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Gaming the system

Gaming the system

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Gaming the system can be defined as "[using] the rules and procedures meant to protect a system in order, instead, to manipulate
Psychological manipulation
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative,...

 the system for [a] desired outcome

According to James Rieley, structures in organizations (both explicit and implicit policies and procedures, stated goals, and mental models) drive behaviors that are detrimental to long-term organizational success. For some, 'error...is the essence of "gaming the system", in which a gap in protocol allows for errant practices that lead to unintended results'.


Hank Paulson, considering that 'the late crisis
Late-2000s financial crisis
The late-2000s financial crisis is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s...

 demonstrated that our financial markets had outgrown the ability of our current system to regulate them', saw as one necessity 'a better framework that featured less duplication and that restricted the ability of financial firms to pick and choose their own, generally less-strict regulators - a practice known as regulatory arbitrage' that enabled widespread gaming of the regulatory system.

A similar, contributing effect has been identified within corporate rating systems, where 'gaming the system becomes virulent when formalization is combined with transparency...Reactivity
Reactivity (psychology)
Reactivity is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals alter their performance or behavior due to the awareness that they are being observed. The change may be positive or negative, and depends on the situation. It is a significant threat to a research study's internal validity and is typically...


With respect to global exchange rates, many have 'attributed China's large trade balances and huge capital reserves to its currency policy' - have seen its efforts to 'maintain an artificially weak currency that prevented market forces from helping China rebalance its economy' as a form of "gaming" the dollar hegemony
Dollar hegemony
Dollar hegemony is the hypothesized monetary hegemony of the US dollar in the global economy. Henry C.K. Liu popularized the term in the article "Dollar Hegemony has to go" in Asia Times, April 11, 2002...



Designers of online communities are explicitly warned that 'whenever you create a system for managing a community, someone will try to work it to his advantage...Gaming the System'. Accordingly they are advised from the start to 'think like a bad guy' - to consider 'what behaviors you are unintentionally encouraging by creating some new social rules for your community'

Others however would valorise the libertarian
Libertarian may refer to:*A proponent of libertarianism, a political philosophy that upholds individual liberty, especially freedom of expression and action*A member of a libertarian political party; including:**Libertarian Party...

 implications of the "loophole", arguing that 'gaming the system, for all the harm it presents to the collective endeavour of a project such as Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

, likewise marks a potential in its own right': emphasises the continuing role of 'agency in the singular event'.


Eric Berne
Eric Berne
Eric Berne was a Canadian-born psychiatrist best known as the creator of transactional analysis and the author of Games People Play.-Background and education:...

 identified a kind of "gaming the system" in a clinical context through what he called the game
Games People Play (book)
Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships is a 1964 bestselling book by psychiatrist Eric Berne. Since its publication it has sold more than five million copies. The book describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions....

 of "Psychiatry", with its motto 'You will never cure me, but you will teach me to be a better neurotic (play a better game of "Psychiatry")'. 'A few patients,' he noted, 'carefully pick weak psychoanalysts, moving from one to another, demonstrating that they can't be cured and meanwhile learning to play a sharper and sharper game of "Psychiatry"; eventually it becomes difficult for even a first-rate clinician to separate the wheat from the chaff'.

Jenny Diski
Jenny Diski
-External links:***...

 tells an illustrative story of the problems posed by a (Sixties) patient at a group therapy clinic who claimed not to have any problems: 'He certainly wasn't pretending to be mad. But was he pretending not to be mad?....And what the hell if he was playing the system?....Finally, he was expelled. The danger that we were being taken for a ride (even though, or because, we couldn't be sure what kind of ride we were being taken for) was too great'.


Parental divisions on child-rearing will always 'give the child plenty of opportunity to play one parent off against the other...it's just the way the system works'. Object relations theory
Object relations theory
Object relations theory is a psychodynamic theory within psychoanalytic psychology. The theory describes the process of developing a mind as one grows in relation to others in the environment....

 stresses, however, that while, 'if a child finds one parent easy to get round, compared with the other who is trying to set limits, it is likely to take advantage of that split...this is always a hollow triumph'. What the child is really hoping is that 'such parents will eventually begin to see a need to get togther on the issue of limit-setting'.

On the particular point of contingent feeding - offering treats on condition that a certain unpopular food is eaten - it has been specifically noted that 'contingent feeding encourages children to argue and practice "gaming" the system...fighting over the fine print'.

No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)

The system of incentives and penalties sets up a strong motivation for schools, districts, and states to manipulate test results. For example, schools have been shown to employ "creative reclassification" of drop-outs (to reduce unfavorable statistics).

Critics argue that these and other strategies create an inflated perception of NCLB's successes, particularly in states with high minority populations.

See also

Further reading

External links