Incentives are defined as being any kind of external stimuli that motivates, drives, or influences someone to do something. After learning about reinforcers and punishers, as well as positive and negative incentives, in the class PowerPoints, I decided to do some more research on the importance of incentives and why they make a difference in terms of human motivation. One interesting example of incentives I discovered, while doing my research, is that of the transportation of prisoners from England to Australia in 1787. The captains on the ship were paid simply for taking each of the prisoners to Australia and it did not matter if the prisoners ended up dead or alive, the captains were paid the same wage. The captains on the ship treated the prisoners horribly and would beat them, starve them, and neglect their needs while they were on board. This obviously caused a great deal of unnecessary prisoner deaths. Even though the public was outright horrified, the clergy begged the captains to see the prisoners as real people just like them, and the British parliament created regulations that told the captains they had to treat the prisoners better, it was not until the reward (pay) was altered that the treatment of the prisoners improved. Rather than the captains being paid for simply taking the prisoners on the journey to Australia, they were now only being paid by the government for the amount of live prisoners that made it. This incentive completely changed the game and almost all of the prisoners were now being delivered safely to their destination. This example made me realize just how crucial incentives are to our motivation and behavior. In this case, money was the only incentive that could make a difference to the captains.
In a personal example, my incentive for going to college is to become a child psychologist and be able to work with/help children who struggle with anxiety and depression. Before I had this goal and discovered my passion for child psychology, through teaching preschool, I had no real incentive or motivation for going to school and I did not care as much about my grades as I do now. I went from an average GPA in community college to a 4.0 GPA once I had the incentive and goal to one day be able to have a career as a child psychologist and earn a high pay, while being able to help children and adolescents with anxiety and depression. Had it not been for this incentive to help children psychologically, I may have dropped out of school or my grades may have gotten even worse. What I have learned from this course, about my own life, and about human behavior and motivation in general, is that incentives are everything and they matter greatly.