Is Punishment or Reward More Effective?

Do people learn better when they are punished for poor performance or rewarded for good performance?


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Punishment is more effective

Reward is more effective

Effect on Effort

Individuals who are given negative reinforcement will know where to spend their effort.  They will not focus on the development of skills that they have already mastered, but will focus instead on the skills that will make them overall better at the task.

Effect on Effort

Positive reinforcement encourages people and increases their enjoyment of the task.  Their increased enjoyment will result in performing the task again with more interest and focus, and will therefore result in a more rapid increase in skill than negative reinforcement.

Regression to the Mean

Regression to the mean may explain some situations, but it cannot be the only justification for the use of positive feedback.

Regression to the Mean

Some studies and even our intuitive responses may come to the wrong conclusion because of regression to the mean.  If someone gets lucky and recieves positive feedback, they are likely to not do as well next time because of not being as lucky.  It may be tempting to assume that the possitive feedback did not work, but really it was just the role of luck.  Similar problems occur with negative feedback after bad luck - people do better because by random chance, not because of the feedback.


Other Factors for Discussion

The answer may have cultural or task-based influences which results in different methods of feedback in different situations.


Punishment vs. Reward

Is Punishment or Reward a More Effective Motivator?

Punishment is more effective
Both should be utilized
Reward is more effective
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