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How To Pick The Right Reward

What makes a reward a reward and how do you pick the “right” one?

Since starting to write the last few blog posts on rewards I’ve had some questions on what is a reward. So I thought I’d take this blog to write about what makes a reward a reward and how to pick the “right” one. 

When B.F. Skinner researched rewards he didn’t call them rewards. He called them “reinforcers”. In his research an effective reinforcer is anything that, when you give it, results in an increase in the desired behavior. Which means that what is an effective reward depends on what a particular person feels is an effective reward. The list of possible rewards or reinforcers is infinite. What is it that a person might want? Here are some common reinforcers:

  • Money
  • Discounts
  • Food
  • Sex
  • Attention
  • Praise
  • Love
  • Fun

And on and on. In order to pick an effective reward, ideally you know your audience or the particular person, and you know what they want. If you haven’t done that research, then you will be using trial and error to figure out what is an effective reward for this particular group or individual. 

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What do you think? How have you gone about picking what is the best reward?

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.,is a behavioral psychologist, author, coach, and consultant in neuropsychology.

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