B. F. Skinner - Behaviorism is a Humanistic Psychology

Uploaded by ZONOFZAM on 02.03.2012

I wish to extend a personal welcome here tonight
to professor Skinner
that has been in general agreement among humanists on most of the main principles
of the humanist philosophy
now proffesor skinner raises
an important point of disagreement with me and other humanists on the question of free choice
and determinism
I'm very greatful to him for bringing to the front pages
one of my favorite
philosophic issues
and this is gonna be something that will enliven humanist gatherings
for the next 50 years or so.
(crowd's laughing)
we're gonna have a dialouge on determinism and free choice
and it's gonna be good for the american humanist association
and good for the humanist movement
in general. thank you.
(crowd clapping)
Burrhus Frederic Skinner
was born in 1904
in a small railroad town in pennsylvania
he lived in the same house
not far from both sets of grandparents
until he went to college
and he went through 12 grades in the same public school
his family sent him to sunday
school that taught him to
fear god, the police
and what people will think.
he studied the piano and saxophone and played for the jazz band.
in his spare time
he explored the countryside
built all kinds of gadgets and tried to design a Perpetual motion machine
he majored in english literature at Hamilton College in New York
his father wanted him to study law
but agreed to let him try writing for a while.
his efforts were not successful and left him dissapointed in literature
but undecided about any other career
in college
he'd studyied biology
and a friend had told him science is the art of the 20th century
while working at greenwich village bookstore he read Pavlov
he read Watson
he read Watson and Bertrand Russel on Watson and turned to behavioristic psychology
he went to harvard for his Ph.D.
after teaching nine years at minnesota in three years as chairman of the department
of psychology in indiana he turned to harvard permanently
he lives in campridge with his wife Eve
in 1938
he published the behavior of organisms
based upon the doctoral research
that began his life work in the experimental analysis of behavior
going beyond pavlov
he studied the so called voluntary behavior
emphasizing the
of rates of response
and the effects of contingencies of reinforcement
with his method
which he called operant conditioning
others could repeat
and extand his experiments, and they did.
thirty years later, hundreds of laboratories are studying operant behavior
operant conditioning is used in studying the effects of drugs
training the mentally retarded
retraining psychotics and convicts
designing instructional devices and meterials
and in behavior modification therapy
skinner is the inventor of a teaching machine
the skinner box for laboratory studies of animal learning
and the air crib used by his daughter Debra
and thousands of babies since, including his daughter Julie's two babies.
his many articles and books include two best-sellers
the utopian novel
"Walden two", in 1948
and "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" in 1971
both stirred up debates over the apparent conflict
between skinner's behaviorism
and traditional humanism. a question skinner will address tonight.
he's recieved many honoraries, degrees and awards
in 1971 two more were added.
the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation for memory tardation gave him their international
and the american psychological foundation
awarded him their gold medal for a distinguished record of scientific and scholarly
critics like to point out
how hard it is just to see how simple laws of learning could account for skinner's own
remarkable behavior
(crowd's laughing)
(crowd's laughing)
in his scientific
skinner has helpfully tried to praise some of the factors in his development.
from a chance early exposure to
the writings of francis bacon
to some performing pigeons he happened to see in the county fair. he admits though
that it's impossible to identify with any certainty all relevant variables
in past events. in his own case
the sources of his achievements are still mysterious and up to arouse admiration
I'm happy to present proffesor skinner
the humanist of the year award for 1972
thank you very much
I'm very happy to recieve this and it came
just in the right time
it is very reinforcing (crowd's laughing)... but I'm always
bothered about the contingencies. however, as many of you know.
taken something of a beating from my critics for the past six or eight months
I have no doubt that
many eyebrows were raised when I
when this award was anounced and I dare to say
there were recent resignations from
the american humanist association
in consequence
but it's good for me
because I have I think felt
some of the criticism
and I take this to mean
that in general
the American Humanist Association is on my side.
Professor's Skinner's subject tonight is "Humanism and Behaviorism"
Professor Skinner (crowd's clapping)
there are 2 ways in which
one may try to know another person
one of them
is associated with existentialism,
and structuralism structuralism 130 00:07:52,360 --> 00:07:54,080 it's concerned with
what another person is
or if he's changing
what he is coming to be
or becoming
we try to know another person
in this sense
as we know ourselves
try through empathy or sympathy
to understand how another person feels
through intuition we try to discover
what he's thinking
we try to communicate with him in the
etymological sense
of making our feelings and ideas common
through both of us
we engage in a dialogue
we try to establish good interpersonal relations
this is a kind of passive
contemplative knowing about another person
if we're concerned with what he is going to do
we assume that
like ourselves
he will behave in a given way
because of what he is
his feelings or his states of mind will determine
his behavior
the other way is associated with
and it is a matter of
what another person
of this we can observe directly
without some special kind of
and what we try to explain
why a person behaves as he does
we look not at
his states of mind or feelings
but at what has happened
in the past
in 2 kinds of environments
the environment
in which the species evolved
over millions of years
which is
responsible for
the species as it now exist in what we call it genetic endowment
and in personal environment
of the individual
which modifies that personal
genetic endowment and converts
the biological organism
into a person
the organism with
the elaborate
behavioral reperoire
now you might ask whether
the behavioral account
is complete or whether
the existential account
isn't a necessarily supplement
after all
there are certain temporal and spatial gaps between
the environment
and the observed effects
on behavior
we recognize this when we talk about genetic endowment
the environment responsible for that has long since passed
and we take the current state of the individual
as a record of what happened at that time
why should we not do the same
for the history of the individual
we reinforce a person today
and we observe the change of his behavior tommorow
what has happened in between?
clearly we brought about a change in him when we reinforced his behavior
a change in what he is
we have modified that genetic endowment
and now call it something else
an omniscient physiologist will be able to tell us
all the details
he would see changes going on
in the organism when we reinforce
and he would be able to explain how that changed
now behaves
in a different way
is not therefore the existentialist or the phenomenological account
a necessary
in the
whole sequence
of environment
and behavior?
a dualist would say no, because he would believe that states of mind and feelings exist in a different universe
but isn't it true
that when we have feelings
we are feeling conditions in our own bodies
and when we introspect
see our purposes, our intentions
our atitudes and so on...
we're also observing something about
about our bodies
are the things which are the product
of what has happened to us
the physiologist would be able then to give an account
of this
middle stage and
it could be argued that
through introspection or through ordinary feeling of our own bodies
we ourselves supply that missing link
but let's look at
how and why
we do
our own bodies in this sense
there is no question that
each of us contains within his
skin, a part of the universe
it is not therefore different from any other part of the universe
but it is private
the person has direct
with that part of the universe which is denied to anyone else
and the behaviorist never denies
that privacy
he simply raises questions
about how it can come
to be known
now we do have
nerves going to different parts of our
there are introseptive nervous systems which
are in contact with
conditions which arise in emotion
states of deprivation
which are very useful to the individual
there are other stimuli generated
by poscurent movement in the proprioceptive nervous system
without which
you can hardly behave
in a coordinated manner
and our exteroceptive nervous system the system that we use
with respect to the world around us
also figures in
self knowledge or awareness
but knowing
is more than simply responding to stimuli of that sort
a child responds to color
distinguishes between things
on the basis of color
before he knows his colors
he comes to know his colors
as verbal behavior
and that
and all of that come about
a social environment, a verbal community
reinforces some responses
and not others
and sets up the whole descriptive
repertoire with which the individual can
report the existence of a color
apart from
a practical
situation in which action is taken
now this
is true about
the conditions in our own bodies
and I had pointed out elsewhere
how difficult it is for
the verbal community community
to differentially reinforce correctly
the kinds of words we use in describing
what is going on when we have feelings
or states of mind
the community does not know
about these private conditions
and cannot
correctly reinforce
the behavior which is descriptive of them
so that we, all our
vocabulary in talking about ourselves
tends to be
imprecise, and of course
in trying to know about another person
our repertoire is even less
but there is a much more important point
what can we know
about our bodies when we are *noise*
of what we are doing
we can
what we are in contact with
nervous systems which have arisen
for practical purposes
which have evolved in the evolution of the species for the sake of coordinated
and the
internal economy
of a person's body
but the kinds of reports
with the verbal environment
might want us to make
depend upon
or should depend upon systems which are actually
not available
the new contingencies, the social contingencies have existed for far too short
a period of time
to be
in evolution. we have not had the time to evolve with the kinds of nervous
systems we would like
in order to answer the questions that people throw past
for they ask only those questions
for which they can get answers
such things as
"do you see that?", "can you hear that?", "did you see it?" , "did you hear it?" and so on...
and we answer those questions by reporting
on the activity of our sense organs with respect to the external environment
they ask "are you hungry?", "are you angry?" and so on, and we can
answer those questions
rather inaccurately
in terms of states of our bodies which are associated
with these conditions
they can ask
"do you want to go?", "shall we go?"
"do you like that?"
"are you interested in going?" and so on...
and these are questions concerned with the probability
of behavior
and we can answer that in terms of available
nervous systems
we can observe our own tendencies to behave
and we can report
a stimuli that we have received
but all such questions
are about stimuli and responses. they are not about
the mediating processes in the nervous system
which the omniscient physiologist
will eventually come into contact with
what we
observe when we have feelings
and introspect
are actually a rather miscellaneous set
of by-products
the environmental circumstances
to which our behavior is related
our feelings are not the causes of our behavior
our intentions, our intonations are not causes, our purposes are not causes
they are by-products
and rather
miscellaneous ones at that
they are certainly not the mediating stage between
the environment
and the behavior which is a function of it
or do I really mean to say
that plato's discovery of the mind didn't amount to much?
or that Acquines (Thomas Aquinas)
or Lock (John Lock)
or Descartes (René Descartes)
or Kant (Immanuel Kant) had nothing much on the ball?
or that introspective psychology
not really concerned with the mind or that James (William James) or Freud (Sigmund Freud)
were not really talking about things that are important
with respect to
our mental life, our inclinations to behave? yes, I'm inclined to say,
all of that
is really a waste of time
but if that is the case
why have people spent so much time on it?
I think there are good answers to that
these are things we feel
in our own bodies when we are
behaving or about to behave
are quite salient
they're here and now
whereas our environmental histories
are past
they've happened
we could not observe much of them
we probably did not observe much
and we have forgotten
much of what we observed
so if someone asks you something about why you were going to do something
it's very easy for you to report on the current state of your body
it's very hard for you
to tell them what happened to you
which is related to
the behavior
these internal states occur in a time and place
which would be quite plausably thought of as the time and place
for causes
we often think of something to do before we do it
it looks as if our thinking
was a kind of cause of action
we are said to have
ideas before we express them
we are inclined to do something before we actually do it
now this is an actual
temporal connection
upon some occasion but not all
most the time when we're talking we don't actually
say it to ourselves before we say it aloud
the behavior just occurs to us
and when it
doesn't, and when it occurs to us silently first, it is still nothing but behavior.
it is not a prior cause of the behavior
moreover, this privacy plus
our neglect
of the causal circumstances in our past history
leads to the notion that there is somehow or other
a seperate, controlling, internal self
people would say "yes, but
there is an I. an I who knows what I'm going to do next"
and that is true, the I that knows what it's going to do next
is the organism up to that point
with all his
history up to that point
but that isn't enough for most people. they want the internal agent
to be making decisions
making choices, willing to act and so on...
now that is correct to say, I think
that we make choices in that sense
or decide to act, or act
if we are talking about the whole organism
I don't mean to imply that there is any freedom even so
but there is
an origination
something starts at a given point
so far as we are concerned, we see ourselves engaging in behavior
and we're likely to neglect
the reasons why we do so
there is no true inner direction
no true initiation
or origination
well, people will then point to
noble behavior, and say: "what about that?"
"how can you explain creative behavior?"
"how can you explain the fact that the child
begins to emit sentences
that he has never heard
and has never spoken before?"
and could not have been taught to say on any stimulus response model?"
well, the answer to that is
I'm not talking about a stimulus response model
I'm talking about
operant conditioning
which is a matter of
by consequences
and the very same issue of creation or creativity
came up in the very similar
set of circumstances about a hundred and some years ago.
this was the theory of evolution.
prior to darwin
you could point to the
millions of different creatures alive on the surface of the earth
as evidence of a creative mind
in advance
had a design, a plan
and constructed creatures accordingly
Darwin moved the creativity
to after the fact
through the selection of
an operant conditioning is a matter of a selection
of forms of behavior
through contingencies
of reinforcement
where Darwin was talking about contingencies of survival
and in the same way we can
demonstrate the
likelihood that original forms of behavior will occur and
we must therefore
displace once again
the notion of a creative
I'm rather curious
that we allowed a creative Mind with a capital M
to go by the board
but we're still fighting desperately
to defend and maintain the doctrine
that each of us possesses
his own
creative mind
which is responsible for his behavior
the behavioral analysis
does handle the kinds of behavior which are attributed to the self
and it handles the behavior which is attributed to multiple selves
because what is involved here is simply the contingencies of reinforcement
which shape repertoires
of behavior
by shifting to the environment however, something happens to the notion of a self
and it is thought that the behavioristic analysis
is somehow or other
man qua man
or dehumanizing man
taking out of the individual
something that we have regarded as
essentially human
as I pointed out elsewhere
a scientific analysis does not dehumanize man
it de-homunculizes him. the homunculus was a medieval expression
where a little man
could do all of this kind of thing
and ran the body
from a position of an internal director of some kind
it is true that a behavioristic analysis treats man as an
object, is an
a biological object, an organism. but,
an extraordinary complex one
which can aquire that extremely
subtle repertoire of behavior
which can put
an object, an organism into a person
now, when you say that
when you talk about man
as an object, is sounds as if
you are giving up
the whole question of values and there have been
that behaviorism pretends to be
a value-free science
and yet the human situation today demands a science
which is full of values
which takes the human condition
today as it's important object, that there cannot be
value free
well I think that that situation is not too complex
an experimental analysis of behavior
can be value-free. you can
set up experiments, carry them up and get results
without making any judgement about what is good for
you as an experimenter or the organism or people in general or what use you will make with the results
but a technology of behavior
derived from
that laboratory work
must take
values into account. it must
look at what
is happening when
it is being applied
and unlike behavioral technologies it has built into it the very
means are taking that kind
of value judgements
Values can be studied
they are aspects of human behaviors
the things people call good
are not good because they feel good or taste good or look good
they are good because of the human genetic endowment
people call things good not because
they feel good
or look good but because it was important to the human race
that things be reinforcing during the evolution of the species. At one time it was extremely important
that man and women
be reinforced
by certain kinds of food stuffs in the mouth
because they were nutritious,
sweet, and salt and so on... and these things
were in short supply and it was important to remember where you found such a thing or how to catch such a thing
but these things under came extremely reinforcing
it was important that sexual contact be reinforcing because until fairly recently
when the human population were decimated with pests and famine, it was important
that people breed at every opportunity
and so we have an enormous capacity to be reinforced by sexual contact
sure, it feels good but it isn't
reinforcing because it feels good, it feels good because it's reinforcing
then people create
people create reinforcers
in order to induce others
to behave, to reinforce them. the social goods: approval, affection, attention and so on...
we can study how this is done
how it arises and
we can also look at those social contingencies
which are used
to prevent people from mistreating others
there was a recent conference in new york
a confrontation between humanists and catholics in which the old issue of
of conscious was debated
and there was a tendency
to argue what the
that conscious begins as somekind of feeling of right
and wrong. and I, to my dismay I found
that people
in the
were unwilling to look beyond these
that you start
with a feeling that said that things were right or wrong
I want to look at the
sanctions, the punitive sanctions that people
impose upon each other
to keep them behaving well with respect to each other
in a symposium at the Kennedy
Foundation I argued that
the five rate
classical examples of the misty-hood(?!) of people
can be analysed as one
small children
orphanages at the schools that charles dickens described
old people at homes,
psychotics and the retarded
these have for hundreds of years
the archetypal patterns of mistreatment of human beings
and to say:
"well that must be because those in
these places lacked compassion or
benevolence or had no conscience"
you're quite wrong. they
were mistreated because they cannot fight back
it's as simple as that. children that are too small and old people are too weak
prisoners have to fight against guidance
psychotics and retarded can't organize and can't act skillfully if they did organize
the reason mistreatment occurs is not
a lack of conscience on anyone's part
it's a lack of counter-control, a lack of sanctions imposed by
other people
to make sure that they will not be mistreated. here again
here again, you are
trying to put into
the inner man, the sense of benevolence or conscience
something which can be taken out and analysed in terms of
external sanctions. now this
in particular in the case
whether on conflicting
values and these are reducible
to conflicting contingencies of reinforcement and punishment
the science of behavior
could almost be called the science of values
we're concerned with their affects
ethics and morals are mainly a matter of
of the conflicts which arise when
immediate consequences conflict with deferred consequences
how do you forego
that pleasure now for the sake of a greater good or to avoide ultimate
or how do you take that punishment now
for the sake of a remote good and so on... these are
characteristic patterns. they can all be studied experimentally
and they are fundemental issues with respect
to values. so the science of behavior
far from
neglecting values
is so far as I can see
the only direct approach to understanding what they're all about
now that's a special kind of value
which has nothing to do with the individual
or with the good of others in the sense of the greatest ??? and the greatest number
it has to do with the survival of the culture
or ultimately
with the survival
of the human race
a culture is nothing more than a social environment
and in it people acquire
much of their behavioral repertoires
the strength of a culture
in solving it's problems
will depend upon the behvior it encourages and sets up
in it's members
a culture which
induces it's members to behave
in effective ways
will be a stronger culture
and practices
then survive with the culture, with the people who practice them
this is a kind of evolution, very much like the darwinian
very much like operant conditioning. it is a matter again
of selection by consequences
it does not require
a prior design
or intention or
purposes move to the consequences
until recently this was all a process
of evolution
under contingencies of survival
cultures would get upon
new ways of doing things, new ways of organizing families or raising children
or paying wages or collecting taxes and so on...
some of these work
and the culture would better all because of that and culture survived and the practice survived
some of them did not.
there is a kind of
evolution going on
at the present time. our practices
are being tested
and whether this culture is here
will depend on whether
we are actually now applying the best possible set
of practices
however we have also reached a point
in which we can design
a culture to make it more effective
the geneticists are already talking about redesigning the human genetic endowment
we can redesign
the behavior of an individual by changing
the contingencies of reinforcement out of which he lives
and we can to some extent
redesign a culture. so that we can set up new practices
decide that there are better ways of doing things than the way we're doing it now
and try them out
so that
it is possible, not simply to allow
the evolution of culture to proceed
but to interfere, do something about it and accelerate the process
and that will be done
by those people whom the culture has induced
to take an interest in it's future
we're not all born interested in whether our culture survives or not
it has to be done by specific devices, ways in which the culture
induces it's members
to take it's future into account
it's usually done with rather jingoistic devices
Rome convinced romans that it was sweet and better to die for Rome
it was great for Rome but not very good for the Romans
the church made martyrdom
a great
heaven was
contingent upon martyrdom, people were seeking martyrdom at one stage
then it was great for the church but not so good for the martyrs
and those are techniques which have been
worked out from time to time. how
are we
to get
the individual
to take an interest
not only in his own culture
in a jingoistic sense
but in the ultimate good of
as a whole?
this is a problem which calls for a very careful analysis
of reasons why people behave as they do
and ways in which
cultures can induce people to behave
in different way
so it has to be
done by any
prior design. it can be an accidental process.
once the stage has been reached in which we can begin to design then
something else
arises and I think this is
a natural place
for a humanistic activity
a humanist seems to me to be one of those
who the culture has
made him interested
in his future
and I don't mean a jingoistic future
of a given culture, I mean
the future of mankind. To take
into account
only if you are induced to do so
we've just
reached that stage
in cultures where people do this
we are very bad at doing it now. We do not induce
very many people to take the future
their own way of life into account, let alone the future
of the human race
but it is something which can be done. It will not be done by changing people
that is a genetic problem and the geneticists are not yet up to it
it is done by changing the world in which people live
to produce a better culture in a sense of a better environment which will generate much more
effective behavior
in those living in
the culture
now there is here a strong contrast between this
kind of contribution which I believe a behavioral analysis
can make
and another movement which has turned up
recently in psychology in America
called Humanistic psychology
I resent this appropriation of the word Humanistic and I want to tell you
this is often referred to as a third
meaning something in addition to behaviorism
and psychoanalysis
but third must not be
supposed to mean advanced
nor to force
be supposed to mean power

Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis are both deterministic systems, Freud was a determinist
a Humanistic Psychology therefore emphasizes autonomous man
man is going to transcend
his environment, transcend the genetic endowment
man is going to determine what stimuli will get through to him and what
he's going to leave out and all of this
the word Autonomy sums it up
the humanist is interested in autonomous man
the movement is of course
intimately at home
with existentialism, phenomenology and structuralism
what a person is, is
what the humanistic psychologist is concerned with
actually, it seems to me this is a throwback
it's returning to a very early attitude toward human behavior
before anything was known
about the role of the environment
in a determination of
moreover, since
it doesn't neglect the environment, I think it poses a real threat
Maslow's term which is the
dominating principle
in humanistic psychology
is self actualization
self fulfillment
the individual is to
to develop
and to achieve all that he's capable of achieving
but why is this emphasis on self?
isn't that really the selfish view?
you can seek
economic freedom as your goal
and you will if
you are wise, strengthen the individual
the despotic
control in those areas
that has been the history of the struggle for freedom
you convince the individual
that he is the
source of the power used to
govern him
that he's being governed by his consent
you convince the worker that he is producing the very wealth that you use
to pay him wages and so on...
this is all really good
but it can go too far
it can lead to
the aggrandizement of the individual which in turn then breeds a new kind of despotism
for example
the American right of the individual to acquire vast sums of money which he can then use
entirely in his own interests
is a type
of tyranny
arising from
the notion of the rights of the individual and individual freedom
and the Hindu's concern for personal growth is
a struggle for
of the spirit to approach some
this has lead to
a social chaos which is evident enough to anyone who visits india
these are exaggerations of the importance of the individual
which in the long run
do not solve the original problem for which the individual was strengthened
but indeed
work against him
behaviorism and I believe humanism,
should be concerned with the aggrandizement of mankind
not for any individual member
behaviorism had already demonstrated power
to do the kinds of things that we all know should be done
is has made important contributions
in psychotherapy, in the care of the retarded
as Dr. Bridgman(??)
it had made differences in child care and
the incentive systems
in ??? reform and so on...
these are genuine achievements at the present time
they're not
all I would like to see and that's my complaint
think there are reasons why these things are not developing more rapidly and the
reasons are just of the kinds I'm talking about tonight.
but there's no doubt that behavioral analysis
is working.
it is taking mankind
??? by ???
group by group
into account
and doing something about it
this is not a concern for
individual gratification
or even just for the good of others in the sense of the greatest ??? or the
greatest number
is the concern
mankind as a whole
to the design of the most effective environment
to bring out all that man is capable of
it emphasizes the environment of course
and throw new light on it
and on the evolution of cultures
it is a new technology
for doing something about the human condition
not to aggrandize any individual
but to build a kind of world
in which every individual
can develop
to the fullest extent of
genetic endowment
which at present time
never realized
into a very small fraction of it's actual worth
none of one looks at the world today knows a great deal of these to be done
we are threatened
by problems which
are no longer
a concern to any one group
any one nation, any one social system, any one culture
anyone economic system
a nuclear holocaust
the exhaustion of resources in the world
pollution of the environment. All of this
going back to
these are the things which
need to be done
they're not going to be done by philosophers which merely speak
of the actualization of the individual. They are going to
be concerned
not with the kind of knowing
which comes about
in a face to face effort, sympathize with, empathize with
feelings of another person
they will be
these problems will be met
and I think they're best to be solved
by the second way of knowing
by emphasis on what
people do
and the reasons why they do that
there's a great deal to be done
it seems to me
that man is the major of all things
we are all concerned for man
an this means
man in general, mankind
other than any individual. And if we
hope to make the kinds of changes which need to be made
a notion ???? now. We need all
can possibly learn about
human behavior
and that has
a background of behaviors of other species but eventually of course, no one is interested
in pigeons or rats
the human organism which is important and it is that organism
which is
going to be changed by
of a different kind of world
this seems to me to be
a program
which is at the very heart of humanism
it seems to me to be a
a program of a behavioristic analysis
and I
welcome this opportunity
to quite demonstrate to you
that behaviorism is
a humanistic psychology
Thank you very much
this program was produced by KPFA. Pacific radio in northern 00:47:20,069 --> 00:47:24,339 California and distributed by pacific program service in Berkeley
all rights are reserved