MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Starting Tuesday, Minnesotans can earn a reward for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s part of a new state program aimed at getting more shots in arms.

With so many states offering something similar, we wondered, why are we motivated by incentives? Good Question. Jeff Wagner learned the answer starts very early in life but changes as we get older.

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When asking people near the Stone Arch Bridge about vaccine incentives, their first thoughts went straight to states not named Minnesota.

“I think a popular one is Ohio. Everybody knows the lottery and the amount of money that you could have won,” said Christina Weber.

A million dollars was the lottery prize in Ohio. A 14-year-old boy and 22-year-old woman earned the money for rolling up their sleeves.

Minnesota went the Minnesota route, meaning you could get a free fishing license, State Fair admission, or state park pass among other choices.

Why are we motivated by incentives?

“It’s a really good example of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning,” said Fiyyaz Karim, a University of Minnesota Professor who specializes in behavioral health and addiction counseling. “Looking at those external rewards as a motivation to change certain desired behavior. So having those incentives in place may help to reinforce their desired behavior.”

Is incentive motivation something we learn or is it maybe instinctual?

“It’s actually a little bit of both because I think we are born innately with certain temperaments and personality styles,” Karim said.

Incentives can be taught in parenting techniques as well, like telling a child they only get dessert if they finish their vegetables.

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“Those different rewards help to establish healthy routines and behaviors,” Karim said.

As we grow up, Karim says motivation often comes from within, known as intrinsic motivation. That could mean getting vaccinated because you feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s about having personal satisfaction versus receiving a reward.

“I think for us being involved with health care, I think it’s easier for us to think more so for herd immunity,” said Caen Grooters.

“For me it’s like, how can we do the most for the people around us?” added Maggie Schriener.

Your job could be considered incentive motivated. If you work, you get paid. Hopefully, there’s internal motivation as well.

“As an educator, as a teacher, I have a passion for teaching and I enjoy having that positive change on others,” said Karim.

Thousands of Minnesotans missed the boat on getting a vaccine incentive, but there is one external reward everyone gets to enjoy.

“I thought the more people that get vaccinated, the faster we can get back to normal, the faster we’re gonna be able to do things and get back together with people and life will kind of resume,” said Weber.

“Those activities and the meaning that we have with those relationships, those activities I think is a very big external force,” Karim added.

Minnesota’s incentive program is paid for through federal COVID-19 funding, similar to the lottery system in other states.

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If you’re planning to get vaccinated and want to register to get for an incentive, click here.

Jeff Wagner