Rather Than Punishing Moviegoing Texters, Why Not Provide Incentives For Them To Put Down Their Phones?
from the positive-reinforcement,-rather-than-negative-reinforcement dept
One of the areas of economics I’m most interested in is focused on incentives. While it’s a simplification of things, there are so many areas where people seem to naturally gravitate towards negative reinforcement as an incentive system — that is, punishing people for things they believe are wrong. While that does work in some cases, it’s amazing just how frequently positive reinforcement to nudge behavior in a better direction works much, much, much more effectively. Aaron DeOliveira points us to an interesting example of a company focusing on positive reinforcement in an area where most people have long-assumed that punishment was the only possible option: dealing with the annoyance of people texting during a movie. The first response that many theaters (and theater goers!) have, is to “punish” this behavior by outlawing it. They set up rules and put up signs. They have silly commercials before the show about how annoying it is. But it’s all based on the idea of negative reinforcement: punishing or shaming those who engage in the behavior. But, quite frequently, that does little to actually get people to stop.
So, it appears that the Cinemark chain of theaters is trying a system of positive reinforcement. Within its normal movie app for iOS and Android is a separate “mini-app” allowing users to put their phones into “CineMode.” It automatically makes the screens on the phones dim, and puts them into vibrate mode — sort of like an equivalent to airplane mode. But here’s the kicker: since the app knows what you’re doing, it can keep track of whether or not you actually follow through and leave CineMode enabled throughout the entire flick. For the users who do that, they get rewarded:
When the movie ends and the guest exits CineMode, Cinemark will automatically send a reward (digital coupon) through the app and store it in the Rewards section.
Who knows how well it will work in practice, but it’s great to see people realizing that technology can help enable this kind of positive reinforcement, rather than always doubling down on the negative reinforcement/punishment.