Psychological Self-Help

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controlled and based on short-term external reinforcements. I believe
we need to know much more about natural, long-term, covert and
intrinsic reinforcement, including cognitive processes and value
judgments about our own behavior, before we understand the process
of self-reinforcement. We are a long way from understanding why
some students love school work and others hate it, why some
physicians practice with the poor (instead of making $200,000-a-
year), why some people (like Lincoln) learn a lot without good schools,
credit, or degrees, why some societies would fight for a controlled
economy and others would die for free enterprise, etc. These things
don't "just happen." There are reasons--payoffs (real and imagined).
But the payoffs are not consciously planned either. When we are all
more aware of our reasons and pay offs, the world will be better off. 
Positive reinforcement can be used with almost any problem or
self-improvement. Usually a new and better behavior is needed to
replace an old discontinued behavior. The reinforcement idea is
simple; the method is usually easy to use, if changes are made
gradually. Not only are there personal benefits from this method but
an enlightened society might solve many problems by the wide-spread
use of reinforcement. Examples: better parenting by rewarding good
child care, less crime by reinforcing moral behavior, better
preventative health care by reducing health insurance premiums for
losing weight or exercising, increased generosity by rewarding giving,
higher productivity by reinforcing industriousness and efficiency, better
learning, better marriages, etc. There are no dangers, except (1)
believing reinforcement can solve all or no problems and (2)
undermining our intrinsic satisfaction by the unnecessary use of
extrinsic rewards (see discussion in chapter 4). Kohn (1993) has
carefully summarized the down-side of rewards which all self-
reinforcers should be aware of. 
Kohn suggests several ways to make rewards, when administered
by others (teachers, parents, supervisors), less detrimental to intrinsic
satisfaction. (1) It is best when rewards do not make people feel
controlled by others or manipulated by externally imposed
circumstances. (2) It is better to avoid basing our praise of others (or
our own self-evaluations) on comparisons of one person with another.
Praise others for improvements in their own performance. (3)
Whenever the task can be gratifying and rewarding, help the other
person shift his/her emphasis from getting extrinsic rewards to
experiencing even more intrinsic satisfaction. 
Additional information
Watson, D. and Tharp, R. (1972). Self-directed behavior: Self-
modification for personal adjustment, Monterey, CA:
Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. 
Daniels, A. C. (1999). Bringing out the best in people. 2nd
edition. McGraw-Hill. 
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