The Good Behavior Game

The Good Behavior Game

[ intro ] If you’ve ever been either a student or
a teacher — and that covers most of us — you’ve probably been in a classroom that
was out of control. Education researchers have come up with a
lot of ways to handle rowdy classes and misbehaving kids. Many of those methods are published in peer-reviewed
journals. But there’s a problem: not a lot of those studies have been replicated
by other researchers. In 2014, one team analyzed the complete publication
history of the top one hundred education journals and found that only 0.13% of published articles
were replications. So when any education study’s results are
replicated dozens of times, it’s a big deal. That’s the case for research into the Good
Behavior Game, which has been studied repeatedly since it
was first published in 1969. And it’s been shown time and again to be
an effective way to keep the peace in classrooms, and even boost student well-being years down
the road. That is, for some kids. Here’s how it worked in the original study: a fourth grade teacher divided her classroom
of twenty-four students into two teams. The students were told that they were going
to play a game every day during their math and reading lessons. Whichever team won would get certain privileges, like the chance to line up first for lunch or get a half-hour of free time at the end
of the day. But in order to win, they had to follow certain
rules. No one was allowed to talk or leave their
desk without permission. Whenever the teacher saw someone break a rule, that student’s team would get a mark on
the blackboard. At the end of the lesson, the winners were
chosen. That would either be the team with the least
marks, or both teams if neither team got more than
a certain number of marks. The Good Behavior Game worked like gangbusters. It significantly reduced talking and out-of-seat
behavior and was popular with both the teachers and
the students. Since then, other researchers have put their
own spin on the game, with positive results. Some studies tried only rewarding good behavior. A 1973 study turned it into “The Astronaut
Game,” where the goal was to move a spaceship closer
to the moon. “Good astronaut behavior” like having
good manners and doing classwork earned children tokens
and got them closer to their final goal. In fairness, that’s good behavior in both
astronauts and people. In a 1993 study, preschoolers received positive
reinforcement from a puppet for following the rules. Whenever they followed the rules, they got
a felt token like a smiley face or a dinosaur. At the end of the day, they could trade those tokens in for animal
crackers. Both of these studies focused on rewarding
positive behavior, which led to significant improvements in classroom
behavior. That suggests that positive reinforcement
may be all you need for the Good Behavior Game to be effective. So why does this work so well? At its most basic, the Good Behavior Game
teaches something called rule-governed behavior. That’s exactly what it sounds like: behavior
that’s controlled by rules. Specifically, it’s a type of operant behavior, or a type of learning that relies on rewards or punishments for certain behaviors. Operant behavior relies on three parts: a stimulus, a response, and a reinforcer or
punisher, which works to reinforce good behavior or
punish bad behavior. In the Good Behavior Game, the stimulus is
the existence of rules, like “only speak when the teacher calls
on you.” A student could choose to respond to that
stimulus by following the rule, or by breaking the rule and chatting with
a classmate. What’s the reinforcer, then? The simple answer is that it’s those privileges, like early lunch or free time at the end of
the day. But in the Good Behavior Game, the reinforcers
go way beyond that. One less obvious reinforcer in the game is
peer approval. After all, if you really want your team to
win, you’re going to be pretty mad at any teammate
who breaks the rules and ruins your chances. Some research has suggested that the most
disruptive kids may respond better to feedback from their peers than their teachers, in which case enlisting the help of those
peers could be valuable. There are some caveats, though. Some have cautioned that this strategy might
put too much pressure on certain kids, or single others out. Whatever the reasons for why it works, the Good Behavior Game can have a big impact. It appears to improve academic performance,
for one thing. Kids in the Astronaut Game completed more
of their work, and other studies have found improved performance
in math class as well as more creativity in their writing. It also may lead to behavior improvement in
other classes. A 1994 study used the Good Behavior Game with
students in first and second grade, then followed them through sixth grade. Of those students, boys who were particularly aggressive in those
early years had lower aggression ratings in subsequent grades. That’s even though they didn’t /keep/
playing the game. The Good Behavior Game may have impacts outside
of the classroom, too. Studies have found that boys exposed to the
Good Behavior Game early on in their education were less likely to start smoking or have
substance abuse problems in their teen years. Children’s perception of their social acceptance
is directly linked with their levels of depressive symptoms, and research suggests that aggression is a
surefire way to make a child’s peers dislike them. Because the Good Behavior Game reduces aggressive
behavior and encourages peers to cooperate, it seems to help the class troublemakers avoid
the behavior problems and peer issues that can lead to bigger problems
down the road. But there’s one major caveat to all this. You might have noticed we’ve been talking
about boys. The Good Behavior Game seems to benefit disruptive
students the most, and those students are disproportionately
male. And nearly all studies of the Good Behavior
Game have found more dramatic results for boys
than girls — in fact, few have shown any long-term benefits
for students who aren’t boys at all. So while these results seem great for about
half the classroom population, more research may be needed to see what we
can do for the other half. That said, students of all genders do benefit
when more disruptive students are… disrupting class less, so there are some indirect
advantages. But in spite of all the evidence, it’s strangely rare to find the Good Behavior
Game being used in a classroom. Statistics on this are hard to find, but one
teacher writing for the National Council for Teacher Quality, or NCTQ, found that very few teaching textbooks mention
the Good Behavior Game. This might be because, as an NCTQ report found, most teacher preparation programs don’t
draw on peer-reviewed research when deciding which classroom management strategies
are most effective and worth teaching. The fact is, the GBG is one of the most strongly
evidence-based classroom behavior strategies out there. Some researchers strongly advocate for its
use in every classroom, saying that both students and teachers benefit. At least, one group of students in particular. But honestly if it’s making life easier
for teachers, it’s a win. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych. Our patrons help us make this show. If you want to be one of those people, and
make this a thing that exists In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling you also can get neat rewards,
check out [ outro ]

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100 thoughts on “The Good Behavior Game”

  • The idea of teachers giving certain rewards or privileges to students who follow the school rules with good behaviour seems pretty ubiquitous, as does the utilisation of peer pressure.

    It may not go by that name all the time, nor be set up the same way, but why is it such a big revelation that this specific utilisation of commonly used methods is successful.

    If there is an incentive to obey a set of rules, and disincentive for not doing so, then more are going to obey those rules.

  • IRL, you don't always need to follow the rules. It's actually very profitable (to some extent) to break them and take risks. Most importantly, in real life you have to withstand hate and disapproval from some people, not letting them stop you. That's what the good behavior game doesn't teach you. Furthermore, it discourages you from that type of behavior

  • I taught elementary to 3rd and 4tg graders and this is a strategy I used for 6 months and it was surprisingly beneficial for a group whom suddenly became my class because their previous teacher was having problems dealing with behavioral "problems" that the students were having. I added a twist to it and unified it with Economy Points, where students got points to spend at the end of the week in exchange for candy and goodies, being a languages teacher I had to make them speak the target language and in exchange they followed 5 simple rules. "Whole brain teaching" is something I used too with them and it was a lot of fun!

  • I would enjoy a grand theft auto that you could be good or bad, choose your path or go to jail and try again… do good and you go far, do bad and you may become a gangster, war, fun.

  • As a lot of nerodivergent people have mentioned in the comments, these 'games' dont work for everyone and in some cases can make competition where none needs to exist on top of issues with anxiety and frustration for the students it doesnt work for.

    What does work is PBIS and encourage everyone to look into that a lot more. Positive Behavior Interventions and Support works similarly in promoting good behavior via reward, but rather than singling out children who are disruptive for public shaming, allows teachers and support staff to work together to understand when a student is being disruptive and find the root cause behind disruptive behavior.

    PBIS is perhaps more helpful for some nerodivergent children because it combines instant and long term rewards for good behavior without punishment or without punishing 'team mates' but more importantly it encourages what we call 'learned empathy.' Where students not only get rewarded for good behavior, but spend part of their curriculum learned what good behavior is, what is expected, and what good citizenship looks like. Especially for children who have a hard time recognizing empathy or emotions, it gives them practice in that aspect and teaches them at least the physical motions and expectations in each scenario even if they cannot empathize…

    Seriously look into PBIS. If anyone has more questions on it, I'm literally part of a consulting team teaching these new tools to teachers nation wide.

  • Lol I just realized that the school I went to for 2nd grade had this thing. If you did good things and behaved, you get this fake money with the school’s mascot on it. If you got enough you could trade it in for stuff kids like, and you could even get ice cream or pizza parties for your class.

  • That sounds like mind control. Teaching is very strange, I only agree to it as long as the kid wants to learn a certain thing.
    But that's not gotta get the lazy kids very far… I hate schools

  • My parents used the principles of positive reinforcement to raise my brothers and I, and judging by the results I would say it works.

  • children who were involved into the astronaut game were also more likely to be resistant to aids as well as being at a higher likelyhood of earning a nobel price

  • I am curious about the inpack of this on children with ADHD. It isn't an issue of motivation there, and the imposed peer pressure could be very detrimental.

  • I am a future teacher & I have heard of the good behavior game from a professional development training put together by behavior analysis doctoral students; in my other classes it is rarely mentioned & I had no idea it was the most evidence-based practice even though we are told that evidence-based everything is the big goal now! Awesome video, thank you for sharing 😊🤗

  • "Research suggests that aggression is a surefire way to make a child's peers dislike them." ……Um, DUH! Why would you need research to figure that out?!

  • we did this in school however i think i may be someone it doesnt work well with as i only partook the first year of school before i moved and yet i still remember vividly a day my team lost

  • I think this game could be useful. I mean in the military collective punishment can be a good thing to incentivise improvement on the person which is the weakest link in the chain. And peer-pressure can also here come in handy to foster positive things.
    Collective punishment might seem cruel, but in my opinion it is better with a little cruelty than having a sloppy solidier having himself and his entire platoon killed because of his own clumbsyness or lacking capabilities.

  • Having a child taught me how important the influence of positive reinforcement is. Just a laugh or smile reinforces a behavior (good or bad) very quickly.

  • So humans can be teached into good behaviour like rats who gets rewarded with cheese for accomplishing a task or behaving well? Then, why don't also give criminals and rapists a little cheese everytime they do something good? Then we would have solved all problems.

  • The Good Behavior Game equals dressaging Kids. It just forces them into subservience. But hey, at least you spare them the crop.

  • I'm pretty sure there was always a version of this going on in my family, all the time. I know church time was a definite. After church, we'd head to the store for "candy day." You got an allotment minus deductions for bad or disruptive behavior.

  • You call it the good behavior game, I call it a skinner box. Why on earth do humans think we're somehow more special and less easily manipulated than animals?

  • This seems like it's going to be most effective on kids who are competitive (at least the team-based version of the game). I wonder how that factors into the results.
    I am also curious about how to design benefits for this that aren't zero-sum, like the "line up first" reward. The free-time reward can be granted to everyone, even if both teams win, but some cannot.

    As an aside regarding that "more dramatic results for boys" aspect , I can't wait to see these studies reported on with bogus headlines like "Studies show girls can't be taught good behavior". >_<

  • Can this be applied in prison? Sounds like the right place to play with privileges, and you get to figure out that giving out tokens that can be exchanged for stuff will result in “give me your lunch money”

  • In my first and second grade class, if we were good a marble was placed in a jar. When we were bad, one got taken out. When the jar was full, we would pick a fun activity to do. It totally worked.

  • Idk as a teacher myself, I've always thought it was obvious that it's BETTER to reward good behaviors than punish the 'bad ones'. Because usually it's a cry for help whether the child knows it or not. Positive reinforcement does absolute WONDERS for children. Because so often they are just used to being told "no" or threatened to stop misbehaving. When you instead recognize and point out great behavior they instantly want to win more of your approval.

  • Also instead of team points, awarding tiny stickers to individual students to put on a personal folder ALSO gets kids/teens excited. Like no joke ALL ages go crazy for good stickers. You don't even have to promise more reward than that.

  • It's all in what you call success. This sounds like a perfect way to kill the creative spirit in children, turn them into boring squares.

  • So the lesson of this video is . . . Girls do whatever they want and no one can stop them?

    (Seriously though, I bet a system based more on social rewards and acceptance would work better for girls. I think boys care more about competing with others for rewards and girls care more about fitting in with them)

  • I think this is more or less what Classcraft is about… Didn't try it myself, but it may be a good tool for those who want to implement good behavior gamification in their class :

  • I wish you would just tell us if it's good behavior to join patreon or not. i hate this spinning in limbo wondering if it is or not. makes me want to pull the pigtails of the girls around me and trip and punch all the boys around me. especially that little timid stupid one, tiny terrell is his name, i think. ahhh, i'll trip him in the hall later and then laugh. ahhhh, that will make me feel so much better for not knowing if joining patreon makes me a good boy or not.

  • So basically a manipulative technique that turns students against each other for the sake of the greater good? Sounds wonderful!

  • Another word for the good behavior game is "bribery". Heres a piece of candy if you are quiet. Problem with this method is it teaches kids, no reward offered no good behavior.

  • As a introverted loner, and a female, I can see where I would have benefited from the Good Behavior Game. I would have been on a team. My teammates would have welcomed my cooperation in meeting our goals. We would have met in the middle and that could have put an end to my isolation.

  • Here are some articles about the Good Behavior Game from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis:
    The 1969 article i think Hank cites:


  • I think I have heard something like this about students in Japan. In that country good performance and behavior are valued and society rewards those things. It also punishes those who act out, but if I understood it correctly it was more about the piers of the misbehaving children that looked down on the behavior. In a lot of cases where someone may act out for attention or to stand out if you take the child's incentive to act out away they don't really do it as much.

  • The teacher tried to do this with candy but it didn't worked cause the disruptive kid said out loud. "I ain't poor I don't need yo candy!" And bringed candy to share the next day and it became a game on that's day to be as disruptive as you could be and the teacher cried and they had to get an another substitute teacher (Oh yeah she was a sub btw)

  • I had a similar experience in primary school. Though the class(I was in the first class, where all the supposedly 'good students' are) was divided into 4 groups, the only other difference is that the winner is awarded and the loser gets extra homework. I was already a rowdy tomboy-ish girl, plus my group mates were as rowdy as me. This caused our group marks to go from an initial 100 to -500 in a month (because group marks would reset every month). We would just not care and be rebellious because we were sick and tired of teachers making us single our friends out instead of helping them. Even when we got the punishments, we didn't care. We stopped doing homework, we stopped doing our duties (cleaning the classroom), we stopped listening in class. In the end, the teacher had to remove the points system because we were slowly influencing not just our class, but the entire school. No point system whatsoever, just no. I don't like to single people out.

  • Just a point of interest. Getting just the boys in the class to behave will also benefit the girls, as the girls will have less disruption to their education.

  • This entire video has very..sinister undertones. You're talking about teaching children how to behave like you were training an animal, rather than using reason to convince them and respecting their agency to decide. It's this kind of "DO WHAT I TELL YOU OR I'LL HURT YOU UNTIL YOU DO" approach to education that creates the sociopaths and emotionally crippled people who are dominating our society. Children are not animals, and it does them, and us, a disservice to train them as though they were.

  • At the mention of it being cumulative points for or against your team, I could almost feel the judge-y stares of my fellow 1st grade peers, even 15 or so years later.

  • Please don't use terms like "sixth grade", most people don't know what that means, use ages, every earthling understands that one. 😛

  • 5:57 This makes me mad. I was a failed teacher. My 3-1/2 years of teaching were an exhausting and demoralizing time in my life. Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough, but I place a lot of the blame on poor teacher preparation in college. I don't remember any mention of the good behavior game and I think it would have benefited me greatly. I was highly proficient in my subject (music), but I was deficient in classroom management. After flaming out as a teacher, I joined the Army and retired 20 years later with military retirement pay (so it worked out in the end).

  • I have to wonder if this might cause further frustration for neuro-atypical kids. A lot of disruptive classroom behaviors can be difficult for kids with, say, ADD or Autism to avoid. That'd run the risk of further alienation by peers. That'd be a good thing to look at in a future study if they could figure out how to set it up.

  • Explanation: Growing up as a girl is literally just a constant stream of "don't sit like that, don't be so loud, don't eat like that, don't say those things", boys exposed to a once-a-week session of the 'that's unladylike' treatment suddenly start behaving better

  • You know, I kind of picked up on this when learning about video game design.

    You see, the developers of a game might expect/want players to play their game in a certain way, but, players being players, that's not how it usually turns out. In say XCOM, the developers wanted the players to take risks, sprint out in the open, etc, but players found the most optimal strategy was crawling at a snail's pace from objective to objective. So in XCOM 2, the dev's included turn timers that would say the players lose if they didn't complete certain objectives in time… a feature that is nearly universally hated.

    What's the lesson here? Well, as it turns out, if you want people to do things, you should ENCOURAGE the desired behavior, rather than punishing "Wrong" behavior. The way this could translate into XCOM is if there were objectives that could be obtained if players took more risks, which would encourage that playstyle, but the snail's-pace strategy could still be done at a loss of bonus objectives.

    tl;dr Rewarding the "correct" behavior is often better than punishing the "wrong" behavior.

  • token economies and tit for tat models can back fire pretty bad in some cases. a lot of the prison social economy is based off of tit for tat for example.

  • My brother just shared another cool idea with me (I am a teacher)
    Give the students a 'secret mission', like holding the doors for others, or helping out people with cleaning up. As soon as another coworker tells me that they've noticed how well behaved my students were, the class gets a reward. Like 10 minutes extra play time outside.
    I have done this 2 days so far, but it already worked like a charm!

  • I'd be the kid that got tokens and just toss them at the end of the day. Idk what it is but I tend to not care about rewards, I try to do good for my own approval. Am I odd?

  • It seems logical when you talk about it, why then is it performed so rarely? Good solutions are usually simple, the hard part is finding them

  • So the goal of the good behavior game is to condition kids to endure sitting 6 hours on their ass memorizing stuff they dont care about without complaining, does this seems like a good way to make them into independent adults?

  • These studies are great but they never begin studies in middle/high school. I'm going back graduate school for education and almost all the models are elementary and it's infuriating.

  • So happy to see the Good Behaviour Game on the SciShow! If you're a teacher and you are worried about negative peer pressure during the game, we did a study that showed it actually produced the opposite effect. Students were more supportive of their peers when they played the GBG than when they didn't. You can check it out here:

  • I'm kind of surprised no one involved with the making of this video though about how inhumane this method sounds. Sure, it might improve children's performance under ruled environments, but teaching kids to single each other out sounds like the opposite of what should be done. "talking during class" isn't necessarily a bad thing in certain situations either, even if you're in primary school. It just feels incredibly inhumane. Did any of the papers study effects besides scholar performance? Even if they did, detecting the ramifications of being involved in this seems fairly difficult…

  • How insane is it that textbooks are ignoring peer reviewed research when deciding what methods to teach teachers?

    Edit: There is also a disgusting number of comments that apparently support anarchy, think that rebellion and creativity are the same thing, and/or think education itself is worthless.

  • I get the science but I can’t get past the idea that kids might get bullied if the have problems. Ya know like what Private Pyle experience in “Full Metal Jacket.” Maybe that’s a different situation though because the behavior in the movie is failure to keep up pretty much not fixing disruptive behavior. 🤔

  • I remember when I got everyone in class turn on me because I didn't play by the rule and whole class didn't get some privileges( probably finishing school early). I finished early that day 🙂 just me 🙂

  • I never really liked this kind of rule enforcement as a student. I felt manipulated and pitted against others in an us vs. you way but maybe that is also because our teachers never ever followed through with the promised reward…