Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Punished By Rewards

There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is so deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense. At the point when objections are not answered anymore because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control: we do not have the idea, it has us.

This book is about an idea that has attained just such a status in our society. The idea is that the best way to get something done is to provide a reward to people when they act the way we want them to. Scholars have debated the meaning and traced the development of the intellectual traditio known as behaviourism. What interests me, though, is the popular (or pop) incarnation of this doctrine, the version that lives in our collective consciousness and affects what we do every day. - Alfie Kohn

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