- Positive incentives work better than negative ones
- Education is more effective than punishment in changing behavior
The conclusion was a dull repeat of ideas we had just heard 30 seconds earlier. Some reflection on the ideas would have been better than mere repetition:
Those who wish to quell the misbehavior of others frequently think first of how to punish them. Very often, they don't think of anything at all past this first thought. But the discoveries of behavioral science suggest that giving other options a try could end in better outcomes with fewer unanticipated negative side effects. It seems to me that a two-pronged approach -- public education combined with valuable incentives -- would reduce bad driving decisions far more than would legislating draconian penalties.
It is a structural fault to locate this sentence at the end of the second paragraph (which is really the first paragraph): However, the links between crimes and laws can never be so easy.
> Locating it at the end of the introductory remarks makes it into the thesis statement of the essay.
> But this is not the thesis. The thesis is that there are two approaches besides penalties that are likely to work better.
> The sentence is actually the topic sentence for the following paragraph.
> In fact, the intro slides seamlessly into the first body paragraph, which means that the Intro paragraph is under-developed
> One remedy for weak Intros is: "Back up. Set the issue in a larger framework."
Every year hundreds of people are killed and thousands more are injured in traffic collisions. Millions of dollars evaporate in paying for damaged property and medical expenses, and countless man hours are wasted in the traffic jams that result from the activities of emergency responders. Virtually all of these collisions are preventable, and legislators constantly search for ways to suppress dangerous driving. But the history of failure in the use of harsh penalties suggests that perhaps society should try something different. <--- thesis statement
The worst flaw of this essay is the unconvincing support details for the paragraph topics. Amateur psychology is used to support the first point, for example. It is unconvincing that drivers who incur a steep fine for speeding will become so enraged and socially dysfunctional as a result that they will end up zooming around all the more. The second paragraph makes more claims for the power of education than it is perhaps able to deliver. Even intense classroom training is unable to teach many basic facts of math, spelling, or science, for example, so it seems unlikely that the general public can be taught to "become moral" by the use of PSAs.
It is always better to make a low-key reference to an expert than it is to go overboard when making the same point on your own.
Undeniably, stricter punishments may somewhat reduce undesirable driver behavior. However, the link between crimes and laws can never be so easy. According to the behaviorist B. F. Skinner, positive reinforcement is superior to punishment in altering behavior. He maintains that positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification, whereas punishment only temporarily changes behavior and presents many detrimental side effects. (Reinforcement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
Financial incentives (such as cash, prizes, or rebates on taxes and insurance), as well as low-cost or free "social" rewards (bumper stickers, window decals, newspaper recognition, or appreciation ceremonies) could result in intrinsic compliance due to the internalization of the behavior, even when the driver is unobserved. As long ago as 1970, Baer and Wolf discovered ways to increase desired behavior by rewarding low-effort actions already in the repertoire of the driver, but which, once performed, become self-reinforcing due to the rewards (such as fewer dents to one's vehicle) that automatically accrue by performing them. (Behavior change in the human ... - Google Books)
(NOTE: I broke this into two short paragraphs because of the complexity of the sentences. It was discouraging to try to read it as a single lump, so I thought more white space would make it look more approachable. Nevertheless, this is still functionally the first body paragraph.)
Moving from all this into a new topic ("Let's also try using public education") requires a very strong transition statement. By now, the reader has forgotten what the essay is really about, so re-orienting the reader is crucial.
In addition to incentivizing drivers to improve their driving behavior, a group ethic committed to "good roadmanship" may be more effectively created by the use of public education than by harsh penalties. <-- (transition sentence) Public education, especially in the form of televised Public Service Announcements, has been demonstrated to move the target audience along a continuum that ultimately results in changes in attitude and behavior. In some driving environments, madcap, reckless, or scofflaw driving may have become normative, and PSAs can be effective in changing deeply seated public attitudes and behavior.
(Broadcasting Cafe - EFFECTIVENESS IN PUBLIC SERVICE AD CAMPAIGNS) When everyone behaves properly because they want to, because they believe in it, or because it seems to be the only "normal" way to behave, then the need for disincentives in the form of criminal penalties disappears.
NOTE: Now that I see how the paragraphs developed, I would swap them, putting the one about public education first. That means that the transition sentence would need to be changed.
Students sometimes ask what they can do if they are unable to Google a reference while composing.
The solution to this problem is to make the same remarks, but more tentatively and more modestly. The student should attempt to cast his references to experts into the field of "widespread general knowledge" -- stuff that everyone knows. Then there is no need to give a citation. I would also bring the vocabulary and syntax down a notch.
Undeniably, stricter punishments may somewhat reduce undesirable driver behavior. However, the link between crimes and laws can never be so easy. Behavioral science says that positive reinforcement is usually better than punishment in altering behavior. It is likely that positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification, whereas punishment only temporarily changes it.
Financial incentives (such as cash, prizes, or rebates on taxes and insurance), as well as low-cost or free "social" rewards (bumper stickers, window decals, newspaper recognition, or appreciation ceremonies) could result in intrinsic compliance due to the internalization of the behavior, even when the driver is unobserved. Rewarding low-effort actions already in the repertoire of the driver (such as obeying the speed limit) can be effective. Once the desirable actions are routinely performed, they can even become self-reinforcing because of the rewards (such as fewer dents to the vehicle) that the driver will automatically get by performing them
Student or Learner