20 October 2009

Carrots and Sticks

Games are increasingly being used to investigate social behavior. Here is an excellent example of an experiment in the form of a game that shows how rewards are better at persuading people than punishment.

Carrots trump sticks
for fostering cooperation

When it comes to encouraging people to work together for the greater good, carrots work better than sticks. That's the message from a new study showing that rewarding people for good behaviour is better at promoting cooperation than punishing them for offenses.
See the full article at Not Exactly Rocket Science.   GBR Giant Battling Robots Favicon


Steven Satak said...

I wonder if they'll do another multi-million dollar study to determine what any salty bosun's mate could have told them for the last hundred years - that no good leader uses the carrot or the stick exclusively, that a combination of the two is the most effective of all.

Unknown said...

Now if only corporations could learn from this...

This is actually really good as a GM, knowing what will help lead your characters onto a story line without beating them into following your specific story line.

Kit said...

I have found that this is very true, especially in games. The best way to encourage a type of behavior, especially when acting as some sort of mediator (like a GM or a ref) is to reward what you want.

Generally if you instead punnish what you don't like you may get them to stop doing what they have been up to (though maybe not start what you want), however at the same time they start to resent you which just results in new and different problems that only get worse.

In fact, I would say that a lot of times simply not rewarding bad behavior while at the same time rewarding good behavior is all the 'stick' that ever needs to be used. When someone else gets some bonus that you have not it is something that you naturally quickly take notice of and will try to take advantage of in the future. This is especially true if things are consistently rewarded - and best of all the reward can be fairly small.

Dan Eastwood said...

@Steven: It wasn't so very long ago that people thought that real experiments simply could not be done in the social sciences. Now Game Theory is commonly being applied in this area and showing useful results. The original paper has more to say about the value of the carrot relative to the stick. Certainly the presence of the "stick" makes a difference even if never gets used (if you take my meaning).
I looked, but didn't find how much this cost - Not millions though. There was some money to pay the volunteers (who kept theirs winnings), and (guessing) probably some grad-student funding and (more guessing) a fraction of someones salary.

@Sapphire & Kit: I have known good GMs that never needed the stick (though they certainly had one) and bad ones that used only the stick. That might actually be a good definition of what a good/bad GM is.