Rewards for Behavior: Increasing Motivation
In observing the behavior of human interaction within the realm of sociology, one can see a definite increase in the amount of motivation devoted to a certain task when a person is offered a positive gift or reward at the point of culmination of a specified task. The types of rewards and the types of people offering the rewards may vary from situation to situation, for example, a reward may be self administered or administered by an outside party, friend, coworker, employer, spouse, or parent and may take the form of a monetary reward, affection, favor, or emotional, mental, or material sort of gift. Within the varied and multiple human systems working on planet earth, rewards are best type of stimulus to encourage people to act or behave in favorable ways or to perform tasks well and in a high quality fashion. In demonstrating the specific nature and power of rewarding people for achievements, it is good to have a precise and accurate overview of how human beings behave with one another in various social situations. Understanding the effectiveness of rewards entails discerning between positive and negative behaviors, or constructive and destructive behaviors, and placing value on behaviors which promote the highest level of functioning between human beings (Deci, Koester, & Ryan 658).
In family systems and relationships between family members, rewards may constitute both a positive stimulus between spouses as well as a positive stimulus between parents and children in order to heighten the valued, desired, or healthy behaviors demonstrated between family members. In the case of the husband who desires to have his wife cook regularly at home, he may decide to offer a reward to his wife, such as suggesting a switch from full time to part time employment, allowing her more time at home, in order to have her stimulated to accept his proposal of cooking dinner every night. If both the husband and wife find the option of her switching to part time work favorable, freeing up her afternoons, then the wife may happily consider accepting the reward of more time at home in exchange for cooking dinner for her family. As with any reward, it is vital that the two or more people engaging in the agreement both find the reward to be favorable, for if a reward is not favorable and lacks positive attributes in the eyes of the people involved, it ceases to be a reward. In the case of children relating to parents, it may serve family members well for parents to offer a reward of kisses and praise to their children for tasks well done. If a parent notices that his or her child is kind to another child or brings the dishes to the sink without having to be reminded, the encouragement of this behavior continuing lies in the reward the child receives in the form of kisses and praise. It may serve the children well to also note that a parent can be positively affected by a reward system. If a child desires to be brought to the movie theater more often, then the child may want to extend kisses and praise to the parent every time they see a movie together, perhaps right after the movie as they walk from the building together.
Using rewards in the world of business can be a bit more explicit, such as rewards in the form of money or earnings per well completed tasks, and also more competitive and formal than allocation of rewards in a family setting. Rewards in employment often come in the form of payment. Many jobs are set up on a salary bases after careful consideration of an employee’s qualities and attributes, however, an even better pay system would function based on the current quality of the employee’s work delivered. If people were to always be paid based upon the timeliness and highest quality of work delivered, then the reward system would be geared even more precisely to encourage the best possible products by employees. Implementing a transparent system where certain tasks are rewarded by a higher rate of pay when completed may require a bit of time and consideration, but it is certainly possible in a variety of, if not all, fields of employment. The salary earned for a job well done is perhaps the most important stimulus for any economy, and if this stimulus can be tweaked precisely and accurately, rewarding workers in the time and place when the highest quality goods are delivered, then the rewards system could serve in heightening the efficiency and productivity of an individual, company, or even a nation.
Rewards can also be administered within the social systems of friendships in the aim to foster trust and compatibility between people. When a friend wants to be closer to another person, to a friend, this friend may offer rewards in the form of praises, nice phone calls, lunches, evenings out, or social gatherings in order to shore up the relationship and provide motivation for staying nearby and in contact. If a person needs a friend and social outlet, a confidant and person to have fun with, then rewarding the friend with kind words, a meal, favors, or fun times together can be the impetus for the person wanting to stay around and to not abandon the relationship. Friendships, like other relationships, are defined by the bond between people, and the bond is best strengthened by a system of rewards in which one or both people are being sure to gift one another with nice behaviors in order to ensure the worth of the other’s presence and contribution to the relationship.
More examples of family relationships where rewards function to better the relationships and provide stimulation to achieve positive goals are apparent in a variety of situations. If a wife is unhappy with her romantic life, she may encourage her husband to be more romantic with her by decidedly and clearly remarking favorably on the small moments of romance which are present in their relationship or by commenting tactfully on the wonderful aspects of another couple’s relationship, in the hope of providing a reward or shedding positive light on situations which she considers to be romantic ones. When a husband is lacking self esteem due to the high powered career of his wife, he may offer wife thanks and appreciation when she values his contribution to the family or he may even decide to reward himself by buying himself some nice leather shoes or a nice suit when he takes on the second job teaching adjunct classes at the local college. Children may reward their parents by excelling in school, such as getting all As on a report card, which is a testament to the parent’s time and devotion as well as the children’s. Kids have so many various ways of rewarding their parents and making them proud, providing them extra motivation for parents to reward their children and themselves. Parents may want to reward themselves and their children simply by remarking to one another and to other people about the wonderful achievements of their kids, highlighting their unique attributes and successes. The ways in which family members are able to reward one other are as varied as individuals and families themselves, and noting how rewards work within families, seeing them functioning in action, can serve to strengthen the family unit.
Other examples of rewards systems working well in the world of employment are demonstrated in multiple ways and take various forms. A self employed woman, working from home, may reward herself for a long morning of work by resting on her back porch and sipping an iced tea as she looks over the new growth of her garden. A man who supervises the work of twelve employees may be able to view the number of completed bids and reward the quickest and most efficient and high quality worker of the week with a $50 bonus award for that time period. Even a young girl who waitresses on her free evenings while attending an out of state university is motivated to smile and attend to her customers as they enjoy their meals, because the reward of higher tips in her pocket at the end of the night is an impetus for her to be as attentive and interesting as she can be. Use of rewards in the realm of business occurs all the time and motivates workers to be quicker and better producers for the world markets.
Friends utilize the rewards system just as people in other types of relationships rely on rewards, and understanding more about how friends motivate one another can illustrate the effectiveness of the use of rewards in friendships. If a teenager needs a ride to the dance, and her parents are busy and cannot take her, a good friend may offer her and her date a ride and the chance to go on a double date. The rewards for the kind actions of the friend who has a car for the night may be for the other people to offer gas money to the driver or for everyone to chip in for the driver’s meal. Kind actions which take notice of another person’s generosity are the foundation of the rewards system. If a man is very nervous about the birth of his twin sons and feels like he needs a good friend nearby, he may call his buddy at 2 AM and ask him to come to the hospital for support. The friend who wakes up in the middle of the night and sits in the hospital waiting room in order to offer a kind of emotional assistance may be rewarded later by a hug from his friend, a few minutes with the new little boys and the tired mom, and a nice breakfast in the morning. The administration of rewards in friendship helps to seal the bond and provides stability in social relationships.
Many people understand and work within the system of rewards, and some people know that the rewards system is always in effect, in a multitude of ways. Illustrating the concept of rewards and the influence of human motivation by administration of rewards for good behavior can be done in various ways and proven by controlled experiments which take specialized rewards in specialized situations into consideration. Although the rewards system has a long and enduring history, it would do humanity well to focus more attention on the concept of rewards systems within human social systems, because having an impetus to do something, being genuinely encouraged to do something, has much more power and positive effects than coercion or manipulation, negative force which does not promote inspiration or further activity. It is good to understand the difference between forced behaviors lacking rewards, which cause stagnation and even dysfunction, and rewards for jobs well done, which promote good will and general functionality in human systems. If a true rewards system is in place, either in the form of self-rewarding behaviors or other-rewarding behaviors, then the social system will function in a flowing and high quality fashion, calling attention to the constant positive relationship between rewards and motivation and the constant positive effect of rewards and motivation on human interaction and human societies.
Deci, Edward, Koestner, Richard & Ryan, Richard. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation.” Psychological Bulletin
125.6 (1999): 627-668.