Walden Two | Study Guide

B. F. Skinner

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Walden Two | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

As the group sits outside under a tree, Frazier shares the conditioning methods behind behavioral engineering. He claims Walden Two was the first instance of an experimental study to see how society shapes an individual. He mentions a colleague named Simmons who worked with him to find a method for "shaping human behavior." He discusses how Christianity subverted suffering by directing people to love their enemies and devalue possessions.

Frazier goes on to detail an experiment in which hungry children are distracted from access to a meal and how this strengthens their tolerance for setbacks or unexpected situations. In the end Frazier states the community dismisses any "claims of revealed truth," thereby also discounting the value of faith.

Analysis

After studying Plato, Aristotle, the New Testament, and other works of philosophy and wisdom for ways to teach behavioral control techniques, Frazier and his colleague Simmons realized there was no educational or religious method that would work. The community they were going to develop would be unique in it would be based on scientific methods. They chose the path of clinical psychology to develop "a tolerance for annoying experiences." This is in keeping with Skinner's theory of operant behavior.

Frazier says no "unpleasantness" is incorporated in the training to preclude an unwanted behavior. His claim there is no punishment in Walden Two is also in line with Skinner's behavioral techniques. Skinner's "negative reinforcement" is not disciplinary; it is simply the absence of a favorable result. This is Skinner's achievement in behavioral psychology. He focused on rewards rather than stimuli to alter behavioral patterns. Of course, this was achieved only in his work with animals.

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