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Operant Conditioning in Brave New World

The operant conditioning of B.F. Skinner identifies processes which take place in life to determine human behavior and attitudes, but these theories have also been cited as ways of controlling the development of attitudes and behaviors. The world envisioned by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World is one where science has learned how to achieve that sort of control and to shape human emotions in certain ways. A consideration of Skinner's approach leads to an understanding of what Huxley perceived as possible in Brave New World.

B.F. Skinner is a name associated with behaviorism, a term referring to a form of conditioning theory such as was developed by Pavlov, Watson, and then Skinner. In considering how human actions and attitudes are formed, behaviorists emphasize the processes by which behavior is formed from the external environment. The classical conditioning paradigm was set forth by Pavlov, who noted that the introduction of a stimulus conditioned certain behavior. Pavlov's approach to conditioning was restricted to a certain range of innate responses. Watson thought we should study only overt behavior and was especially interested in the conditioning of emotions. He saw only three emotions as innate--fear, rage, and love. Watson offered an analysis of conditioning and a means of deconditioning certain behaviors, notably fear. Watson helped make classical conditioning a cornerstone of psychological theory. Skinner offered operant conditioning, a model of behavior based on observation. He was concerned with how environments control behavior and thought that operant behavior rather than respondent behavior played a greater role in life. Operant conditioning became a means of behavior modification. Skinner's approach has been highly controversial, with supporters and critics arguing over the meaning of his behaviorist approach and its consequences, especially for the idea of free will.

Skinner (1969) states that the ...

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Operant Conditioning in Brave New World. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:37, August 12, 2020, from