Performance-based pay schemes in many organizations share the fundamental assumption that the performance level for a given task will increase as a function of the amount of incentive provided. Consistent with this notion, psychological studies have demonstrated that expectations of reward can improve performance on a plethora of different cognitive and physical tasks, ranging from problem solving to the voluntary regulation of heart rate. However, much less is understood about the neural mechanisms of incentivized performance enhancement. In particular, it is still an open question how brain areas that encode expectations about reward are able to translate incentives into improved performance across fundamentally different cognitive and physical task requirements.
Liljeholm, M., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2012). Anything you can do, you can do better: Neural substrates of incentive-based performance enhancement. PLoS Biology, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001272