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Reward versus Punishment : Carrot has more Power than a Stick?

Two days back I received a sms from 160by2.com, reminding that I am not using the application for long time. It also mentioned if I don’t use the service for given period of time, my account will be closed.  That is, the company is punishing its user for not using the application for certain period of time.

On the other hand, I was using one of the games at a social networking site – I didn’t login for 2 month and recently got a mail mentioning about picking up the daily rewards (if I check/play the game daily).

These two companies have chosen two completely different path to inform the user of their inactivity on the platform. One is punishing and other is rewarding him.

The technical term for rewarding behavior is “reinforcement”. Punishment is the opposite of positive reinforcement. They have specific meanings that come from behavior modification. Reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior (increasing its frequency, making it more likely to occur in the future) and punishment is the weakening of behavior (decreasing its frequency, making it less likely to occur in the future).

Is it right to induce fear into user directly/indirectly and make them work? I don’t think so. The carrot has more power than a stick, specially in a corporate setting.

I don’t know which way your startup prefer, but I definitely like the latter option more.

What’s your take?

[Guest article contributed by Kunalkant Sen, ex-operations manager at Pluggd.in and now running his gaming startup.]

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