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Science And Human Behavior


1/3 of this book covers basic conditioning as seen in all animals, including humans. Much of this was established experimentally with rats and pigeons but the discussion here is in terms of humans. There are no diagrams or pictures in this section, which can get rather dry.

The remaining 2/3 of the book covers topics associated more with humans such as thinking, private events, the self, institutions and culture. Skinner refers to institutions such as the government, religions, psychotherapy, economic groups and education as "controlling agencies". His scientific approach of these agencies overlaps the artistic rendering of addictive systems by the very different William Burroughs in "Naked Lunch", but between the two of them one can get a good sense of how one's actions are conditioned.

For millenia, for lack of scientific application, speculative systems have been dominate. The Greeks were masters of such systemization, which culminated in "The Enneads" by Plotinus, an amazingly unified and satisfying work consisting almost exclusively of explanatory fictions. Such comfort systems seem to have a strong hold on people. Much of modern psychology is not an advance on "The Enneads". Look at how much of cognitive psychology is speculative, lacking in any experimental confirmation.

There is a great opportunity here for you. At this time, half a century after this book's publication, behaviorism is not well supported. To be sure, there are practicing behaviorists and some excellent progress in the application of behavioral analysis. But behaviorism seems to be heavily resisted, as Skinner himself recognized. This book has excited me. Read it and if it indeed excites you, even as a layperson, see what you can do to apply it and to educate others about it. The opportunity is that there is still a lot to learn about how to apply it in our everyday life. This stuff is too important not to embrace...well, see what you think.

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Tags: science, human, behavior, people, bosses