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B.F.Skinner, in his late years
Burrhus Frederic Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) is mentioned in the Swan Orientation Film. He was an American psychologist and author. He conducted pioneering work on experimental psychology and advocated behaviorism, which seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcement. He also wrote a number of controversial works in which he proposed the widespread use of psychological behavior modification techniques (primarily operant conditioning) in order to improve society and increase human happiness.
Skinner's most influential work of philosophy, written in 1972, was Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner made two points in the book. The first was that the most efficient way to change humans given the technology of the day was to change the environment. The DHARMA initiative can be seen as taking this concept to its ultimate conclusion through its attempt to manipulate the Valanzetti Equation.
The second point of the book was that freedom and free will in the common sense do not exist. Rather, freedom is a state where humans do not feel the controls that are being exerted over them and their behavior. He saw the perceived social problems (drug abuse, gambling, protests) of his day as due to mismanagement of the systems of control in society.
While the book is highly philosophical, Skinner did not consider himself a philosopher or the work be a philosophy. He considered his ideas pure science and his writings to be rooted in psychology.
B. F. Skinner described his view of a utopian socially engineered community in his 1948 novel Walden Two. Two attempts were subsequently made in 1967 (Twin Oaks) and 1973 (Los Horcones) to create communities along the principles outlined in the book. Both communities still exist but Twin Oaks has rejected parts of the Walden Two model.
In "A Tale of Two Cities", we see Sawyer in what is the clearest example of a "Skinner Box" so far in the series--the cage. Skinner designed these boxes mainly for rats and pigeons and used them to conduct behavioral experiments. His approach was heavily influenced by the philosphy of science outlined by Francis Bacon in that he did not test theories. Rather, he ran experiments and noted what happened. He would vary the interval that rats got food pellets or pigeons got bird seeds and recorded how varying the interval of presenting them affected the rate of their behavior. As opposed to his intellectual predecessors, Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson, he was not a stimulus-response psychologist: The model that he developed of how is much more complicated than theirs.
Arguably, his main finding was that on a very basic level, all organisms learn and unlearn in essentially the same way.
- For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: B.F. Skinner/Theories
- Coincidentally, Lost star Josh Holloway will play a lead role in a new horror film, Skinner Box.
- Skinner, B. F. 1948 Walden Two
- Twin Oaks: A Walden Two Experiment Kinkade, Kat William Morrow & Co (February 1974) ISBN 0-688-05020-4