writes "In behavioural psychology, the theory of operant conditioning is the notion that an individual’s future behaviour is determined by the punishments and rewards he or she has received in the past. It means that specific patterns of behaviour can be induced by punishing unwanted actions while rewarding others. While the theory is more than 80 years old, it is hard at work in the 21st century in the form of up and down votes--or likes and dislikes--on social networks. But does this form of reward and punishment actually deter unwanted actions while encouraging good behaviour? Now a new study of the way voting influences online behaviour has revealed the answer. The conclusion is that that negative feedback leads to behavioural changes that are hugely detrimental to the community. Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more but their future posts are of lower quality and are perceived by the community as such. What's more, these authors are more likely to evaluate fellow users negatively in future, creating a vicious circle of negative feedback. By contrast, positive feedback does not influence authors much at all. That's exactly the opposite of what operant conditioning theory predicts. The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: "Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behaviour and provide no feedback at all." Would /.-ers agree?"