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Strings AttachedUntangling the Ethics of Incentives$
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Ruth W. Grant

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151601

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151601.001.0001

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“Incentives Talk”: What Are Incentives Anyway?

“Incentives Talk”: What Are Incentives Anyway?

(p.31) Chapter Three “Incentives Talk”: What Are Incentives Anyway?
Strings Attached

Ruth W. Grant

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the meaning of “incentives.” The term has become so ubiquitous that it has almost lost all boundaries and definition. It begins by attempting to distinguish incentives both from other forms of motivation and from other forms of trade or exchange, reward or compensation. It then sets out a distinctive meaning the concept of incentives. Incentives “strictly speaking” are a particular kind of offer: (1) an extrinsic benefit or a bonus that is neither the natural or automatic consequence of an action nor a deserved reward or compensation; (2) a discrete prompt expected to elicit a particular response; and (3) an offer intentionally designed to alter the status quo by motivating a person to choose differently than he or she would be likely to choose in its absence.

Keywords:   incentives, motivation, trade, exchange, compensation, offer

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