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In Walden Two, behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner describes one of the most controversial fictional utopias of the twentieth century. During the s and Walden two. [B F Skinner] -- This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in Set in the United States. B. F. SKINNER'S OTHER POSITIVISTIC BOOK WALDEN ronaldweinland.info - Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online.

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THE EARLY summer of , when I wrote Walden Two, was not a bad time for Western Civilization. Hitler was dead, and one of the most barbaric regimes in. PDF | B. F. Skinner's, novel, Walden Two has some remarkable parallels to the growing Positive Psychology movement which emphasizes the promotion. PDF | On Oct 15, , Deborah Altus and others published Revisiting Walden Two: sustainability from a natural science perspective.

You are on page 1of 20 Search inside document Behavior and Philosophy, 34, Skinner explicitly stated his approach was positivistic in The Behavior of Organisms although he did not make an explicit statement about Walden Two. Three features of positivism are elaboratedits concem with indisputable certitude, unified reality, and ever-onward progress, each of which entailed overly simplifying assumptions. These features are brought out in the positivistic sources for Walden Two and in the changes from the positivistic views of Frazier, the protagonist in Walden Two, to Skinner's later pragmatic-selectionist views. Key words: Comte, dystopia, positivism, neopositivism. Skinner's first two books show a positivistic orientation. In addition.

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Hm... Are You a Human?

Write a review Rate this item: Preview this item Preview this item. Walden two Author: B F Skinner Publisher: Hackett, Hackett classics. English View all editions and formats Summary: This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.

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Skinner, , p. Social justice and human well-being require more than rugged individualism. They call for a science and technology of behavior. For Skinner , the choice was clear: Either we do nothing and allow a miserable and probably catastrophic future to overtake us, or we use our knowledge about human behavior to create a social environment in which we shall live productive and creative lives and do so without jeopardizing the chances that those who follow us will be able to do the same.

Something like a Walden Two would not be a bad start. Among the former were practices that ensured good health and leisure time e. Among the latter were practices to eliminate coercive and aversive control. According to Skinner, such control produced destructive emotional by-products, led to acrimonious social relations, and was ineffective in the long run in promoting social justice and well-being Skinner, , pp.

This remained his position on the use of aversive control for the rest of his life see Skinner, a , , Critiques of Walden Two's Premises and Practices Although utopian by today's standards, Walden Two was and is controversial to the point of being labeled dystopian because of its alleged premises and practices e.

Its premises are criticized for dismissing purpose, mind, and freedom, without which social justice putatively has no foundation. Its practices purportedly involved behavioral engineering and mind manipulation Matson, Critics also allege that the premises and practices were dictated by Skinner and his science.

These criticisms, however, miss their mark. They equate Skinner's vision with essentialist premises and practices, whereas these were assumptions or discoveries that were then demonstrated to work, not a priori features of the behavior-analytic utopia. Utopian Premises and Practices Premises As for Skinner's premises, they were no more than naturalism applied to human affairs.

Naturalism is the working assumption that behavior is part of nature, and thus lawful and orderly in its own right, a function of historical and current environmental and biological contingencies and contexts. Naturalism is not controversial in science—it works. It is a useful premise. Skinner's extension of it to promote social justice and human well-being was a culmination of the Enlightenment philosophy that flowed forth from the Scientific Revolution.

As for purpose, mind, and freedom, Skinner never sought to dismiss them, only to naturalize them. In his view, human purpose was not a matter of a priori intelligent design, but a quality of behavior in context selected for by its consequences.

Mind was not a place or a thing of our own making, but actions and reactions, private and public, acquired in social context. Freedom was not free will, but rather having the requisite repertoires and opportunities for attaining valued outcomes. On these accounts, social justice and human well-being become a balance between a individual practices that enhance people's sense and capability of behaving purposefully, mindfully, and freely and b cultural practices that enhance a community's chances of survival.

This is a dynamic balance between often conflicting interests, but it is not random or undetermined. Social justice and human well-being are in principle predictable and controllable, and are often so in practice, which Walden Two promises and, which we shall see, applied behavior analysis advances.

Skinner's a , b , a , b naturalistic approach to purpose, mind, and freedom was never well received in American intellectual and popular culture. It is incompatible with a cultural ethos of individualism and freedom and with Counter-Enlightenment Romanticism. Naturalism has persisted in science, however, and is today extended to ethics, values, and the philosophy of science itself e. Extending it to social justice and human well-being might help us better understand, enhance, and promote them.

Practices As for Walden Two's practices, they have been criticized, as noted, for being dystopian exercises in behavioral engineering and mind manipulation dictated by Skinner and his science. As for Walden Two's being engineered and manipulative, the critics are correct, but only in the context of their accounts of purpose, mind, and freedom.

In Skinner's account, practices are not dystopian simply because they control behavior. Behavior is already controlled, some of it in a humanizing manner, some of it in a dehumanizing manner. Skinner sought to eradicate the latter—dehumanization through aversive control—by understanding it well enough through science to control it and then to replace it with humanizing forms of control through positive reinforcement that promoted social justice and human well-being.

In this, Skinner reflected early 20th century America's social progressivism, seeking practices that would improve mental and physical health, the standards of work and daily living, and education and training. He believed in better living through science, as did, in general, the United States. Walden Two's practices were not dictated by Skinner or his science Roemer, They were practices conjectured to work by Skinner and then demonstrated to work by the community at that particular point in the community's development.

They were community practices that met community needs, for example, using clear glass plates as opposed to opaque ones; climate-controlled air cribs as opposed to open cribs and playpens; group child-rearing practices as opposed to nuclear families; and self-control through positive and negative reinforcement as opposed to punishment. These were not dictated by Skinner's science or derived from any principle of behavior.

Of course, some of Walden Two's practices e. Moreover, these practices would evolve Skinner, a ; see Moylan, , on critical utopian studies.


Walden Two was not a blueprint for a behavior-analytic utopia. Skinner made this point at least twice in his book through the character of T. The main thing is, we encourage our people to view every habit and custom with an eye to possible improvement. We try out many different techniques. What Skinner and his science offered was a means for searching for and discovering practices that maximized people's health, wealth, and wisdom.

Skinner's utopian vision was not the practices he described in Walden Two, but the practices of how the community arrived at them—experimentally. The Sustainability of Walden Two Communities If Skinner's science has any value, this should be seen in its consequences, a presumably obvious one being the existence of intentional communities based on his book. Kuhlmann, see Altus, ; Morris, The largest and most famous of these is Twin Oaks Kinkade, , The only intentional community that continues to be based on Skinner's vision of experimentation is Comunidad Los Horcones Comunidad Los Horcones, According to Juan Robinson-Bustamente, who grew up and continues to make his home there, It makes me feel sad that a living Walden Two community like Los Horcones is judged on what grandfather Skinner did or didn't write in the novel.

We consider Los Horcones a Walden Two community because we do this to shape a humanistic society based on cooperation, mutual help, nonviolence, and ecological sustainability. Altus, , p. Practices that evolved in one place and time are not easily generalizable to others.

Moreover, the sheer number and kinds of changes that would be required are enormous. For example, we would have to leave our nuclear families and relinquish child care to the community. We could bring almost no personal property with us and have to place our money under the community's control. We would give over many choices to the community e. Although we would still lead purposeful lives, make personal decisions, and have many freedoms, especially freedom from aversive control, the extent of these changes would be difficult for many people to achieve.

It is no wonder that Walden Two was not widely replicated or sustainable in Western culture. These points notwithstanding, many of the practices Skinner described in Walden Two exist piecemeal in today's intentional communities Rutherford, , as well as in applied behavior analysis, where their purpose to improve social justice and human well-being is an indication of the value and a validation of Walden Two.

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To support this point further, we go beyond the book. Health, wealth, and wisdom were not values unique to Skinner, but are a central concern of the utopian literature, along with harmony, equality, and stewardship.

Indeed, they are found throughout the history of utopian writings, state constitutions, and religious documents, as well as in contemporary intentional communities e.

What Skinner offered in Walden Two were conjectures about community practices that might be instrumental in attaining health, wealth, and wisdom. Although a detailed description of them might enlighten us about how Skinner thought a utopia could be achieved in his own time, a more compelling assessment of his contributions to solving problems of individual, social, and cultural importance may be found in the literature in applied behavior analysis see Cooper et al.

We organize these contributions under the three themes, broadly construed, first as Skinner described them in Walden Two and then as practices in applied behavior analysis that Walden Two foretold. Health Although health generally connotes only personal and medical practices for attaining and maintaining physical well-being, for Skinner , it arguably encompassed a broader set of practices that included mental, community, and environmental health.

Physical Health Walden Two Skinner described a number of practices in Walden Two for keeping individuals and the community free from diseases and for promoting their physical well-being.

These included minimizing crowds and isolating infants, as needed, to reduce the spread of infection; exposure to the outdoors to maintain the immune system; and insuring daily physical exercise and nutritious meals to ensure general health maintenance. Applied behavior analysis Contemporary practices in applied behavior analysis likewise address disease prevention and health promotion, as they should: Most chronic health problems are due to unhealthful behavior extended in time i.

These behaviors routinely bring us into contact with or fail to prevent contact with the causes of acute illnesses and diseases e. Since then, this and related work have evolved into the field of behavioral medicine and broadened their scope to include the prevention of heart disease and cancer e.

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Treatment strategies to reduce cancer risk include, for example, enhancing healthful behavior through public posting of goals, modeling, skill training, feedback, and incentives e. Biofeedback is another means for treating health problems, among them chronic headaches, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes e.

In biofeedback, patients are taught to control their physiological states e. For example, by providing feedback on muscle tension and hand temperature, patients with uncontrolled insulin-dependent diabetes can be taught to relax as a means to stabilize their blood glucose levels e. Behavioral medicine has also become multidisciplinary, branching out to encompass still more varied populations and problems. Behavioral pediatrics, for example, designs methods for improving the health and well-being of children e.

Behavioral pharmacology researches methods for preventing and treating addictions e. Behavioral gerontology is exploring ways to improve the health and well-being of elders e.

And, behavioral safety works to improve personal and workplace safety see www. In each of these areas, a variety of strategies is used to improve outcomes. These typically involve redesigning environmental conditions so that behavioral antecedents and consequences can gradually shape desired outcomes.

B. F. SKINNER'S OTHER POSITIVISTIC BOOK WALDEN ronaldweinland.info | Positivism | Reinforcement

Among the more notable successes have been the use of prompts, skill training, and reinforcement. Similarly, habit reversal, which includes relaxation training, awareness training, competing-response training, and parental social support, has been used to reduce vocal and motor tics, hair pulling, and other problem behaviors in children e.

Other reinforcement strategies are used to promote compliance with pediatric medical procedures e. Mental Health Walden Two Mental health was fostered in Walden Two by providing meaningful work that used its members' individual strengths; ensuring sufficient leisure time to pursue valued hobbies and interests; staggering work schedules to reduce stress; and providing sufficient opportunities for both group activities and privacy.

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Applied behavior analysis Some of the earliest work in applied behavior analysis focused on mental health issues, for example, reducing aberrant behaviors of persons with severe and persistent mental illness e. The conduct of one-on-one clinical therapy in this mode is now typically referred to as clinical behavior analysis, both in working with persons with chronic mental illness and in improving the mental health of verbally competent adults who seek assistance in outpatient settings e.

Behavior therapy is known for a number of widely used, empirically supported procedures that help people lead more successful lives. Systematic desensitization, for instance, has been used for decades to help people with phobias and other anxiety disorders Wolpe, ; see also Emmelkamp, For example, pairing relaxation and reinforcement with guided covert imagery and the eventual presentation of a feared stimulus can eliminate severe childhood phobias e.

Among the other procedures are a assertiveness training to help people gain confident and self-assured behavior e. Community Health Walden Two Defined in terms of harmony and cooperation, community health was promoted in Walden Two by such practices as distributing the community's resources equally; removing honorific titles; requiring that everyone participate in unskilled labor; rearing children communally; eating and working together; and compensating all forms of work, including work that was unpaid e.

The field of behavioral community psychology today focuses on the prevention and alleviation of problems at the community level by involving community members in the selection of goals and in the design, implementation, and evaluation of treatment strategies see the special issue on behavioral community intervention in JABA, pp. Within social groups, applied behavior analysis has been used to promote harmonious relations in living arrangements by establishing work-sharing systems in which residents earn points exchangeable for a reduction in rent for completing housework e.

Similarly, researchers have worked to increase cooperative interactions among students in educational settings by using procedures such as peer mentoring and team activities in cooperative learning groups e. Environmental Health Walden Two Although not commonly addressed in the s, environmental health was dealt with in Walden Two by practices that are now more routine.

Skinner described practices for promoting sustainable agriculture e. Applied behavior analysis The field of behavioral ecology emerged in the s to address such issues Lloyd, Since then, applied behavior analysts have been involved in efforts to increase energy conservation, recycling, litter control, and carpooling e. Indeed, a year-old boy published a study on increasing recycling J. Keller, , suggesting that not all behavior-analytic methods require sophisticated knowledge of the science.

As with other applied behavior-analytic methods, the field of behavioral ecology typically arranges or rearranges behavioral antecedents and consequences, for instance, placing trash receptacles in central locations, offering cash prizes and public recognition to increase recycling and proper disposal of trash e.

In addressing means for changing environmentally harmful practices, some applied behavior analysts have examined not only individual and corporate practices but also cultural practices that may have catastrophic consequences, for instance, those associated with Western patterns of consumption Biglan, Among these practices are lifestyle patterns that lead to excessive energy consumption.

One means of addressing this is to create networks of social contingencies that richly reinforce discussing the problem and its possible solutions. People may be more approving of practices such as increased gasoline taxes if they discuss the merits of those practices with friends and neighbors at the grassroots level, thereby creating a supportive social environment.

Skinner was concerned with practices that ensured freedom from poverty across the community and the equal distribution of resources within it. Every member, for example, was required to contribute work of the community, thereby creating a labor pool sufficient to meet the community's needs. Resources were also used judiciously to assure adequate community capital, goods, and services from cradle to grave for current and future generations.

Finally, wealth was distributed equitably; no member benefited at the expense of another. Applied Behavior Analysis Some of the earliest work in applied behavior analysis focused on issues of social justice regarding wealth and continues today in work to empower persons who are disenfranchised.

Indeed, a special interest group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International —a group known now as Behaviorists for Social Responsibility—has addressed such issues as they relate to political philosophy, policy, and ethics, most formally in the journal, Behavior and Social Issues. Applied behavior analysts have also addressed these issues empirically.

They have, for instance, improved the lives of welfare recipients by promoting attendance at self-help meetings through the use of practical forms of reinforcement such as donated clothing and household goods e.

Others have helped groups of low-income adults, assisting them in their problem-solving and decision-making strategies e. They have worked with children in Head Start programs, teaching preacademic skills to insure their success in public schools e.

Other research has validated the effectiveness of job-finding clubs to help unemployed people, particularly those in disenfranchised populations, find jobs through the use of buddy systems, role-playing, and family support e. Even when low-income jobs are obtained, they often present hazards that applied behavior analysts have sought to redress by using, for instance, systematic instructions, feedback, and consequences to increase, for instance, the proper packaging of trash by city residents, thereby improving the job conditions of garbage collectors e.

Returning to health-related themes, research has demonstrated how to use prompts, incentives, and problem-solving procedures to increase low-income families' use of dental services e. Many applied behavior analysts have also worked to prevent such important social ills as sexual abuse, abduction, and child abuse and neglect through procedures that include behavioral skills training and feedback e.

More recently, behavioral approaches to parent training have been used to prevent abuse and promote the well-being of foster children e. In addition to their work with children in Head Start, applied behavior analysts have also addressed social justice through educational interventions designed to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students in inner-city schools which, in turn, improves their ability to compete in the job market e.

Perhaps the best known evaluation of these interventions was in the Follow Through programs to help disadvantaged children maintain their gains in Head Start. A nationwide evaluation demonstrated the superiority of behavioral programs; however, they were never broadly adopted see Watkins, , The culture prefers cognitivist and humanistic educational practices over humane and effective ones, even though they may hinder income equity in the long run.

In summary, although behavior analysis has not been extensively applied to issues directly related to wealth and poverty, its applications in health and wisdom have a significant financial impact. They lower health costs and its insurance and decrease the financial burden of remedial and special education. In addition, they increase workforce productivity and income, and thereby the quality of life, both for individuals and society.

Wisdom Walden Two Walden Two is fundamentally about wisdom—wisdom that is the process and product of science, that is, knowledge. The community engages in educational practices that ensure freedom from ignorance. Free and equal education is available to every member, not only in the basic academic skills necessary for community survival but also in personal skills needed for individual and community harmony e.

The community, however, engages in practices more far-reaching than educating its individual members. It is ultimately concerned with searching for and discovering knowledge that benefits the community as a whole.