365 Ways to Persuade And Motivate: #8 Use The Right Reward

Picture of a rat in a skinner boxSince starting to write the last few blog posts on rewards I’ve had some questions on what is a reward. So I thought I’d take this blog to write about what makes a reward a reward and how to pick the “right” one.

When B.F. Skinner researched rewards he didn’t call them rewards. He called them “reinforcers”. In his research an effective reinforcer is anything that, when you give it, results in an increase in the desired behavior. Which means that what is an effective reward depends on what a particular person feels is an effective reward. The list of possible rewards or reinforcers is infinite. What is it that a person might want? Here are some common reinforcers:

  • Money
  • Discounts
  • Food
  • Sex
  • Attention
  • Praise
  • Love
  • Fun

And on and on. In order to pick an effective reward, ideally you know your audience and you know what they want. If you haven’t done that research, then you will be using trial and error to figure out what an effective reward is for your audience. I suggest you do some research ahead of time so you know what to use as a reward for your particular audience and situation.

What do you think? How do you go about picking what is the best reward?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

100 Things You Should Know About People: #80 — Behavior Can Be Shaped

Picture of a slot machineIf you studied psychology years ago, you may remember BF Skinner and his work during the 20th century on operant conditioning. Skinner studied whether behavior increased or decreased based on how often, and in what manner, you provide a “reinforcement” (reward).

What the casinos know — Let’s say you put a rat in a cage with a bar. If the rat presses the bar he gets a food pellet. The food pellet is called the reinforcement. But what if you set it up so that the rat does not get the food pellet every time he presses the bar. Skinner tested out various scenarios, and found that how often you give the food pellet, and whether you give it based on time or bar presses, affected how often the rat would press the bar. Here’s a synopsis of the different schedules:

Interval Schedules – You provide a food pellet after a certain interval of time has passed, for example, 5 minutes. The first time the rat presses the bar after 5 minutes is up, then he gets a food pellet.

Ratio Schedules – Instead of basing the reinforcement on time, instead you base it on the number of bar presses. For example, you provide a food pellet after every 10 bar presses. Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #80 — Behavior Can Be Shaped”