Kohn, Alfie. Punished by Rewards
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
It is not by accident that pop behaviorism has come to suffuse our lives. There are identifiable reasons to account for its popularity, beginning with the belief systems already in place which it complements. One of these I mentioned earlier: our pragmatism, and specifically our tendency to favor practical techniques for getting the job done as opposed to getting bogged down with theories and reasons. A nation of busy pioneers and entrepreneurs has no time for figuring out the source of a problem; much more compatible with the American spirit is a simple declaration that would seem to assure results: "Do this and you'll get that."
Ironically, rewards and punishments not only lie at the core of faith but are central to our idea of rationality as well, particularly as it makes its presence felt in economic choices. Rational decision-makers, by definition, are said to seek what is pleasurable and to avoid what is aversive or costly. Rationality, in turn, is central to what it means to be human, at least to many Western thinkers. A number of writers have recently challenged both steps of this argument, but pop behaviorism makes intuitive sense to us as a result of the assumptions built into our economic system.