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Reward vs Punishment

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Reward vs Punishment

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:28 am

Scientific studies have shown time and again that positive reward is vital to illiciting a desired behavior, and that punishment doesn't really work too well, if at all. This is so ubiquitous in the literature that I'm not going to produce a link as it can be considered to be common knowledge (look it up if you're so inclined). I was wondering then, why our legal system is based solely on punishment and there are virtually no rewards for good behavior, other than the negative reward of not going to jail/getting a fine.

Take a simple example of a speeding ticket. Most people have gotten one at some point and know how its works. A police officer clocks you, you were over the limit (usually by more than 5mph), you're pulled over, subtly interrogated and inspected for other crimes, then given a ticket for x amount of money. This ticket is your punishment and is supposedly justified by making the streets safer. But it does no such thing. As those who have gotten tickets know, you temporarily modify your behavior to drive within the speed limit. You are on edge for a few weeks or months, but once the 'sting' of the ticket wears off, you're right back to your normal driving habits. Nothing has changed, and the streets are not any safer.

Consider the alternative: Police are doing a speeding enforcement operation. Its a slow day and most people are driving the limit. What would happen if they randomly pulled over a speed-abiding citizen (never mind the probable cause for now), and issued a ticket...for $100 in that person's name for obeying the law! Congratulations! you've been rewarded for doing the right thing.

Think of the effect this would have over time as people realized they may get a random reward for doing the right thing. Drivers would begin to drive within the limits, drivers would not get tense as they see an officer with a radar gun. People would be happy to be pulled over instead of terrified. Relations between the community and the officers would improve, etc., and most of all the desired behavior would illicited. The money for the rewards could be taken from the tickets of those who still decide to speed, as I don't anticipate the punishment model will be completely banned.

Currently, there is no incentive to obey the law other than fear of consequences IF you get caught. If you incentivize the good behavior, you will get more of it. This applies to everyting from speeding, to drunk driving (reward designated drivers), to theft (if appropriately targeted), and more. I realize this will likely never happen, but the idea is intriguing to me, and it would be much more effective than the current model. I supposed eventually this would put a big dent in the city's revenue stream which is the real reason for writing tickets in the first place, but if we take it at face value that we are trying to enforce the laws, reward would be much more effective than punishment.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby rabble » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:35 am

I remember several "good driver" tickets and stops and such all from days gone by. The cops have tried it without much success. Turns out people don't usually like to be stopped by police to be told they're good drivers.

I'd like to give it some positive reinforcement too but I can't come up with a mechanism.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby wack wack » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:39 am

ouroborus4 wrote:I was wondering then, why our legal system is based solely on punishment and there are virtually no rewards for good behavior, other than the negative reward of not going to jail/getting a fine.


Oh, I think this is an easy one: because the punishment feels good to the punisher, not the punishee.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:47 am

rabble wrote:I remember several "good driver" tickets and stops and such all from days gone by. The cops have tried it without much success. Turns out people don't usually like to be stopped by police to be told they're good drivers.

I'd like to give it some positive reinforcement too but I can't come up with a mechanism.


I guess I didn't realize this happened in the past. Was it just the cop saying "Good job for obeying the law!", or were there actual on-the-spot financial rewards given? I can't see how people would be too upset if they left with $100 (or some other specified amount). Instead of being pulled over, perhaps we could put those traffic cams/auto ticketers to good use. Instead of mailing a ticket to speeders, mail a check to every 500th driver who is obeying the limit with a letter explaining why they got it (on x date your vehicle was observed obeying the speed limit. Here is a check for $100 to show our appreciation for making the streets safer. congrats and thank you...) If the funds came from revenue generated from tickets given in other instances, I think you would see a dramatic change in driving behavior in a relatively short time frame without using tax dollars.

Good point about the authoritarian attitudes entrenched in the legal system though. While I fully acknowledge that is the case, in my mind that mentality should absolutely not exist and defeats the (ideal) purpose of law enforcement.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby rabble » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:52 am

ouroborus4 wrote:
rabble wrote:I remember several "good driver" tickets and stops and such all from days gone by. The cops have tried it without much success. Turns out people don't usually like to be stopped by police to be told they're good drivers.

I'd like to give it some positive reinforcement too but I can't come up with a mechanism.


I guess I didn't realize this happened in the past. Was it just the cop saying "Good job for obeying the law!", or were there actual on-the-spot financial rewards given? I can't see how people would be too upset if they left with $100 (or some other specified amount). Instead of being pulled over, perhaps we could put those traffic cams/auto ticketers to good use.

Oh hell no, there was no money involved. I don't think there was even a coupon good at the local soft serv.

Yeah, money would be an incentive but it would basically be a lottery, right? Thus we'd have a few lucky winners and quite a few good drivers who just can't seem to be in the right place at the right time, once again learning that no good deed goes unpunished. What the hell, I'm a better driver than he is but he gets the money and I get nothin. Why am I bothering?
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:56 am

rabble wrote:Oh hell no, there was no money involved. I don't think there was even a coupon good at the local soft serv.

Yeah, money would be an incentive but it would basically be a lottery, right? Thus we'd have a few lucky winners and quite a few good drivers who just can't seem to be in the right place at the right time, once again learning that no good deed goes unpunished. What the hell, I'm a better driver than he is but he gets the money and I get nothin. Why am I bothering?



Actually random, inconsistent rewards are more powerful in shaping behavior than consistent predictable rewards. Think slot machine. It keeps people hooked and on 'good' behavior because you never know whent the reward will come. If its predictable, you slump into 'bad' behavior until the reward comes and get bored with the monotony.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby rabble » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:02 am

ouroborus4 wrote:Actually random, inconsistent rewards are more powerful in shaping behavior than consistent predictable rewards. Think slot machine. It keeps people hooked and on 'good' behavior because you never know whent the reward will come. If its predictable, you slump into 'bad' behavior until the reward comes and get bored with the monotony.

That works for people who actually play slots. I'm not sure that demographic is a representative sample of the population.

Given our education system's decline in the past twenty or thirty years though, I could be wrong about that.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby Henry Vilas » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:06 am

I've had a driver's license for nearly 50 years and I've never gotten a traffic ticket. Where is my reward?
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:09 am

Henry Vilas wrote:I've had a driver's license for nearly 50 years and I've never gotten a traffic ticket. Where is my reward?



That's exactly what I'm talking about! You should be rewarded, not only to encourage your behavior furhter, but also to set an example for others. The current model only sets a negative example because nobody see the incentive for behaving the way you do (yes, you avoid tickets, but you're also late for work) and they get up set with law enforecement.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby rabble » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:10 am

We might be able to fit the reward part into tax time. No tickets in X years, get a tax break.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby ouroborus4 » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:11 am

rabble wrote:
ouroborus4 wrote:Actually random, inconsistent rewards are more powerful in shaping behavior than consistent predictable rewards. Think slot machine. It keeps people hooked and on 'good' behavior because you never know whent the reward will come. If its predictable, you slump into 'bad' behavior until the reward comes and get bored with the monotony.

That works for people who actually play slots. I'm not sure that demographic is a representative sample of the population.

Given our education system's decline in the past twenty or thirty years though, I could be wrong about that.



I know it seems counter intuitive, but its true across the board. This is just a quick reference source, but it gets the point across: http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/schedules.htm
2.Variable-ratio schedules occur when a response is reinforced after an unpredictable number of responses. This schedule creates a high steady rate of responding. Gambling and lottery games are good examples of a reward based on a variable ratio schedule.


It can get complex and there are several schedules of reward, but ultimately, it has drastic effects. Either way, punishment doesn't work.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby Igor » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:13 am

Well, the obvious answer is that it would take too much money. There is a time value of money, and a perceived money value of time. If people are going to arrive at their destination 15 minutes later (assuming a 2 hour drive at 72 MPH instead of 65) there has to be an expected reward that matches. Let's assume that the person values their time at 10 bucks an hour. That is $2.50 worth of time. So, if the reward for not speeding is 100 bucks, they have to "win" that award every 20th time they make that drive to have it be a motivation.

The second answer is that there are idiots that would drive 95 everywhere, because they love speed or value their time at 10x everyone else. While the 65 MPH does not hold people to under 65, it does hold many people to under 75.

The third answer is that enforcement will work if it is universal. If you want people to avoid speeding, install automated radar cameras every mile or so. Make people pay 10 bucks every MPH they are over the limit. Use that money towards the budget. Either people will not speed, government programs can expand, or taxes can be lowered.

And of course, the fourth answer is that speeding is probably a bad example as compared to theft, burglary,assault, etc. I would be interested in what sort of positive reward would have prevented Jerry Sandusky or the (presumably) dude that stole the bikes out of our garage.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby Ninja » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:07 am

I think you're looking at this wrong. The reward is living in a free country where we're able to do just about anything we want without permission or supervision. We take that for granted, but it's no small thing.

As for police stopping drivers to reward good behavior on an individual level, it's been tried numerous times in numerous different forms, and it's a bad idea. The biggest problem, beyond the general level of annoyance that someone cites above, is that these stops can reveal criminal activity, which is then a huge headache.

The guy who's driving absolutely meticulously, signalling every move, obeying every sign, staying well below the speed limit? He's not driving that way because he cares so much about traffic safety, he has a duffle bag with 8 pounds of weed on the back seat. Now what does the cop do? It wasn't a legitimate stop based on reasonable suspicion, but the cop can't just ignore the strong odor of marijuana.

So usually an arrest would be made, but the case would have to be tossed because all the evidence was derived from an illegal (or at the very least, not clearly legal) stop. Huge waste of everyone's time, from the trafficker to the cop to the prosecutors to the court staff.

I was waiting for a case like that to pop up when the MPD was leaving its little notes in unlocked cars reminding drivers to lock their doors a few years ago. I think they had some close/questionable situations but they never stumbled onto a mobile meth lab or anything that would absolutely require at least an attempt at prosecution. They wised up pretty quick.
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby wack wack » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:27 am

Ninja wrote:I think you're looking at this wrong. The reward is living in a free country where we're able to do just about anything we want without permission or supervision.


I didn't realize you were an expat, where do you live?
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Re: Reward vs Punishment

Postby Ninja » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:54 am

wack wack wrote:
Ninja wrote:I think you're looking at this wrong. The reward is living in a free country where we're able to do just about anything we want without permission or supervision.


I didn't realize you were an expat, where do you live?


Oh Madison...

So predictably "edgy."
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