The key ingredients to effective feedback are: specificity, immediacy and impact
The history of behavioral science has taught us that a positive or negative reinforcement is most effective if the consequence is (1) specifically tied to the triggering action, (2) is delivered immediately following the triggering action and (3) has a meaningful impact upon the subject.
Sneaking Out Meets Behavioral Science
To illustrate this point let’s examine three scenarios where you’re a parent who catches your 16-year old son sneaking out to drive to a party.
- Scenario A: you catch them sneaking out, scold them for breaking the rules, and take away car privileges for two weeks.
- Scenario B: you do not immediately punish them, but a week later, without explanation, you randomly take away their car privileges for two weeks.
- Scenario C: you immediately scold them, but do nothing else.
In Scenario B, while you randomly take away the car, it is unlikely to be effective because while you did deliver an impactful consequence, you did not do it immediately nor tie it to the specific behavior that you wanted to change. Scenario C, only scolding, is unlikely to be effective because while you delivered an immediate and specific consequence, being scolded is not impactful enough to change the behavior of sneaking out. Scenario A, immediately taking away the car, will be most effective because you delivered an immediate, specific and impactful consequence.
By creating ChangeRoots, we empower people to deliver specific, immediate and impactful reinforcement to politicians. It is a newsfeed of political activity where a “like” sends a quarter to that politician and a “dislike” sends one to their opponent.
Politicians primarily care about getting reelected. The data shows the more money politicians outspend their opponents, the more they win by. Therefore giving money to a politician is an impactful positive reinforcement and giving money to their opponent is an impactful negative reinforcement.
Giving money to them or their opponent for a specific action (e.g. their stance on an issue articulated in a tweet) adds specificity to the reinforcement. The politician knows exactly what you are reinforcing.
Giving money to them or their opponent for a specific action within hours or days of a specific action adds immediacy to the equation.
For too long people have lacked a way to provide effective feedback to politicians. We transform the unfortunate reality of “when money talks, politicians listen” into a tool for people to get their politicians to do better.