The perfect deep-cover agent…is the one who doesn’t know he or she is an agent. — Telefon (1975)
Repetition of stimuli combined with rewards and punishments is the backbone of the behavioral sciences. Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, for instance, demonstrated how dogs could be made to salivate to given a stimulus. “In 1906 Pavlov cut holes in dogs’ cheeks and inserted tubes to measure salivation,” wrote The Encyclopedia Americana in 1963 as reported by Jim Keith in Mind Control, World Control. “A bell was rung just before food was given to the dogs, and after a period of time it was observed that the ringing of the bell alone would increase the rate of the dogs’
The bell in Pavlov’s experiment starts out as a neutral stimulus (NS) (a stimulus that does not evoke a response). In time, the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS), that is, a stimulus to which the dog has learned to respond. The meat powder is an unconditioned stimulus (US) (because the dog does not have to learn to respond to it). Unconditioned stimuli typically produce reflex responses. Since a reflex is “built in,” it is called an unconditioned (nonlearned) response (UR). In Pavlov’s study, salivation is the UR. Whe the bell alone causes salivation, the response can no longer be called a simple reflex. Instead, it is a conditioned (learned) response
|US –> UR||meat powder –> salivation|
|NS –> no effect||bell –> no effect|
|CS –> CR||bell –> salivation|
In the course of his epoch-making experiments on the conditioned reflex, Ivan Pavlov observed that, when subjected to prolonged physical or psychic stress, laboratory animals exhibit all the symptoms of a nervous breakdown. Refusing to cope any longer with the intolerable situation, their brains go on strike, so to speak, and either stop working altogether (the dogs loses consciousness), or else resort to slowdowns and sabotage (the dog behaves unrealistically, or develops the kind of physical symptoms which, in a human being, we would call hysterical). Some animals are more resistant to stress than others. Dogs possessing what Pavlov called a “strong excitatory” constitution break down much more quickly than dogs of a merely “lively” (as opposed to a choleric or agitated) temperament. Similarly “weak inhibitory” dogs reach the end of their tether much sooner than do “calm imperturbable” dogs. But even the most stoic dog is unable to resist indefinitely. If the stress to which he is subjected is sufficiently intense or sufficiently prolonged, he will end by breaking down as abjectly and as completely as the weakest of his
For the dictator and his policemen, Pavlov’s findings have important practical implications. If the central nervous system of dogs can be broken down, so can the central nervous system of political prisoners. It is simply a matter of applying the right amount of stress for the right length of time. At the end of the treatment, the prisoner will be in a state of neurosis or hysteria, and will be ready to confess whatever his captors want him to confess.
But confession is not enough. A hopeless neurotic is no use to anyone. What the intelligent and practical dictator needs is not a patient to be institutionalized, or a victim to be shot, but a convert who will work for the Cause. Turning once again to Pavlov, he learns that, on their way to the point of final breakdown, dogs become more than normally suggestible. New behavior patterns can easily be instilled while the dog is at or near the limit of its cerebral endurance, and these new behavior patterns seem to be ineradicable. The animal in which they have been implanted cannot be deconditioned; that which it has learned under stress will remain an integral part of its make-up.
Psychological stresses can be produced in many ways. Dogs become disturbed when stimuli are unusually strong; when the interval between a stimulus and the customary response is unduly prolonged and the animal is left in a state of suspense; when the brain is confused by stimuli that run counter to what the dog has learned to expect; when stimuli make no sense within the victim’s established frame of reference. Furthermore, it has been found that the deliberate induction of fear, rage or anxiety markedly heightens the dog’s suggestibility. If these emotions are kept at a high pitch of intensity for a long enough time, the brain goes “on strike.” When this happens, new behavior patterns may be installed with the greatest of
Fatigue increases suggestibility. (This is why, among other reasons, the commercial sponsors of television programs prefer the evening hours and are ready to back their preference with hard
“Shortly after Pavlov was driving dogs crazy in Russia,[John Broadus (J.B.) Watson (1878-1958)] at Johns Hopkins University… was doing the same thing to humans,” Jim Keith continues.4, i The Father of Behaviorism, writes Raymond E. Fancher in Pioneers of Psychology, Watson “believed the main significance of [his] studies lay not in the bare fact that people and dogs could both be conditioned to salivate to or withdraw their toes from inherently neutral stimuli, but in their implications for further and broader conditioning experiments.… In particular, he suggested… that human emotions might profitably be thought of as glandular and muscular reflexes which, like salivation, easily become
“Early in his writing, Watson described emotions as instinctive, universal, natural reactions. Whereas he ultimately rejected the notion of instinct as superfluous,” writes the Encyclopedia.com website. “He assumed that fear, rage, and love were primary emotional responses and undertook to investigate their modifiability in
As Sue, Sue, and Sue expound in Understanding Abnormal Behavior, “in a classic and oft-cited experiment, Watson [John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner, "Conditioned Emotional Reactions, 1920, Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3(1), 1-14], using classical conditioning principles, attempted to condition a fear response in a young child named Albert. [Mary Cover Jones] (1924) reported:
[Little] Albert, eleven months of age, was an infant with phlegmatic disposition, afraid of nothing “under the sun” except a loud sound made by striking a steel bar. This made him cry. By striking the bar at the same time that Albert touched a white rat, the fear transferred to the white rat. After seven combined stimulations, rat and sound, Albert not only became greatly disturbed at the sight of a rat, but this fear had spread to include a white rabbit, cotton, wool, a fur coat, [a dog, a Santa Claus mask (Robert I. Watson, Sr., and Rand B. Evans, The Great Psychologists: A History of Psychological Thought, Fifth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publ., Inc., 1991), p. 483.),] and the experimenter’s hair. It did not transfer to his wooden blocks and other objects very dissimilar to the rat [Mary Cover Jones, "A Laboratory Study of Fear: The Case of Peter," Pedagogical Seminary, 1924, 31, pp.
Reports Ben Harris in “Whatever Happened to Little Albert?”:
Unfortunately, most accounts of Watson and Rayner’s research with Albert feature as much fabrication and distortion as they do fact.… For example, not one text mentions that Watson knew when Albert would leave his control – a detail that might make Watson and Rayner’s failure to recondition Albert seem callous to some modern readers.
However, there are other reasons for such errors besides textbooks’ tendencies to tell ethically pleasing stories that are consistent with students’ common sense. One major source of confusion about the Albert story is Watson himself, who altered and deleted important aspects of the study in his many descriptions of it. For example, in the Scientific Monthly description of the study (Watson, J. B., & Watson, R. R. Studies in infant psychology. Scientific Monthly, 1921, 13, 493515), there is no mention of the conditioning of Albert to the dog, the rabbit, and the rat;… thus Albert’s subsequent responses to these stimuli can be mistaken for a strong generalization effect (for which there is little
In the heat of the nature-nurture controversy Watson expounded the battle cry of the radical, militant behaviorist movement [E. Mavis Hetherington and Ross D. Parke, Child Psychology: A Contemporary Viewpoint, Fourth Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993), p. 80; Spencer A. Rathus, Psychology, Third Edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1987), p. 430; "Watson, John Broadus," in James P. Chaplin, Dictionary of Psychology, Revised Edition (New York: Laurel, Dell Publ. Co., Inc., 1982, 1968), p. 568]:
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed and my own specific world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – a doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even into a beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors [JB Watson, "What the nursery has to say about instincts," in Carl Murchison, ed., Psychologies of 1925 (Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1926),
Watson and neurologist Karl Lashley “set out in 1915 to condition humans with a bell (CS) a small electric shock to the foot, (US) and a toe-flexing response,” according to lecture notes on John B. Watson at Sonoma State University in California. “The bell and shock occurred simultaneously. The reflex was not fully reliable but some were conditioned. A subject trained in may and retested in October required only one reminding shock for the reflex to reappear. They carried out a number of experiments, and Watson believed that emotions as well as saliva flows and toe movements could be
Electroshock experiments have also led to electroconvulsive therapy being practiced today to treat symptoms such as severe depression. (The 2004 remake of the 1962 classic film The Manchurian Candidate depicts the protagonist undergoing the controversial procedure in order to forget his flashbacks of having been brainwashed.) “The changes one sees when electroshock is administered are completely consistent with any acute brain injury, such as a blow to the head from a hammer,” stated psychiatrist Dr. Lee Coleman in 1977 “In essence, what happens is that the individual is dazed, confused, and disoriented, and therefore cannot remember or appreciate current
|Ping Pong playing pigeons|
Author, inventor, and renowned psychologist [Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner (1904-1990)] demonstrated how rewards and punishments can be used to “shape” behavior. Shaping involves conditioning the subject in gradual steps toward the desired complex behavior. “Too many people think of me as the person who taught pigeons to play Ping-Pong.,” said Skinner. “It turns up in the damnedest places! I did that for a classroom demonstration to prove what you could do with these techniques, to show people the product of shaping behavior. I didn’t do it to teach the pigeons to play Ping-Pong. That’s not the science!” Then he added, with comic timing, “Although the pigeons did get pretty good at it…angle shots and so
|Pigeon guided bomb|
“During World War II, Skinner conducted a series of experiments in which he trained sets of pigeons to navigate bombs dropped from aircraft so they would hit their targets accurately,” writes Harvey Mindess in Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor. “The pigeons were to be harnessed inside the nose cones of the
As of Yet notes on their Muppet and Other Insanties page on Project Pigeon that, “Skinner’s control system used a lens in the nose of the bomb to throw an image of the approaching target on a ground-glass screen.… If the target’s image moved off center, the pigeon’s pecking tilted the screen, which moved the bomb’s tail surfaces, which corrected the bomb’s course. To improve accuracy, Skinner used three pigeons to control the bomb’s direction by majority rule” [Charles Eames and Ray Eames, A Computer Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973),
“Some responses are easier to learn than others,” writes Dennis Coon in Introduction to Psychology:
For example, two noted psychologists, Keller and Marion Breland, went into business training animals for television shows, zoo displays, and amusement parks. Along with their successes came some revealing failures. In one instance, the Brelands tried to condition a raccoon to put coins in a piggy-bank for an advertisement. Instead, the raccoon repeatedly rubbed the coins together in a miserly-looking fashion (Breland, K., & Breland, M. (1961). The misbehavior of organisms. American Psychologist, 16, 681-684). No amount of reinforcement would change this behavior. The Brelands ran into similar snags with other animals. In each case, an innate behavior pattern hindered learning. They called this problem instinctive drift: Learned responses tend to “drift” toward innate ones.… In view of such observations, it is wise to remember that the laws of learning operate within a framework of biological limits and possibilities (Adams, J. A. (1980). Learning and memory. Homewood, Illinois: Dorsey
Harvey Mindess, in Makers of Psychology, claims “Skinner’s first public declamation of the world-saving power of behaviorism is contained in his Utopian novel, Walden Two (1948). A fuller exposition of his views on the future of the human race is put forth in Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971)”:
A Utopian novel set in contemporary America,…the people at Walden Two have been conditioned to be of service to the community and to carry out their appointed duties without complaint and without question. The resultant peacefulness and efficiency of the place becomes captivation to some of the visitors, but it disturbs
others,…who continually raise the issue of human beings being deprived of their freedom of choice.…
The title [Beyond Freedom and Dignity] must be taken literally. Skinner lets us know from the outset that he considers the value placed on our so-called freedom to shape our own lives, as well as the vaunted ideal of the dignity of the individual, to be outmoded notions whose time has past.… He attacks them by insisting that a “technology of behavior” based on the principles of operant conditioning could produce a world as free from crime, unhappiness, and inefficiency as from our unfortunate overestimation of the worth of the individual and our common delusion that there actually is such a thing as freedom of the
i In the course of his epoch-making experiments on the conditioned reflex, Ivan Pavlov observed that, when subjected to prolonged physical or psychic stress, laboratory animals exhibit all the symptoms of a nervous breakdown. Refusing to cope any longer with the intolerable situation, their brains go on strike, so to speak, and either stop working altogether (the dog loses consciousness), or else resort to slowdowns and sabotage (the dog behaves unrealistically, or develops the kind of physical symptoms which, in a human being, we would call hysterical). Some animals are more resistant to stress than others. Dogs possessing what Pavlov called a “strong excitatory” constitution break down much more quickly than dogs of a merely “lively” (as opposed to a choleric or agitated) temperament. Similarly “weak inhibitory” dogs reach the end of their tether much sooner than do “calm imperturbable” dogs. But even the most stoical dog is unable to resist indefinitely. If the stress to which he is subjected is sufficiently intense or sufficiently prolonged, he will end by breaking down as abjectly and as completely as the weakest of his kind.
Pavlov’s findings were confirmed in the most distressing manner, and on a very large scale, during the two World Wars. As the result of a single catastrophic experience, or of a succession of terrors less appalling but frequently repeated, soldiers develop a number of disabling psychophysical symptoms. Temporary unconsciousness, extreme agitation, lethargy, functional blindness or paralysis, completely unrealistic responses to the challenge of events, strange reversals of lifelong patterns of behavior – all the symptoms, which Pavlov observed in his dogs, reappeared among the victims of what in the First World War was called “shell shock,” in the Second, “battle fatigue.” Every man, like every dog, has his own individual limit of endurance. Most men reach their limit after about thirty days of more or less continuous stress under the conditions of modern combat. The more than averagely susceptible succumb in only fifteen days. The more than averagely tough can resist for forty-five or even fifty days. Strong or weak, in the long run all of them break down. All, that is to say, of those who are initially sane. For, ironically enough, the only people who can hold up indefinitely under the stress of modern war are psychotics. Individual insanity is immune to the consequences of collective insanity.
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1958), pp. 58-59.
ii It must have been wonderful to be a psychologist in the first half of the 20th century. It seems you could do anything to people, from traumatizing a baby who was petting a cute little animal to making people believe that they’d killed someone.
– Esther Inglis-Arkell, “The psychology experiment that involved real beheadings,” 6 June 2013, at http://io9.com/the-psychology-experiment-that-involved-real-beheadings-511592436 (retrieved: 6 June 2013).
1 “Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849-1936),” The Encyclopedia Americana (New York: Americana Corportation, 1963), in Jim Keith, Mind Control, World Control (Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 1997), p. 30.
2 Dennis Coon, Introduction to Psychology: Exploration and Application, Fifth Edition (St. Paul, Minneapolis: West Publ. Co., 1989, 1977), p. 179.
3 Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1958), pp. 58-59, 60-61, 62.
3 Keith, Mind Control, pp. 30-31.
4 Raymond E. Fancher, Pioneers of Psychology, Second Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1990, 1979), p. 294.
5 “John Broadus Watson,” Encylopedia.com, at http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/John_Broadus_Watson.aspx (retrieved: 4 January 2011).
6 David Sue, Derald Sue, and Stanley Sue, Understanding Abnormal Behavior, Fourth Edition (Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994), p. 72.
7 Ben Harris, “Whatever Happened to Little Albert?”, Vassar College, at http://htpprints.yorku.ca/archive/00000198/01/BHARRIS.HTM (retrieved: 4 January 2011).
8 E. Mavis Hetherington and Ross D. Parke, Child Psychology: A Contemporary View Point, Fourth Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993), p. 80; See also Dennis Coon, Introduction to Psychology: Exploration and Application, Fifth Edition (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1989, 1977), p. 9; Spencer A. Rathus, Psychology, Third Edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1987), p. 430; and Robert I. Watson, Sr., and Rand B. Evans, The Great Psychologists: A History of Psychological Thought, Fifth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publ., Inc., 1991), p. 479.
9 Lecture Notes on John B. Watson, Sonoma State Univeristy, http://www.sonoma.edu/users/d/daniels/watson.html (retrieved: 5 January 2011).
10 Revealing Quotes on the Goals of Psychiatry and Psychology, www.PsychQuotes.com, http://www.psychquotes.com/ (retrieved: 5 January 2011).
11 B.F. Skinner, interview with Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels, 1990, at http://www.aubreydaniels.com/ScienceBehind.asp (retrieved: circa 2008).
12 Harvey Mindess, Makers of Psychology: The Personal Factor (New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1988), p. 96.
13 Greg Goebel, See “Project Pigeon,” at http://www.vectorsite.net/avbomb3.html#m5 (retrieved: 5 January 2011).
14 “Project Pigeon,” at http://www.asofyet.org/muppet/other/insanities/project_pigeon.html (retrieved: 2 January 2011).
15 Robert I. Watson, Sr. and Rand B. Evans, The Great Psychologists: A History of Psychological Thought, Fifth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publ., Inc., 1991), p. 491.
16 Dennis Coon, Introduction to Psychology: Exploration and Application (St. Paul, MN: West Publ. Co., 1977, 1980), p. 186.
17 Mindess, Makers of Psychology, pp. 94, 99, 100, 102.
Kevin J. Crosby, “Behavioral Conditioning,” SkewsMe.com, at http://www.skewsme.com/behavior.html (retrieved: 9 June 2008).
Ivan P. Pavlov, “Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex,” 1927, translated by G.V. Anrep, 1927, at http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Pavlov/lecture18.htm (retrieved: 14 July 2013).
Kevin J. Crosby, “J.B. Watson,” SkewsMe.com, at http://www.skewsme.com/watson.html (retrieved: 9 June 2008).
Kevin J. Crosby, “B.F. Skinner,” SkewsMe.com, at http://www.skewsme.com/skinner.html (retrieved: 9 June 2008).
“RARE Pentron “Dormiphone” playing its tape cartridge.,” A weirdo with electronics and pencils. video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-1Mb9OE-Dk (retrieved: 1 February 2013). (
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