Conditioning

Part 1 of 7 in the series Manchurian Candidates

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’ salivation.” 1

Introduction to Psychology by Dennis Coon explains:

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. When the bell alone causes salivation, the response can no longer be called a simple reflex. Instead, it is a conditioned (learned) response (CR).2

Classical conditioning
Encarta

Before Conditioning Example
US –> UR meat powder –> salivation
NS –> no effect bell –> no effect
After Conditioning
CS –> CR bell –> salivation

Aldous Huxley writes in Brave New World Revisited:

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 kind.…

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 ease.…

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 cash.)3

Continue to page 2 »


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.

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