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Europe & Africa meet the Americas
Manipulative Methods and Grim Goals: Recognizing the Risks of Behaviorism
When an appealing adjective like "open" is applied to badges or recognition, we ought to examine the nouns carefully -- particularly if they may be influenced by the psychological theory known as behaviorism. That theory has disturbing implications for our goals as well as our methods, as Alfie Kohn will explain in his keynote address. If our goals -- the criteria for receiving a badge or recognition -- involve meeting certain standards or attaining a given level of "competence," then behaviorism may flatten and standardize those outcomes and reduce them to numbers. (Even a refreshingly open process will become destructive if the goal is flawed.) At the same time, behaviorism may frame recognition as a reward, which will likely undermine people's interest in whatever they had to do to be recognized. (Even a valuable product will be poisoned if the method is experienced as controlling.)