World Transformation: Rewards and Punishments
 Rewards and Punishments
picture 14 Apr 2004 @ 07:01, by ming

From Synergic Earth News: Denise Breton and Christoher Largent write: Ever since we’ve worked on The Paradigm Conspiracy, we’ve been digesting Alfie Kohn’s work on rewards and punishments. It’s revolutionary. Rewards and punishments—as every parent, teacher, employer, minister, and politician knows—are our culture’s most common mechanisms for social control. Whoever has the power to punish or reward has the power to control others—to assert power-over status. B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist psychology (reducing all behavior to stimulus-response dynamics) was only an academic formulation of the culture’s embrace of this device. Everywhere in our society and on most of the planet, the carrot-and-stick approach is accepted as an appropriate method for getting people to do what we want, birth to death. Not long ago, for instance, someone lectured us on how wonderful such an approach is, how it can produce perfectly behaved animals, children, and spouses—as long as we have the means to bribe or coerce them into the desired behavior. Alfie Kohn has collected mountains of research in his books—Punished By Rewards, No Contest, Beyond Discipline (a good, short summary), and What to Look for in a Classroom. We may also mention one of many technical scientific studies Kohn draws on in his books: Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s book, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior. The jury is in that rewards and punishments are destructive to the human psyche. Nor does it take rocket science to understand why: 1)Rewards and punishments teach power-over relations. That’s the model. And when being on the receiving end of this model gets tiresome, we begin the mad race to be on top. 2)Rewards and punishments corrupt human relationships, starting with the relation between those "higher" and "lower" in the reward-punishment hierarchy. Those under can’t tell the truth to those above them for fear of how "bad news" might further reduce their underling status. Even more commonly, those above don’t want the truth to be told. A May 1999 Frontline on the military career of Admiral Leighton "Snuffy" Smith, for instance, featured Smith confessing that during the Vietnam War (when he was a pilot), his superior wouldn’t let him report that he had failed to achieve his bombing objective. The higher-ups didn’t want the truth; they wanted only "we’re winning the war" reports. 3)Rewards and punishments teach image management. Appearing to be good is more important than being good. ... and much more. (01/19/04)

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