To say one would work, without the anticipation of a reward, or the fear of a punishment, would be stepping into an exaggeration. Man seldom goes about a task without a personal interest. But is it the fear of a punishment, an insult or a scolding that has the world revolving from 9 to 5, or the desire of a potential bounty?
The interrelated cycle of this phenomenon has kept psychologists and scientists busy, it impacts behavior greatly, but till what extent exactly? Can fright or gratification induce desired reactions, for a desired prospect? Or is it simply a psychological conditioning only bound to laboratory rats? The orthodox thinking could mold it to be the notion of karma, but then the modern would point out the sophisticated, underlying art of persuasion. Though to say which is the better, would be a debatable agenda, and yet this debate is of a complex nature.
In general terms, a ‘reward’ is considered the concrete, constructive compensation of an act, and the ‘punishment’ to be the same thing, though of the opposite sense. Thus the question arises, what is to say that this concrete reward, perceived in a positive connotation, is the real influencing factor to our actions? And the answer lies in the word, perception. Perception and sensation, two words that usually go hand in hand in various books, are the backstage management to these perplexing stimuli. The way one understands and thus acts is the whole concept of perception, so the way I perceive a specific reward will further influence my actions and responses.
Candy is sweet, and no amount of spice can lessen that sweetness, but it is that same candy that rots teeth. And that makes me question, is that candy only the colorful pieces in stores, or is there a candy for the mind too? Is it the candy of the mind that makes me go to work everyday, greet my coworkers with a smile and offer to eat lunch together, or is it the physical candy, the pay-check I get that has me on my best behavior? Does the student responsibly doing his homework fear the beating and the humiliation of not meeting deadlines the next day or does he study because his remembers the last penalty, and learned to do better?
This chain of actions and reactions is a never ending one, because while a reward could stimulate one person to work harder, that same reward could demotivate another because it’s offensive to him to have to be reinforced to do his job, and similarly so does punishment. Ergo, it is difficult to say that either, carrot or stick, gets the longer end, but it is clear that both have an area of influence on the crude working of the human mind.