Brownie Point
Manufactured for New Wave Psychology by Soft Tech Research Institute

Xeroxed and embossed paper, 1.5 x 1.875-inches.

When I was growing up, there was an expression about "giving" or "earning" a "brownie point"--usually in recognition for someone doing something good or for performing a good deed. The brownie point was similar to a teacher giving a child "a gold star" for exemplary work in school. The American Heritage Dictionary defines "brownie point" and its etymology as
    An amount of credit considered as earned, especially by favorably impressing a superior. Often used in the plural. [ From the practice of awarding points for achievement to Brownies in the Girl Scouts.]
Brownies are the entry group in the Girl Scouts organization--Girl Scouts in training--and are encouraged to do good as they build their character through adult-supervised Brownies' activities and meetings. According to the former Brownies I have talked to, there was never a formal brownie point or anything actually called a "brownie point" in the Brownies, so its use as an expression may be as a metaphor for being "good girl/good boy." As far as I know, no one had actually ever seen a physical manifestation of a "brownie point" until I created this little paper handout sometime around 1980.

The idea behind a "brownie point" is that it is a symbolic or verbal "positive reinforcement." Behavioral reinforcement is a concept from old-school Behaviorist Psychology that New Wave Psychology likes to poke fun at (see the packet of "Nouveau Behaviorist REINFORCEMENTS" included in the very first issue of the New Wave Psychology Newsletter). One of the basic ideas or values of New Wave Psychology is to encourage people to initiate their own creative actions vs. merely analyzing and responding to the reinforcement contingencies in their environment (i.e., to act vs. respond).

Giving people an opportunity to creativity use and hand out a "brownie point"--as well as the potential to stimulate a creative response to receiving a brownie point--seemed to perfectly exemplify the kind of simple, creative and social "game" that I wanted New Wave Psychology to aspire to. The brownie point on a piece of paper has always been one of my favorite creations and games.

First version of the "brownie point" created circa 1981.
Thousands have been handed out since then--sometimes in packets of 10 or 20.
Xerox on paper, embossed with FLUXUS Midwest logo.
Brownie (pixie) image from Girl Scout documents.
Version presented here distributed with FLUXUS Midwest Catalog (1993)

© 2005 Allen Bukoff & FLUXUS Midwest