To understand behaviorism – must be seen as a methodological proposal of explaining the behavior of organisms from the lowest to the highest.
Explaining human and nonhuman behavior by reference to scientific laws and the theories expressed of physical states, events, and entities.
Because modern psychology emerged roughly in the mid-19th century.
Information of behaviorism was gathered in its early stages by introspection (looking at your own inner states of being; your own desires, feelings, and intentions) then linking them to the outside observable state.
Introspection is a notoriously unreliable method for gathering information for scientific theories. There are 2 problems:
1) The introspection data is private. It is impossible for someone from the outside to know the inner states of someone else.
Science demands publicly observable events for a community of scientists to confirm or reject empirical hypothesis by designing and testing experiments in an open arena for all other scientists to observe.
2) There is very little access to one’s total mental being (consciousness) since so much of it has been repressed into the unconscious.
1913 – J.D. Watson proposed the only proper object of study in psychology is behavior.
Behavior is publicly observable .
A team of scientists can observe the same phenomenon under investigation. They can then formulate a hypothesis to account for those behaviors. They can then form experiments so they can confirm or reject those hypothesis designed to explain the behavior of organisms.
“the father of behaviorism”
Exclusive attention given to publicly observable behavior.
There will be no discussions on dreams, hopes, desires, feelings, or internal events.
They must be avoided since they don’t offer explanatory value.
Skinner deserves most of the credit.
Behavior is the product of heredity (5%) and environment (95%).
Marx is an economical determinist, Freud is the mental determinist, Skinner/Watson are environmental determinist – all events that occur in nature including those that we single out that are important (human actions) are themselves the inevitable common product or outcome of prior anteceded forces over which the individual has very little control over (determinism).
We know man as an autonomous being (one whose choices are the result of decisions made, on our part, freely). The person is then responsible. If the actions are beneficial then the individual is entitled to credit. If the result of the actions are harmful, then the individual is should be justifiably blamed.
person –> determined choices –> actions –> responsible –> praised or blamed
This is a myth and the autonomous man is an illusion
We are determined, we are not free (foods that we dislike or the extra Y chromosome in criminal males – are we responsible )
If a serial killer was discovered to have an extra Y chromosome, the behaviorist would say is choices really aren’t free and he doesn’t have any control over it and there is nothing to stop or prevent him from doing so. He will act accordingly and we as citizens and judicial advocates will say he is responsible for those actions and he is justifiable to be blamed (autonomous man)
Skinner says this is an illusion. His theme would be “the elimination of the autonomous man”. All human action and events are the inevitable product of a series of prior anteceded forces that the individual has little control over.
Behaviorist’s Manifesto “We can follow the path taken by physics and biology by turning directly to the relation between behavior and the environment and neglecting supposed mediating state of mind” “We can be just like them real scientists if we do things a certain way” An attitude of scientific wannabes; they want to be taken seriously as scientists, which they are not; by changing the focus of our attention from the internal state of mind and events to the behavior which is publicly observable. The analysis will rest upon the thesis determinism. “This escape route that is claiming that we are free is slowly closing as new evidences of predictability of human behavior are discovered. Personal exemption from complete determinism is revoked and a scientific analysis progresses, particularly in accounting for the behavior of the individual” “So, we homosapiens are no exceptions to the universal rule of determinism. The difference between us and other organisms is merely one of degree or complexity and not in a difference in kind” Skinner has learned is lesson from Darwin We already know the causes of some human behavior and when we do know the causes, we exempt the person from responsibility, so that our clinging to this illusion of freedom is function of our ignorance of the causes of which make people do the things they do. If we completely understood the laws of human behavior, they would all be predictable. But, we are not that far yet. As evidence of how far along we are, just think about how many types of behavior today are perceived of as illnesses to be cured as opposed to vices to be punished. You may be inclusively committed to the claim that the behavior in question is literally beyond the control of the individual. The individual is a victim of prior forces over which he or she cannot control or he or she is the victim of irresistible forces. To the extent that we know their reasons, we can say that they are sick. This is founded completely on the commitment to determinism, which is basically an act of faith. We have not yet discovered all the laws which explain human behavior. Skinner responds: “I know that. So far, we haven’t. But it is only a matter of time before all human behavior can be explained such as the compulsive gambler or the chronic alcoholic or the any of the other cases where we readily admit that the forces at work are uncontrollable on the part of the individual. We don’t want to let everybody of the hook. A person is compulsive if he stands to gain nothing and risks losing everything. In the case of Marx: He paints a clear picture of his devastating critique of capitalism, but doesn’t elaborate too much on his new communist society, with the exception of a few phrases, which is similar to Skinner. In the text, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, about 98% is devoted to the elimination of the autonomous man. Then when it is time to say, “Alright let’s give up this illusion. Now, what kind of a society will we be living in then”. This is not well explained, with the exception of a few good things that will happen when we begin our program of human engineering. In Walden 2, Skinner depicts his utopia. Since behavior is a function of heredity and environment, there 2 results. They concern the basic analysis of the theoretical and practical implications. “The 1st is the theoretical analysis. The behavior, which operates upon the environment to produce consequences, or operant behavior, can be studied by arranging the environment in which specific consequences are contingent upon it. The contingency under investigation has become steadily more complex, but they are taking over the explanatory functions previously assigned to personality, state of mind, feelings, character, purposes and intentions.” A true scientific explanation of human behavior makes no reference to these kinds of mediating mental states. The 2nd result, a blockbuster since it seemed to be a threat to our own self-esteem, is the practical result. The environment can be manipulated. Man can be changed (genetically) very slowly, but changes in the environment can have quick and dramatic effects. A technology of operant behavior is already well advanced and it may be proved to be compatible with our problems.
It is behavioral engineering carried out by behavioral psychologists. Like Plato’s rulers, they stand behind the scenes and pull all the strings. They are making puppets do the things that we think we are doing as a result of free conscious choice or decision. We are totally determined and they will be our puppet masters. Skinner says that this is a good thing. B.E. is made possible if the program of behaviorism is carried through to its logical conclusion. It is not very flattering to be told you are nothing but a puppet. We tend to reject this. But, this is evident in the animal kingdom. Skinner believed in positive reinforcement as much more effective toll. Skinner writes that 2 features of autonomous man are very troublesome. “In the traditional pre-scientific view a person is free. He is autonomous in a sense that he is held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends. That view together with associative practices must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment. So, as the scientific analysis of man progresses, the myth of autonomous man becomes weaker.” Which Skinner believes is the only hope for our salvation. Skinner says “By questioning the control exercised by the autonomous man and demonstrate the control exercise by the environment, a science of behavior also seems to question dignity or worth. Thus, the title, Beyond Freedom and Beyond Dignity is used. A person is responsible for his behavior under the old pre-scientific view. Not only in the sense that he may justly be blamed and punished when he behaves badly, but also in the sense that he is to be rewarded for his achievements. Scientific analysis shifts credit and blame to the environment and traditional practices are no longer justified. These are sweeping changes. Those who are committed to traditional theories and practices are dismissed.”
What is man? “It is in the nature of an environmental analysis of human behavior, that it should strip away the functions previously assigned to autonomous man and transfer them one by one to the controlling environment. The analysis, as it progresses, leaves less and less for autonomous man to do” It is disheartening Skinner says, “The reaction to this book would be negative. They would say, “You are undermining my worth as a person”.” “For at least 100yrs, we have been prejudiced at economic determinism (Marx), mechanistic behaviorism (Skinner/Watson), and relativism that reduces the statute of man until he ceases to be a man at all in any sense that the humanist of an earlier generation would recognize. Another contemporary psychologist has argued that the empirical behavioral scientist read Skinner denies, if only by implication, that a unique being called Man exist”
Skinner responds to charges
“There is clearly difficulty in identifying the man to whom these expressions refer. We are told what is threatened is man in his humanity or man in a person. These aren’t very helpful expressions, but they do supply a clue. What is being abolished is autonomous man, the inner man, the homunculus, the possessing demon, the man defended by the literatures of freedom and dignity.” Autonomous man is being destroyed and demolished. Skinner says this is a good thing. “His abolition is long overdue. Autonomous man is an illusory device used to explain what we could not explain any other way. He had been constructed from our ignorance and as our understanding increases the very stuff of which he is composed vanishes. Science does not dehumanize man. it dehomunculizes him and it must do so if it is to prevent the abolition of the human species.”
He is talking about nuclear holocaust. “only by dispossess him can we
turn to the real causes of human behavior. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the naturalist. It is often said that when doing so we must treat the man who has survives as a mere animal.”
“Does this reduces man to another animal. Different in degree of complexity, but not different in kind. Science has never demanded a more sweeping change in a traditional way of thinking about this subject. Nor has there been a more important subject. In a traditional picture, the world perceives the world around him, selects features to be perceived, discriminates among them, judges them as either good or bad, changes them to make them better or worse and may be held responsible for his actions, and is justly rewarded or punished for his consequences. That is the pre-scientific illusion of autonomous man. In the new scientific picture, a person is a member of a species shaped by the evolutionary contingency of survival displaying behavioral processes which brings him under the control of the environment in which he lives and largely under the control of a social environment which he and millions of others like him have constructed and maintained during the evolution of a culture. The direction of the control relation is reversed. A person does not act on the world. The world acts upon him”
Skinner puts emphasizes on rewarding the desired action as opposed to punishing
THE BEHAVIORISM OF B.F. SKINNER I. INTRODUCTION A. The thought of men like Darwin, Marx, and Freud, changed the course of history. It is probable that some day Skinner’s name will be added to this list. Carl Rogers said: “I believe that too few people are aware of the extent, the breadth and the depth of the advances which have been made in recent decades in the behavioral sciences. Still fewer seem to be aware of the profound social, educational, political, economic, ethical, and philosophical problems posed by these advances.” B. Skinner’s behavioral technology has been used to speed up animal learning, improve patient behavior in psychiatric wards, cure problems like bed-wetting and stuttering, and improve human learning ability. C. We should give attention to his thought because what he has said is controversial and is accompanied by powerful implications. 1. Skinner’s thought is controversial because his ideas represent a major departure from Western thought. He says: “What is being abolished is autonomous man–the inner, the homunculus, the processing demon, the man defended by the literatures of freedom and dignity. His abolition has long been overdue. Autonomous man is a device used to explain what we cannot explain in any other way. He has been constructed from our ignorance, and as our understanding increases, the very stuff of which he is composed vanishes. Science does not dehumanize man, it dehomunculizes him. And it must do so if it is to prevent the abolition of the human species. To man qua man we readily say good riddance. Only by dispossessing him can we turn to the real causes of human behavior. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the natural, from the inaccessible to the manipulable.” (BEYOND FREEDOM AND DIGNITY, p.191). (see also the excellent review of his thought in TIME, Sept.20, 1971. “Panacea, or Path to Hell.”) 2. Skinner’s thought has powerful implications because he has a plan of action, a plan to apply his technique to large-scale management of society. (see his novel WALDEN II) 3. Skinner is most vulnerable philosophically because: a. His technique works. It therefore prompts us to ask philosophical questions. b. He invites philosophical criticism when he wrote: “behaviorism is not the science of human behavior; it is the philosophy of that science.” (ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, p.3). c. His primary target in Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Dignity was C.S. Lewis’ ABOLITION OF MAN. II. A BRIEF STATEMENT OF HIS VIEWS A. His definition of behavior: “Any action of the organism on the outside world, its movements and the effects of movement. Especially that which can be visually observed.” (BEHAVIOR OF ORGANISMS, p, 8). B. Origin of behavior: All behavior originates outside of man. Man is a responder, a product of his environment and genetic inheritance. C. His technique: Known as “operant conditioning.” Any behavior which is followed by a positive reinforcement is likely to be repeated. D. His purpose: not to understand man, but to predict and control his behavior. E. His goal: A utopian society brought about and maintained by behaviorist principles, i.e. survival of culture. III. ASSUMPTIONS THAT CONDITIONED HIS CONCLUSIONS A. His view of reality: A materialist. Matter and energy are the ultimate substances of reality. The mental is a manifestation of the material. B. His view of the origin of life: All life forms on earth are the result of chance processes active over long periods of time in which the simple gave rise to the complex. C. Determinism: All events (including the “brain events” we call “decisions”) have physical causes, which if exactly repeated will produce the same results. D. Epistemology: Rigid empiricism. Seems to have been influenced a great deal by logical positivism. Truth is that which corresponds to reality as it is perceived by the senses. To Skinner, this is mainly vision. E. Summary: All the world is a box. No universals, only particulars. The universe is a closed system where every effect has a material cause. Illustration of the jig-saw puzzle: In life there are only pieces; no overall-big-picture, no set way the pieces fit together. III. THE CRITIQUE OF BEHAVIORISM A. Some behavior cannot be traced to physical reinforcement. 1. The placebo effect does not adequately explain the response in a pure material sense. 2. Modern brain research: Wilder Penfield. When patients were wired to electrodes they experienced two psychological states simultaneously; one which had occurred in the past. This suggests a mental awareness that transcends brain activity. Behaviorism cannot account for the observer. Penfield’s research has been confirmed by other brain researchers such as Sir John Eccles, and Sir Charles Sherrington. 3. Gestalt psychology demonstrates through its research that there is something internal that manipulates stimuli input. These variables can be: memory, expectation, motivation, and attention. Skinner cannot adequately demonstrate that all mental events are indeed a product of the environment. 4. The theories of Noam Chomsky refute the behaviorist idea that language is a product of interaction with environment. 5. Albert Bandura’s experiments show that people can learn by observation and not just experience and reinforcement. His study suggests the presence of symbolic processes that are present before any responses. B. Ethical Problems: 1. According to Skinner’s naturalism and determinism what is is right. But Skinner is inconsistent since he calls some behavior “objectionable.” On what basis? According to Skinner, behavior that enhances the survival value of a culture is good. Which culture? 2. If man is viewed as only an animal he is generally treated as one. (see THE DIFFERENCE IN MAN AND THE DIFFERENCE IT MAKES, by Mortimer Adler. 3. In his controlled society who will the controllers be? Carl Rogers says: “Who will be controlled? Who will exercise control? What type of control will be exercised? Most important of all, toward what end or what purpose, or in the pursuit of what value, will control be exercised? (from the symposium). C. Epistemological problems: If Skinner is right that all behavior is the product of past environment, then even Skinner’s ideas are not based on truth but only on his past. Writing books like BEYOND FREEDOM AND DIGNITY implies meaningfulness of communication and setting forth a position like behaviorism implies that differing positions are wrong. But “meaningfulness” and “truth claims” cannot be observed. Skinner’s rats have conditioned him as much as he has conditioned them. How can one design a culture when he himself is conditioned by one? D. Logical fallacies: Reductionism. Whatever the theory doesn’t account for does not exist. “Whatever my net can’t catch ain’t fish.” Since Skinner cannot “catch” freedom or dignity, mind, morals, reasoned thought, or God, he insists that none of these things exist. E. There is no place for a rebel in Skinner’s ideal society. But rebels are what bring about the intellectual and moral growth of a society. F. Ideas from modern physics and parapsychology seem to stand in opposition to Skinner’s theories. IV. SUMMARY The teachings of behavioral technology are a useful educational tool but must not become a tool of manipulation. We find fault with Skinner’s starting point, i.e., his assumptions about God, man and his environment. Skinner is a good technician, but a poor philosopher. Skinner asks us to replace the myth of freedom and dignity for the myth of scientism (naturalism). V. CONCLUSION Getting back to freedom and dignity involves acceptance of an infinite reference point.
All organisms produce more offspring than that can possibly survive
All organisms vary within a species
Some of this variation is inherited