Corporate wellness and gaming has collided, resulting in a game where you receive incentives for losing weight. In an everlasting battle to motivate people to make healthier lifestyle choices, engineers at I.B.M. created a computer program that would help individuals lose weight, and win money.
The premise is simple: participants are rewarded for eating well and discouraged for eating poorly. Having a salad or grilled chicken breast for lunch could win you 50 cents; all of a sudden the allure of that slice of chocolate cake fades against the backdrop of monetary gain.
Michael Paolini, a Senior Technical Staff Member at I.B.M. describes it as a “modern day Pavlov” approach. Triggering healthy eating choices over and over again by using incentives will help people to establish healthier lifestyle habits overall. I.B.M. has implemented incentive programs already; I.B.M. gives $200 dollars back to those who sign up and complete a walking program.
The New York Times referred to it as gamification; the idea of applying game techniques and psychology to affect behavior in the real world. I.B.M. has gained a patent for it, and hopes to license it to companies or insurers as a tool to improve employees’ well-being.
Of course, there are roadblocks. The idea is contingent upon the honesty of the participant and their willingness to participate- they must be completely honest about their food choices. There are also privacy concerns about implementing this type of food tracker program in a corporate wellness program- who wants to share the details of their midnight ice-cream binge or happy hour cocktails with their company?
What are your thoughts on incentive based programs? Will they constructively improve eating habits, or are they a short-term fix to a complex problem? We’d love to hear from you!
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