In the ever presence of it, is punishment as effective as we think?

on 28 December 2017
no pain no gain

It is well known that stressed people do not usually perform at their best and the more stressed you become, the less effective you are! However, it would also make sense that if there were no form of discipline or punishment, performance may also be impaired . . . So what is the answer?

with the expectation of it, no pain equals pleasure!

Well for sure, there isn't an easy one and any long term solution to finding an answer will need not only a shift in the ethos behind governments, schools, businesses and parents too; it will also need a massive mindset change at the individual level as well. The main reason for this is because we have a predilection towards repeating history. I have lost count of the number of clients who said, "I said I won't treat my kids the way my parent's treated me" but they ended up doing exactly that. The reasons for that are complex and many but if you could encapsulate it into a word, that word would be love! Not the romantic version, the stuff of novels and movies but rather the chemical experience created in the brain and the associated feelings that come with it.

In one way or another, the presence of this chemical love is what we all strive for but for the most part, we do not fully understand what it is, what creates it and how we can sustain it. Mostly, as a feeling, we associate it with the acquisition of "things," a new car, home, shoes, bling etc. but in reality, these things are merely a transient form of the love experience. True love (chemically speaking) starts with the self and if we learn to teach that to ourselves first, then we can pass on that wisdom to our children, family, friends, even the people we work for or with etc. Then; eventually the world will become a better place.

There is a complication though, and that is created through the overabundance of fear. In the pursuit of love, approval, recognition and acceptance we become subconsciously aware of the presence of stress/fear and that causes frustration, anger and anxiety. It is our unconscious desire to rid ourselves of this fearful feeling that leads us to become aggressive. There is something about aggression that helps to abate the feelings of fear. So, in that context, in a fearful society, the lessening fear somehow feels as if it's taking us towards love. The brain regulates feelings by degree, so less fear can actually feel like more love but it's a very different emotion and while not want you to want or need it's better to be less stressed/fearful. There are of course many discussions that can further explain this in more detail, this is really just a small snippet to offer a simplistic explanation of what can happen.

Perhaps what is more important, is to understand how, as adults, we can reverse this behaviour? Well, the essence of love, chemically speaking, is calmness and peace of mind. Letting go of our past, learning the lessons that life has sought to teach us is the epitome of the way forward. Hypnotherapy is one of the most effective tools for life change, emotional management and creating a positive and loving mindset. To find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you become who you really should be; why not call +65 9186 3575 today or book an appointment for a free consultation here

The Research

Punishment might not be an effective means to get members of society to cooperate for the common good, according to a social dilemma experiment.

A game to study human behaviour has shown punishment is an ineffective means for promoting cooperation among players. The result has implications for understanding how cooperation has evolved to have a formative role in human societies. Human societies maintain their stability by forming cooperative partnerships. But, cooperation often comes at a cost. For example, a person taking time to raise the alarm in order to alert other members of a group to impending danger could be losing valuable time to save oneself. It is unclear why natural selection favours cooperativeness among individuals who are inherently selfish.

In theoretical studies, punishment is often seen as a means to coerce people into being more cooperative. To examine such a theory, a team of international researchers led by Marko Jusup of Hokkaido University in Japan and Zhen Wang of Northwestern Polytechnical University in China has conducted a "social dilemma experiment." The team investigated if providing punishment as an option helps improve the overall level of cooperation in an unchanging network of individuals.

They used a version of the commonly employed "prisoner's dilemma" game. Two hundred and twenty-five students in China were organized into three trial groups and played 50 rounds each of the games.

In group one, every student played with two opponents which changed every round. The students could choose between "cooperate" or "defect," and points were given based on the combined choices made. If a student and the two opponents chose "defect," the student gained zero points. If they all chose "cooperate," the student gained four points. If only a student chose to defect while the other two chose to cooperate, the gain for the student was eight points.

The second group was similar to the first one in every aspect except that the people playing the game with each other remained the same for the duration of the 50 rounds, enabling them to learn each other's characteristics. In the third group, players also remained the same. However, a new option, "punish," was introduced. Choosing punishment led to a small reduction in points for the punisher and a larger reduction of points for the punished. At the end of the game, overall points were counted and the students were given monetary compensation based on the number of points won.

The expectation is that, as individuals play more with the same opponents over several rounds, they see the benefit of cooperating in order to gain more points. Introducing punishment as an option is basically saying: if you don't cooperate with me, I'll punish you. In theory, it is expected that applying this option would lead to more cooperation.

The researchers found that players in the constantly changing groups cooperated much less (4%) than those in the static groups (38%), where they were able to establish which players were willing to cooperate and thus gain a larger average financial payoff for all involved.

Surprisingly, however, adding punishment as an option did not improve the level of cooperation (37%). The final financial payoffs in this trial group were also, on average, significantly less than those gained by players in the static group. Interestingly, less defection was seen in the punishment group when compared to the static group; some players replaced defection with punishment.

"While the implied message when punishing someone is 'I want you to be cooperative,' the immediate effect is more consistent with the message 'I want to hurt you,'" write the researchers in their study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Punishment seems to have an overall demoralising effect, as individuals who get punished on multiple occasions may see a good chunk of their total payoff vanish in a short period of time, explain the researchers. This could lead players to lose interest in the game and play the remaining rounds with less of a rational strategy. The availability of punishment as an option also seems to reduce the incentive to choose cooperation over competition. Why, then, is punishment so pervasive in human societies? "It could be that human brains are hardwired to derive pleasure from punishing competitors," says Jusup. "However, it is more likely that, in real life, a dominant side has the ability to punish without provoking retaliation," adds Wang.

Although the study provides valuable insights into how cooperation arises in human society, the team advises it would be unwise to extrapolate the implications of their study far beyond the experimental setting.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Hokkaido UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Xuelong Li, Marko Jusup, Zhen Wang, Huijia Li, Lei Shi, Boris Podobnik, H. Eugene Stanley, Shlomo Havlin, Stefano Boccaletti. Punishment diminishes the benefits of network reciprocity in social dilemma experimentsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201707505 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1707505115

c Remodeling Depends on Signaling between Serotonin Receptors and the Extracellular MatrixCell Reports, 2017; 19 (9): 1767 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.05.023