There are a number of occupations out there that require an individual to push another individual into performing to the best of their ability. This is most obvious in the world of sports, highlighted quite nicely by the constant cycle of a poor team performance leading to the quick dismissal of various head coaches and managers. Look at Spurs and AVB; they lose 5-0 to Liverpool and 6-1 to Manchester City and despite the successes they did have around that time, it’s AVB that gets the cut.
So what can you do to get the most out of your sportspeople, to win trophies, medals, tournaments and titles, whilst also cementing a job for life (enter Alex Ferguson)? You could drug your athletes… or perhaps apply Behaviour Analysis. You will most definitely get in less trouble this way. According to Skinner et al, (1997) we can change people’s behaviour based on altering what they experience both before and after it occurs. In order to increase the frequency of behaviour, you positively reinforce it, that is you reward the individual with a desired consequence. So when your athlete wins their race, or your seven-year-old ballroom dancer passes her Waltz exam, you reward them (immediately) with a hug, a bag of sweets or a certificate. Studies into operant conditioning, such as that of Hart et al (1964), and natural reinforcement (Horcones et al, 1992) illustrate the effectiveness of reinforcing behaviour through association with a desired consequence and getting rid completely or unwanted behaviours.
So when I’m coaching the GB Athletics team (or perhaps have taken over the running of my local dance school…) I will need to remember that smiling whilst the little ones perform, and immediately reinforcing a confident performance will ensure this happens time and time again.
- · Hart, B. M., Allen, K. E., Buell, J. S., Harris, F. R., & Wolf, M. M. (1964). Effects of social reinforcement on operant crying. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1(2), 145-153.
- Horcones, C. L. (1992). Natural reinforcement: A way to improve education. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 25, 71-75
- Skinner, B. F., Ferster, C. B., & Ferster, C. B. (1997). Schedules of reinforcement. Copley Publishing Group.