewards and penalties differ because people have different values.
- explain which incentives worked to influence them and tell why.