Saturday, March 30, 2013

Compleity around reward and punishment

Yesterday I introduced a question about attitude toward others in the context of war.
It is frequently discussed and now controversial.

Traditionally, we are willing to reward, good or bad. If you got a pretty gift, you would be happy and say thanks. If intruded, you would get angry, or escape. It is our instinct for survival.

In general, unofficial revenge is a crime. But in fact, when we are harmed by another, we want to retaliate against the offender. It is a natural emotion. Why?
All human have learning ability. If we had a hard time, you would not be willing to rush into the same situation. Then, revenge is a deterrent against recidivism.
Everyone has an experience of burning. So we are careful with the fire.
Punishment is a means to modify human behavior. From spanking a child to imprisonment penalty by a judge, there are innumerable punishments.
On the contrary, we are willing to do the same thing that we were past rewarded. Adequately rewarded behavior will be enhanced. It is difficult to withdraw alcohol or tobacco because these kinds of substance stimulate the brain directly to enhance the reward system.

Behavioral therapy is also based on this theory above, established by Mr. B. F. Skinner, an American psychologist.

Behavioral therapists are trying to analyze the targeted behaviors (usually unwilling ones; e.g. self-harm or smoking) of the client to make a plan to modify them. To delete a certain behavior, a therapist gives the client a punisher just after the behavior. Then the frequency of the behavior will be decreased.
(Needless to say, “punisher” must not be dangerous. The concrete contents of behavioral therapy are tailor-made and determined in advance, based on the consent of the client.)

Educational programs in school, performance-based pay systems are also based on the theory of behavioral therapy.

Then, we are back to the beginning.
Should criminals be punished?

Absolutely, yes! Evil behavior is not acceptable. They should be deleted. It’s a general answer.

However, recently I have experience exceptional cases, gradually increasing.

For example, recidivism by criminals is a big problem in every country. We cannot deal with the matter effectively. One of the factors is poverty. Almost all surveys suggest the relationship between crime and poverty.
So, if we deliver money for criminals, what will happen?

Based on behavioral model, people will commit more crimes, when rewarded.

Then, I have another question.
Nowadays, a lot of poor people are given money by the government. If the government stops the supply, what will happen? I am certain that the crimes will increase.

This imagination is so rough that we cannot reach the conclusion easily. It is not true at all that poor persons are willing to do wrong things.
I think that ancient reward and punishment model has some limitation. And in a modern complex society it is difficult to describe the whole structure of the society. For example, Japan is one of the safest regions, but the Japanese penal law is not so strict. The other day I introduced the book “Drive”in which the author said reward is not a good way to motivate people. In the context of psychotherapy, enhancement of motivation is a hot topic.

To punish the foe is an emotional justice, printed in our brains. But whether it is the fittest way to solve the problem is to be considered.

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