Acts of Kindness

July 13, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Reward often works better than punishment.*  

Two examples came my way recently from very different sources  – one of those coincidences that are increasingly possible, especially if you spend way too much time on the Internet. 

The Monkey Cage linked to a Harvard Business Review blog (here) about reducing juvenile crime with a policy of  “Positive Tickets.”  Instead of nailing kids for bad behavior, the cops (the Mounties in Richmond, Canada)  gave rewards to kids when they came upon them doing the right thing.
The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. . . .
Youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.
Just the day before I saw this item, my sister-in-law had sent around a link to this video of an Australian bank doing something similar.   The difference is that the bank’s dependent variable is not clearly defined or measured, and its method is over the top.

*Not always.  In psychology, especially with animals, there are all sorts of specifications and parameters that make this less than a categorical truth.

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