Monday, March 18, 2013

The Stick or the Carrot: Punishment Can Enhance Performance?

The stick can work just as well as the carrot in improving our performance, a team of academics at The University of Nottingham has found...To investigate this, they asked participants in the study to perform a simple perceptual task—asking them to judge whether a blurred shape behind a rainy window is a person or something else. They punished incorrect decisions by imposing monetary penalties. At the same time, they measured the participants’ brain activity in response to different amounts of monetary punishment. Brain activity was recorded, non-invasively, using an EEG machine which detects and amplifies brain signals from the surface of the scalp through a set of small electrodes embedded in a swim-like cap fitted on the participants’ head. They found that participants’ performance increased systematically as the amount of punishment increased, suggesting that punishment acts as a performance enhancer in a similar way to monetary reward. more

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