Monday, December 7, 2009

On the efficacy and limitations of praise

After the huge confessional of yesterday, something a little more lighthearted.  Or maybe not, for you psychologists out there.

I don't like ties.  I have my reasons.  So I don't wear them if I can help it.  The only exception to this is if I feel like I'm out of control of my teaching, like my best efforts have come to naught, like nothing I do really matters to learning outcomes.  On those days I'll put on a tie--at least I can control what I'm wearing.

This morning, I did just that.  I put on a tie with a holiday lights pattern woven into it.  (I told you ties are tacky. UPDATE:  Just re-read the post.  I didn't actually say that--it was in the rant about why I don't like ties, which I deleted.)  Throughout the day, I received compliments from students and staff alike about how dressed-up I looked, how nice I looked, and how surprising it was to see me in a tie.  And it's true, the positive comments really did have an effect on me.  I smiled a little inside.  That was the efficacy of the praise.

Behaviorist theory predicts that because I received positive reinforcement for wearing the tie, I should be more inclined to wear ties in the future.  But no--I still hate ties.  That's the limitation

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