Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Industrial Psychology

I had a training session earlier at work talking about the different reinforcement mechanisms to promote safe behavior in the workplace. I am actually impressed by how far the program has gone from disciplining you if you get hurt on the job, or at least you are considered "guilty until proven innocent" kind of thing; to talking about positive and negative reinforcements. One thing I learned in Behavioral Psychology is this: PUNISHMENTS NEVER WORK!!! One can minimize the current behavior pattern with punishment, but when the threat of punishment is lifted (as in the parent dies or children get older), the previous "bad behavior" rebounds to an even higher level. So it's quite relaxing to notice that the Company is actually maturing to a certain degree in how they handle organizational behavior.

But let me go a step further. The trainer goes on to ask why we should practice positive and negative reinforcement. The group then gave a series of answers, ranging from "to increase better behavior", "to minimize risks and damage", "to change culture", "because it is a more effective way than punishment" to "lowering down costs attributed to injuries." Mind you, these are great answers. To a psychologist these are the answers you expect. Even the boss would be pleased. But stepping away from it all, I began to feel sad at the nature of what I see, being that what I see in this training session is but a microcosm of our larger society.

No one in the group ever said what should be a pretty obvious answer. Of course, we should practice positive and negative reinforcements because it is the right thing to do. But when asked why we do it, I expected the answer to be ---BECAUSE WE CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER!!! WE HURT WHEN ONE OF US GETS HURT!!! BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE DO, ACTUALLY, DO LOVE EACH OTHER...

But why wasn't this ever brought up? A child would have easily given this answer. What happened to us? I realized that even psychologists miss the whole point of why we do what we do. I missed the point. We are all bogged down with trying to make things right that we (or at least I) then forget the reasons as to why.

We care. At least we should. And we'll learn, I know. I just hope we become better at life sooner than later. And I think we actually will.


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