2 thoughts on “Reward Or Punishment?”

  1. I suspect that most people will answer this questions choosing “reward”. It certainly seems more humane than punishment, which feels mean or crass somehow.

    But in reality, I think we, as a society, believe very deeply in altering behavior through punishment. Everything from grounding a teenager to imposing the death penalty, somewhere deep within our psyches we believe in the concept of deterrent. If someone learns that certain behaviors or actions produce a negative outcome, we think, they won’t do that thing or behave that way.

    Even though I think we believe this, I don’t think it is actually true. Human beings are closer to animals than we are comfortable admitting. I don’t think that any professional dog trainer advocates or promotes training a dog using punishment, but rather through reward. I suspect that it is the same for humans.

    I think we’d be better off, collectively, if we took all the time, money, and other resources that are used to punish people for misdeeds, and tried instead to apply them to reward good behavior.

    Rewarding is much harder than punishing, both in concept as well as in practice. I suspect that’s why we don’t do it more than we currently do: it’s hard, and it takes a long time. But I think it would ultimately be more effective.

  2. First, punishment is a negative thing and cannot be seen as anything else. Punishment is only justified when all else has failed. As a parent I don’t punish my children. Discipline, on the other hand, is a positive thing because training is involved. I do discipline my children, when necessary, to teach them what is proper behavior. Discipline, with no reward, will be viewed as punishment, and constant reward with no discipline can encourage unacceptable behavior. So, discipline and reward go hand in hand.

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