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Fooled by Proximity
The author, Leonard Mlodinow, recounts a story about flight instructors for the Israeli air force who disagreed unanimously with a speaker who was highlighting the benefits of rewards over punishment for modifying the behavior of the instructors’ students. The instructors said their experience was if they praised a student for well-executed maneuvers, the next time they performed worth. But if they yelled and screamed at them when they did poorly, they almost always did better the next time.
[Sound familiar? Boy – if I had nickel for every time a client told me a similar thing about motivation I’d have a a whole bunch of nickels!]
The instructor, who was using evidence from animal studies, couldn’t understand the disconnect. Why would the studies he’s seen say rewards work better but the experience from the instructors indicate the opposite?