Malaysia went into multiple lockdowns and movement control orders to decrease the daily confirmed cases since March 2020. Front-liners work hard daily to ensure that Malaysian will return to the mask-free days. We almost made it when there was only 1 confirmed case on 1st July 2020. The cases increased tremendously in September 2020 and recently the new positive cases almost hit 10,000 a day. Despite the government setting rules and standard operational protocol to control, we still see crowds at malls or the “taman” nearby our house.
No consequences also mean no boundaries.
Why are certain people still being ignorant, willing to risk being punished and going out enjoying their time? The lack of effectiveness of these reinforcements might be the inappropriate rules and restrictions that are applied to this specific circumstances. For example, shortening the operation time is not a wise choice as it forces more people to gather as a crowd during the shortened operational hours.
The authorities tried their best to keep Malaysians to abide by the rules; for instance, giving tickets if they break the rules and educating the public through media. However, there is a limit to how much they can control the entire population as the citizens outnumbered the reinforcers. No consequences also mean no boundaries. Interestingly, many thinks that “as long as I don’t get caught by the police, I can run away from the ticket” instead of “I should follow the rules so that this pandemic will end soon”. It seems like one of the reasons the cases are not decreasing is due that the public is more afraid of the ticket than the virus.
This phenomenon can be explained with the concept of reinforcement. There are four ways to modify a behaviour.
To encourage a behaviour by adding a stimulus
To discourage a behaviour by removing a stimulus
Cleaning up your room to avoid getting scold
To discourage a behaviour by adding a stimulus
To encourage a behaviour by removing a stimulus
Confiscating child’s car keys to have them come home early next time
The thought that “as long as I don’t get caught”
Right now Malaysian are experiencing more towards a negative punishment in order to stop the spreading of the virus. Negative punishment is used by removing a pleasant stimulus to encourage a behaviour. As such, our wish to travel is determined by the government encouraging Malaysian to stay home. Nonetheless, Malaysian is practicing negative reinforcement towards this pandemic. For instance, some people ignorantly gather illegally then flee when they hear the siren, to avoid getting “saman”.
How often we encourage or discourage a behaviour is an important factor. When a negative behaviour is practice, we ensure the continuous reinforcement immediately in order to discourage them. For an example, when a customer is caught not wearing a mask, the employee should warn him right away and make sure they wear it after that. This is to encourage the behaviour of abiding by the rules and break the infection chain. When a negative behaviour is practiced but it rarely gets corrected is called partial reinforcement effect. For instance, if the previous customer walked into the restaurant without a mask again the next day and no one warn him or her about it, he or she will be thinking that wearing a mask is not important. Hence that produce the thought that “as long as I don’t get caught”.
We all know what is right from wrong. However, probably due to the failure of the government to persuade the people getting protected, hence they don’t find the obligation to follow the rules. The people are aware of the consequences but they think that the law have no direct effects on them.
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