On Power and Freedom: Extending the Definition of Coercion

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College of Business


Defining coercion has been a topic of interest to behavior analysts from time to time. Given the more and more subtle influence strategies that technology has enabled, it is time to revisit these definitions. This article examines the definitions of power, freedom, and coercion in behavior analysis, comparing them to philosophical views of power, freedom, and coercion. Two extensions to the definition of coercion are suggested. First, definitions could include as coercive the removal of resources needed to generate the responses required to obtain reinforcement, or in some cases, the neglect to provide these resources. Second, choice architecture systems that are not transparent to the individuals being influenced and for which their consent has not been provided could be considered to be coercive. Implications of these extensions are discussed, including the need to examine behavior management methods for interactions considered to be coercive under the new definitions.

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Perspectives on Behavior Science