Find The Smallest Possible Reward / Punishment To Achieve The Behavior

A common misguided belief is the greater the reward or punishment, the more you control the behavior of community members.

But we have an abundance of evidence to suggest this isn’t true.

This is because of dissonance.

Essentially, members justify performing behaviors they dislike by telling themselves it was worth the reward (or worth it to avoid punishment).

Members will keep doing it (or not doing it) depending upon how powerful they perceive the reward/punishment.

Since the same reward yields less power over time (and the power of threats fade every time they’re used), behavior-based upon powerful rewards declines over time.

Yet if the reward is relatively small and the threatened punishment is minor, members reduce the dissonance by telling themselves the behavior was enjoyable, satisfying, and performing it reflects who they are as a person.

Contrarily, this means the challenge isn’t coming up with the biggest possible threat or reward to influence members to perform behaviors you want (or prevent behaviors you don’t want). The challenge is to identify the smallest possible reward/threat to get the behaviors you need.

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