From Greg Williams (920903 - 2)
Quoting B.F. Skinner:
The relation of organism to environment must be supposed to include the
special case of the relation of scientist to subject matter.
-- THE BEHAVIOR OF ORGANISMS, 1938, p. 43
We often overlook the fact that human behavior is also a form of control.
That an organism should act to control the world around it is as
characteristic of life as breathing or reproduction. A person acts upon the
environment, and what he [sic] achieves is essential to his survival and the
survival of the species.... We cannot choose a way of life in which there is
no control. We can only change the controlling conditions....
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, pp. 189-190
Self-management raises the same question as self-knowledge: Who are the
managing and managed selves? And again the answer is that they are repertoires
of behavior.... The managed self is composed of what is significantly called
selfish behavior -- the product of the biological reinforcers to which the
species has been made sensitive through natural selection. The managing self,
on the other hand, is set up mainly by the social environment, which has ITS
selfish reasons for teaching a person to alter his [sic] behavior in such a
way that it becomes less aversive and more reinforcing to others.
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, pp. 176-177
One person manages another in the sense in which he manages himself. He does
not do so by changing feelings or states of mind. The Greek gods were said to
change behavior by giving men and women mental states, such as pride, mental
confusion, or courage, but no one has been successful in doing so since. One
person changes the behavior of another by changing the world in which he
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, pp. 180-181
In traditional terms, one person arranges positive or negative contingencies
in order to create interests, provide encouragement, instill incentives or
purposes, or raise consciousness in another person. In doing so, he brings him
under control of various features of his environment.
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, p. 181
A person who has been exposed to the promise of heaven and the threat of
hell may feel stronger bodily states than one whose behavior is merely
approved or censured by his fellow man. But neither one acts BECAUSE he knows
or feels that his behavior is right; he acts because of the contingencies
which have shaped his behavior and created the conditions he feels.
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, p. 193
A physical world generates both physical action and the physical conditions
within the body to which a person responds when a verbal community arranges
the necessary contingencies.
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, p. 220
In self-management the controlling self is different from the controlled.
But all selves are the products of genetic and environmental histories. Self-
knowledge and self-management are of social origin, and the selves known and
managed are the products of both contingencies of survival and contingencies
of reinforcement. Nothing about the position taken in this book questions the
uniqueness of each member of the human species, but the uniqueness is inherent
in the sources. There is no place in the scientific position for a self as a
true originator or initiator of action.
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, p. 225
It would be absurd for the behaviorist to contend that he is in any way
exempt from his analysis. He cannot step out of the causal stream and observe
behavior from some special point of vantage...
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, p. 234
Democracy is a version of countercontrol designed to solve the problem of
manipulation.... Contingencies designed for explicit purposes can be called
manipulative, though it does not follow that they are exploitative; unarranged
contingencies must be recognized as having equal power, and also possibly
unhappy consequences.... To say that all control is manipulative and hence
wrong is to overlook important uses in education, psychotherapy, government,
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, pp. 243-244
I have used technical terms in making a technical point. I have preferred a
technical term elsewhere when it could be used at no great cost.... But
elsewhere [in this book] I have freely used the lay vocabulary while accepting
the responsibility of providing a technical translation upon demand....
Those who approach a behavioristic formulation for the first time may be
surprised by the mention of self-control. Does this not suggest some kind of
inner determination?... According to traditional definitions of self-control,
... [etc.] the behaviorist is indeed inconsistent, but according to his own
definitions he is not...
"If human behavior is as fully determined as the behaviorist says it is, why
does he bother to write a book? Does he believe that anything matters?" To
answer that question we should have to go into the history of the behaviorist.
Nothing he says about human behavior seriously changes the effect of that
history. His research has not altered his concern for his fellow men...
-- ABOUT BEHAVIORISM, 1974, pp. 247-248
When two different response rates occur in the presence of different
stimuli, the response is under STIMULUS CONTROL.
The girl whose facial expressions make her look "approachable" instead of
"aloof" is more likely to be asked for a date. She may assume an
"approachable" expression to exert stimulus CONTROL over a young man's
When a distant doorbell rings, you may "make a mistake" and go to the phone.
The doorbell exerts some CONTROL over going to the phone. This phenomenon is
A man may CONTROL the behavior of another man by arranging relevant
conditions. Also, he may control his own behavior by arranging the same kinds
A mother may put candy out of sight to DECREASE the probability that her
child will ask for it. She may do the same thing to reduce the PROBABILITY
that she will eat the candy.
In analyzing cases in which one response controls another, we distinguish
between the controlling response and the controlled response. Putting candy
out of sight is the CONTROLLING response; eating candy is the CONTROLLED
Putting candy out of sight to keep from eating it CONTROLS behavior by
REMOVING an SD [discriminative stimulus].
-- THE ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR [a programmed text; "correct" answers in
When you act to control yourself and other people, you are doing 'what God
allows you to do rather than forces you to do.' And you do it by constructing
a SITUATION that controls you or the others. Frazier does not control the
members of Walden Two. The world which he designed and which they maintain is
-- NOTEBOOKS, 1980, p. 112
In short, for Skinner, the results of one person's responses to his/her
environmental stimuli (which CONTROL him/her) can be another person's
And on statistics:
There are at the present time two quite different modes of approaching the
behavior of organisms which are hard to distinguish theoretically but which
are clearly different in practice. The statistical approach is characterized
by relatively unrefined methods of measurement and a general neglect of the
problem of direct description. The non-statistical approach confines itself to
specific instances of behavior and to the development of methods of direct
measurement and analysis. The statistical approach compensates for its lack of
rigor at the stage of measurement by having recourse to statistical analysis,
which the non-statistical approach in general avoids. The resulting
formulations of behavior are as diverse as the methods through which they are
achieved. The concepts established in the first case become a part of
scientific knowledge only by virtue of statistical procedures, and their
reference to the behavior of an individual is indirect. In the second case
there is a simpler relation between a concept and its referent and a more
immediate bearing upon the individual. It may be that the differences between
the two approaches are transitory and that eventually a combination of the two
will give us our best methods, but at the present time they are characterized
by different and almost incompatible conceptions of a science of behavior.
It is obvious that the kind of science here proposed naturally belongs on
the non-statistical side of this argument. In placing itself in that position
it gains the advantage of a kind of prediction concerning the individual that
is necessarily lacking in a statistical science. The physician who is trying
to determine whether his patient will die before morning can make little use
of actuarial tables, nor can the student of behavior predict what a single
organism will do if his laws apply only to groups. Individual prediction is of
tremendous importance, so long as the organism is to be treated scientifically
as a lawful system. Until we are spared the necessity of choosing between the
two approaches, we must cast our lot with a non-statistical investigation of
the individual and achieve whatever degree of reliability or reproducibility
we may through the development of techniques of measurement and control.
-- THE BEHAVIOR OF ORGANISMS, 1938, pp. 443-444
It's a shame Skinner never got together with Phil Runkel!