Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values

Thanks to Bruce Bryner for sending this wonderful video collection to me.  It best illustrates that human behavior is controlled by consequences. This is one  of psychology’s major Laws. It further illustrates that using rewards (positive reinforcers as consequences for behavior that we wish to see happen more often in the future is the way to go).

Beyond this, the traffic control videos show that for some behaviors, a combination of punishment for infractions and rewards for compliance are needed. It should be known that the over-use of punishment without strong rewards for incompatible behavior normally has bad outcomes for the punished and the punisher.

Finally, all tapes illustrate that to implement systematic consequences that will influence behaviors in desirable ways, it is necessary for groups or sociocultures to organize themselves around common values and morals (i.e., it is good to follow speed limits it is bad to speed; it is good to put trash in its proper receptacles; it is bad to pollute the environment; etc.).

Want some fun?

What to see some ways to help ourselves behave better by having fun?

Watch the following videos.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

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5 Responses to “Influencing Behavior: Rewarding Consequences and Values”

  1. rhetoricmonkey Says:

    Well this is a nice thought and fun. I wonder where entitlement comes from?


    • vtmawhinney Says:

      It comes from being a parent, a professional psychologist teaching and advising parents with out-of-control children, from being a specialist in behavior modification, and one with more than a passing interest in the effects of permissiveness in families, schools, and society. It comes from working with law enforcement agencies, schools, agencies that serve the retarded and autistic. It comes from being a professor of psychology, teaching behavior modification for 36 yrs. It comes from someone who is skilled at using positive reinforcement and who is asked to help children who face a life of rejection, failure, and legal sanctions if humane ways are not found to correct the effects of abuse, neglect and permissive environments. The effect are predictable and they damage everone that the lives of the badly behaving children contact and will contact as adults.

      Thats the short answer and I give it with all due humility.

      When we fail to remediate bad behavior in our children, we simply allow the control of immediate reinforcement of bad behavior to take over. This is due to a great number of naturally occuring contingencies of reinforcment for bad behavior. Unfortunately the delayed consequences are all aversive to the badly behaving individual and everyone they interact with, as well as those who pay the bill for late remediation which normally fails.

      O.K., that was longer than it was supposed to be.



      • rhetoricmonkey Says:

        lol, I apologize. I was referring to the entitlement of people that believe something is owed to them just because they behave according to the rules. The rewards in these videos seem fun but miss the fact that once the new wears off the old behaviors will likely recur. The piano stairs, for example, will eventually lose to the escalator because of the behavior that is ultimately reinforced by each respectively. The good thing is we learn from practice.


        • vtmawhinney Says:

          Oh my gosh! Ugh…I am sorry. And boy did I go on..and on. Its just that I am questioned about such matters often, so, I kinda expect it.

          But, you are spot on, with regard to novelty as a reinforcer. I think the speeding contingency is a good one, with staying power (conditioned generalized reinforcers). I kind of figure if science and its technology can do damage to the strenght of our behavior, why can’t we use it to help set contingencies for good behavior. I’m getting old, so I love the idea that others with the know-how will help structure the human and technologically based prothetic contingencies needed to strengthen our good behavior again.



      • rhetoricmonkey Says:

        I agree that delayed consequences, in cases of punishment, are typically aversive like you’ve said. And what’s more is that punished behavior is likely to recur when the aversive contingencies are gone. Or, just speculation but, it’s possible that the next time contingencies occur the behavior may be to destroy or flee from them.
        I’ve burned my self a couple of times in my life on a hot pot but only once do I believe it took for it to leave an imprint on my response abilities. But that’s what makes immediate consequences or lack of any reinforcement so important. I’ve had similar experiences with electric fencing to those of the hot pot. This goat seems to be missing an operant behavior gene or he likes the tickle the fence gives his tongue:


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