I'm not from a Skinner box

Voice Card  -  Volume 14  -  Larry Card Number 9  -  Wed, May 23, 1990 9:30 PM

This is a response to Vol 13 Larry 2 ("Placeholder")...

No, I wouldn't call myself a behaviorialist, even though my earlier training in psychology was in that philosophy. The psych department at the University of Illinois, in the 70's, had a relatively strong flavor of behaviorialism because of the presence of Sidney Bijou, a close friend and colleague of BF.

Bijou was quite (and probably still is) an interesting (and creative) guy. He has a doctorate in physics, as well as psychology, and is a master hypnotist.

He, as I'm sure Skinner did, fully understood that behaviorialism was quite lacking in many repects, especially when dealing with the celebrated black box. However, behaviorialists (for the most part) never claimed that study of the black box was important. Their purpose was to develop a theory of the origins of human behavior (and specifically observable behavior). Since the workings of the black box weren't (and still aren't) observable, they were never incorporated into a theory. But that wasn't necessary.

For most social scientists, the primary purpose of advancing a theory is not to provide the definite answer to a problem. Instead, the purpose is to stimulate further discussion and insight into the issue. Any social scientist worth his or her salt knows that any theory in social science can be debunked and disproved from any number of different angles. However, they still insist upon developing these theories and providing data to support them. And the primary purpose is to encourage criticism and review and derision.

Those who develop these theories are artists themselves - creative in their field. Great works of art inspire emotional reactions - and not all of these are positive reactions. Social science theories are no less works of art.

Skinner is an artist. We may not agree with his interpretations, but he has accomplished what he set out to do. He has provoked debate, and further thought, and approval, and criticism - sometimes very vociferous and passionate criticism - see John's "Skinning Skinner" card. Skinner would have been delighted to see that his work inspired the feelings and thoughts that John set forth in his card.

Anyway, getting back to creativity, I really like John's view that a creative person is one who is able to see many different perspectives. I think creativity is not only being able to hold different perspectives on a given situation but also to believe in and understand and feel those perspectives (and they don't all have to deal with suffering). However, I 'm not sure where all of this develops. Are people born creative? Do people become creative because of their unique interactions with their environment? Or is it some combination of the two? Probably a combination, don't you think?