This clip is from The Simpsons’ episode: “Brush with Greatness.” After Bart and Lisa see an attractive commercial urging them to visit Mount Splashmore, a water park, they force their father to take them there by using negative reinforcement.
- Did Homer want to bring his kids to Mount Splashmore? If not, why did he agree to?
- Should people in the workplace use negative reinforcement to get what they want? Why or why not?
- Although negative reinforcement works in this clip, is it always effective?
- How do you think Bart and Lisa should have asked Homer for permission to go to Mount Splashmore?
Bart and Lisa demonstrate the concept of negative reinforcement here. Negative reinforcement, or a reinforcement contingency where the removal of an aversive stimulus results in desired behavior, gives Bart and Lisa what they want: a visit to Mount Splashmore. After they see the commercial, they follow their father Homer and repeatedly ask him, “Will you take us to Mount Splashmore?” Their constant badgering acts as the aversive stimulus in this case, and Homer eventually caves in so that they stop asking him. Homer shouts in despair, “If I take you, will you two shut up and quit bugging me?” Of course, Bart and Lisa agree. Homer behaves favorable—by saying “yes”—thus, Bart and Lisa stop bothering him.
Although comical, negative reinforcement in this clip does not produce results effectively for both parties. Although the kids get what they want, Homer does not really. Homer does get something he wants–the kids to stop annoying him–but he does not really want to take his kids to Mount Splashmore. Bart and Lisa force Homer to succumb to their wish by constantly pestering him. To simply end this pestering, or negative stimulus, Homer has to agree to do something he does not truly wish to do. This is how negative reinforcement works. It increases the likelihood of behavior (Homer saying “yes”) when taken away.
While children often badger their parents and use this type of negative reinforcement to get what they want, people in the workplace probably should not. Managers should not have to badger their employees to complete tasks by using operant conditioning; they should motivate them. This endless asking is tiresome for both parties in a workplace, although it may result in desirable outcomes, as shown in this clip.