Positive reinforcement is generally acknowledged to be the most productive means of modifying behavior, regardless of whether you’re raising kids
, training pets
, or trying to save the world
. But sometimes negative reinforcement can prove quite powerful as well, particularly when the negative outcome leads to some social cost. Seizing this sensibility, a spate of new platforms aims to discourage bad behavior by way of blackmail.
app assigns a real cost to the common practice of skipping trips to the gym. Users who resign themselves to this app’s clever premise must pledge a certain number of weekly gym visits (at least one), each for a certain interval of time (at least 30 minutes). The financial penalty for dodging a workout is likewise self-determined, but the minimum is $5—a decent sum, especially for those who follow a strict gym-skipping regimen. Geo-location
confirms when users arrive at the gym and the amount of time they spend there. Regular gym-goers not only avoid fines, but also reap financial rewards—from the pockets of their lazier counterparts.
This so-called “self-blackmailing service” motivates users to accomplish goals they’ve set for themselves, under threat of social media humiliation
. Individuals who are determined (or, more likely, desperate) to complete a specific task can raise the stakes by submitting their goal to Aherk
...along with an incriminating photo. If the user fails to meet his or her goal by a self-imposed deadline, Aherk posts the embarrassing image to Facebook, essentially adding a second, more public layer of shame to one’s personal failure. In a devilish twist, Aherk determines whether goals have been successfully met based on votes from users’ friends, so any who party with pranksters or “frenemies” should consider themselves forewarned.
Virtual Fridge Lock:
Brazilian weight-loss company Meta Real
has devised a persuasive new tool to shame compulsive eaters out of late-night binging. Once linked to a Facebook account, the company’s Virtual Fridge Lock can be magnetically attached to the side of the fridge during prime snacking hours. Anytime the fridge door is opened, the device sends out an alert to the user’s social network, proclaiming that he or she has “just raided the fridge.” Meta Real suggests that the alert may prompt Facebook friends to send real-time motivational messages
in attempt to deter the unhealthy bender, but the greater deterrent is surely fear of having your late-night vice revealed on a public platform.