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Bear away



Thinking about a couple things lately on positive vs. negative. Hoping that writing about it a bit will help clarify what is going on. Some of the below may be mistaken but that is part of the learning process.

So I've noticed a few articles on positive vs. negative reinforcement and how positive is more effective at motivating behavior. Yet in the US we have a cultural bias towards negative reinforcements.

We raise our children and our pets with almost entirely punishment based incentives, which communicates that as long as you don't do anything bad, you're okay. Evidence shows this to increase aggression but we still seem to feel the need to use force to control although it would take less energy in the long run to attract rather than compel.

Our approach to national security is also primarily negative, with very little effort devoted to diplomacy and much much more devoted to blowing people up who might threaten us.

This is also seen in our justice system, which is solely predicated on punishment or revenge, yet in our daily lives we are told to respect each other and not seek revenge. Schools are coming to resemble prisons more each year, with armed guards, metal detectors, and random drug testing. Every time there is an incident, the screws are clamped down tighter, without any consideration that it might be these draconian impositions which are causing the kids to go postal in the first place.

Even in medicine the approach is negative in that as long as you don't have any bad symptoms you are okay. Further the concern is focused on symptoms, not the causes of those symptoms.

Is it any wonder there is so much emotional tension in a society where the fundamental assumptions of human nature are hateful, and yet we are told to love one another?

So what does this mean to anything - I'm certainly not going to resolve social hypocrisy in my lifetime. Yet I can control my own life and ask what the evidence is for a given approach. How will beating myself up make me a better person? How will beating someone else up help them? OTOH don't we do people a disservice to simply blow sunshine without honestly considering that there is more to skill than confidence?

Yet positive doesn't mean unicorns and kittens and sunshine and flowers. It just means to focus on where you're going, rather than looking in the rear view mirror at what you're trying to get away from. In this sense positive thinking is a focus on what you want to accomplish rather than trying to prevent yourself from doing bad things. So possibly my relapse was due to my focus on not drinking (negative) without finding ways to meet the needs that drinking allows me to neglect. I'm sure there is more to it than that but this is a start.


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Hmmm...I agree with some. I think more strives are taken now to encourage positive behaviour in children by rewarding good choices, rather than being focused only on the negative.

I think the American penal system advocates innocent until proven guilty - imagine if it were reversed- that could have a terrible impact on citizens.

And i dont believe revenge is the right way to approach people who have done wrong ie prison... there is not revenge, there are imposed consequences. as well there should be. Knowing there will be a consequence works as a deterent, in hopes of preventing the same situation again. That also seems positive in my perspective.

There must be more positve ways to deal with the drinking. Ever thought of taking those 'anabuse?' pills, that make u feel lousy if you do drink?

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I'm sure there is more to it than that but this is a start.

This is a great start! Thanks for sharing!!! :)

(Looking forward to the continuation [-sorry; didn't find a better word in the dictionary :o...])

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I think Antabuse is an example of the negative approach I am concerned with. It adds more pressure to not drink, as if there were not already enough negative consequences. By contrast a positive approach would be to deal with the underlying problem that one is trying to self medicate with drugs/alcohol.

In theory the presence of a consequence should act as a deterrent and I believe it does. Despite cable news' hysterical obsession over crime, the rate of violent crime in the US has gone down over the past several generations so we must be doing something right. My feeling though is that we could do better. Once someone has been to jail, the chance they will be back again (and again, and again) is quite high. Once you have a criminal record it is almost impossible to make a living any other way, forcing people to live either in poverty or act in the black market.

The assumption that criminality is a character trait may be correct, and if it is then there is not much to be done. However if reform is possible, it would be a more productive use of taxpayer funds to focus on preventing future crimes by helping those at risk for falling into criminal occupations, than to satisfy our thirst for revenge by imposing harsh sentences as a deterrent.

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Yup...you could start with legalizing marijuana. With all the money the gov't would MAKE on taxing it, and SAVE on incarcerating people for minor possession charges, they would likely have enough dough to treat the addictions of those who are ultimately struggling with that as the root cause of the behaviour that landed them in prison in the first place.

Thus, decreasing crime, bettering lives, reducing the over-crowding in prisons, crippling some illegal drug trade activities, helping heal people rather than caging them, possibly intervening on behalf of the whole family.

Although I do believe that most sentences are not motivated by revenge, there is still a definite need to imprison those who are a danger to society. And also that it may be necessary to contain those who are receiving treatment, by legal means, so that treatment is not a choice and it keeps that individual removed from potentially harmful environments.

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Agreed. All the hysteria over drugs can be shown false by looking at the Netherlands. They decriminalized soft drugs and yet nobody is running amok on marijuana over there.

Maybe it is not revenge but it is an emotional response to be "hard on drugs" and destroy the lives of "those goddam worthless junkies" that motivates the irrational drug policy in most developed countries.

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