Ask any psychologist and they will tell you that positive reinforcement works much better than criticism. It is for this reason that I avoid negative advertising, which completely explains my intolerance for politics and all of the personal and professional attacks that come with any election season.
Just look at the wonderful effects of positive reinforcement with dogs. Just a treat or a kind word can convince even the most stubborn of dogs to at least try and do what you ask of them. But it struck me the other day how we might be reaching a sad point with incentives – yes, a sad point.
In talking with a friend the other day, she told me she and her husband went to Cedar Point over the weekend. It seems her husband donated blood to the American Red Cross, and for his time–and blood –he received tickets to the amusement park.
You can look at that situation and say that everyone wins–the Red Cross, Cedar Point and, of course, my friend and her husband. It’s an innocent transaction, to be sure. But my question is, would he still have donated blood if it weren’t for the tickets?
There are plenty of businesses in Grosse Pointe that offer incentives to try their product or service. It’s a normal way to conduct business. One of the best around is the football coupon book. Have you gotten yours yet? For a $20 donation you get amazing coupons that can save you hundreds of dollars. I did last year, which is why I am still looking to purchase another book this year. I went an entire year not having to pay for a single haircut (except the tip). That was five haircuts, saving me at least $250.
Our coffee shops offer great incentives to recycle. will give you 50 cents off the price of your coffee if you bring in your own travel mug. give you 10 cents off. offers coffee for $1.25 if you bring in your own mug, and is just 99 cents if you pour it into your own container.
For a coffee lover like me, that’s heaven, and I have mugs touting all of these great places to get coffee. It’s a great way for the shops to save on the cost of paper, and in the process, the cutting down of still more trees for an hour of java enjoyment.
But we have to be careful that we don’t become conditioned to do what is right only if we get something in return. We have never been very big on paying our son an allowance. It stopped when I asked him if he was going to pick up the dog poop in the backyard–one of his chores that earned him $3 a week. His declined the offer, saying he didn’t really need the money.
Now he does it for free. Not because we don’t want him to have money, but because he’s part of the household and should have jobs just like us.
Let’s still enjoy little bonuses for doing the right thing, but let’s not lose sight of why we do the right thing.