September 10, 2015

Praise As a Legal Tool To Induce Behavior

Ezra Goldschlager, University of La Verne College of Law, is publishing Praise and the Law in the Creighton Law Review (forthcoming). Here is the abstract.
This is the first scholarly examination of praise (messages of approval) as a tool the law can use to affect behavior. As the law increasingly uses positive incentives (as opposed to sanctions), it is important to examine payouts other than financial ones. Financial payouts are ubiquitous, but have significant drawbacks. Financial incentives can decrease actors’ intrinsic motivation to behave how we want them to. Financial incentives have a limited domain; they sometimes seem wholly inappropriate (e.g., in the cases of motivating battlefield heroism or organ donation). Financial incentives can have undesirable wealth effects, affecting behavior less among the wealthy than among others. And, they are expensive, requiring both the payout amount and costly systems to protect against misappropriation. Praise, though today rarely used by the law, does not share these drawbacks. Messages of encouragement and support can increase actors’ intrinsic motivation to behave how we would like. Praise can seem entirely appropriate as a response to behavior where financial incentives do not seem right. Praise may not selectively motivate behavior based on wealth. And, compared to financial incentives, praise is likely to be less costly. Praise also works quite well with the expressive power of law: Praise expresses a meaning compatible with a wide range of visions of a good society, and therefore the public is likely to accept its use. This Article lays the groundwork for a new multi-disciplinary scholarly dialogue on praise and the law.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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