Reward and punishment… In this text I want us to look closer think about it. Let us force our brains… Reward and punishment is one of the main subjects of psychology… It is the basis of learning, of conditioned reflex.
I will not talk about Pavlow at any length but I cannot leave his name unmentioned. You will remember from your highschool days, the famous dog that starts drooling when the dinner bell rings, although there is no food around… Anyhow, of course normally we all expect a reward; we all fear punishment and try to avoid it. Those of you who have appeared in court will know much better. You stand at attention in front of the judge and wait. At this moment some may think what a strange creature the human being is. It creates rules etc. for itself and then wishes to escape the world he created! Is this true? Let’s think… It does not seem to be quite like that. As both reward and punishment have specific mechanisms in the brain, that world is a world which humans created “perforce”. So why do these mechanisms exist? Perhaps they exist so that we can foresee what will bring punishment and what a reward! This means that people are not born as a clean slate, but in the knowledge of the justification of reward and punishment, in other words, with the book of law – the black book of law and punishment already written… What is added to this is experience… Drawing lessons from the past… Would you believe me, if I said that this too has a mechanism in the brain? That some people are born lacking the ability to gather experience, that for them punishment is not a deterrent, that in fact there is not a trace of loyalty in them towards the one who hands out the reward? But what about social norms? As I said, they all find a place in the basic mechanisms of the brain which I mentioned earlier. If the mechanism is faulty, both punishment and reward are in vain… On the other hand, if we go one step further, you may think that perhaps there is a problem with the emotional life, the emotions which the mechanism in question triggers. If a reward does not result in a pleasant emotion and punishment does not result in an unpleasant emotion, what good would it do to live the event on a cognitive level? Even this is something that has a corresponding part in the brain… What a brain, is it not? It has us surrounded on all four sides. If you are healthy, if you have received justified punishment in moderation, if you have not turned audacious and insensitive to punishment due to too much of it, if you are someone who cries when punished instead of laughing, but if you can laugh when rewarded, and if the reward and punishment is compatible with your black book, you will feel yourself in safe hands, secure, and a serene part of the universe, you can be God’s happy servant in the dark universe.