Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On shaping, chins and otherwise

On the topic of body parts conforming to the shape of their container, it would be negligent of me to fail to mention Bonsai Kitten Yes, it's a few years old. No, I don't care.

The shaping of body parts brings to mind behavioral shaping. I was hoping to write about how B. F. Skinner raised one of his daughters in a human-sized Skinner box, scarring her for life. Unfortunately, according to the infallible wikipedia, I would be perpetuating a lie. This story is apparently some creative reimagining of the air crib, which Skinner did design: It looks a bit like a fume hood with a mobile, but hardly seems like a menace to society. Not that you'd be able to convince the Church of Scientology of that. During my three years in LA, I completely missed their museum, Psychiatry: An Industry of Death. I'm sure I'll be back sometime in the next few years, if only to defend my thesis; a visit sounds like the perfect celebration. Skinner can't entirely escape my censure, though. His Utopian vision in Walden Two was naive and PAINFULLY BORING. I suppose this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, seeing how he gave birth to a school of scientific investigation which attempts to explain animal (and human) behavior while ignoring internal thoughts. (Note: I'm sure if I read wikipedia more carefully before posting this, I'd find that a number of people preceded Skinner in espousing behaviorism. However, wikipedia has already robbed me of too many amusing anecdotes for one day through its insistence on actual truth rather than the truth I create in my head. So screw it.) He did better than Freud, though, who was convinced that the brain is in fact a series of tubes (Ted Stevens, eat your heart out). (Once again, this is probably a lie. I actually read Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology a few years ago, in which he describes his bizarre pneumatically-inspired ideas in put-out-your-eyes-with-a-golden-brooch-pin detail, but I didn't ship that tripe across the ocean when I moved.)

Ummm... So that rant didn't really go much of anywhere, but I think I'm all ranted out for the evening. As a consolation prize, you can find another air crib picture here

1 comment:

WorkMX said...

B.F. Skinner did not raise his daughter Debbie in a operant conditioning box. That is an urban myth:

http://www.snopes.com/science/skinner.asp

http://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://www.skeptically.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/.pond/deborah-skinner-crib.jpg.w560h577.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.skeptically.org/skinner/id6.html&usg=__QsFaLmsWTD1wkR8WYrycJkVL8yk=&h=577&w=560&sz=53&hl=en&start=54&sig2=ljRQLQ2NVB6Gu-wOAs3g5Q&zoom=1&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=KVtPpgz8mEvzSM:&tbnh=134&tbnw=130&prev=/images%3Fq%3DSkinner%2Bbox%26start%3D42%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:*%26ndsp%3D21%26tbs%3Disch:1&ei=Al9UTZqVOpCSuwOsuM35BA