The Human Organism

Our discussion of Skhnierian theory to this pohit has dealt primarily with the technology of behavior, a technology based exclusively on the study of animals. But do the principles of behavior gleaned from rats and pigeons apply to the human organism? Skinner's (1974, 1987a) view was that an understanding of the behavior of laboratory animals can generalize to human behavior, just as physics can be used to interpret what is observed hi outer space and just as an understanding of basic genetics can help hi interpreting complex evolutionary concepts.

Skinner (1953, 1990a) agreed with John Watson (1913) that psychology must be confined to a scientific study of observable phenomena, namely behavior. Science must beghi with the shnple and move to the more complex. This sequence might proceed from the behavior of animals to that of psychotics, to that of mentally challenged children, then to that of other children, and finally to the complex behavior of adults. Skinner (1974, 1987a), therefore, made no apology for beginning with the study of animals.

Accordhig to Skinner (1987a), human behavior (and human personality) is shaped by tlnee forces: (1) natural selection, (2) cultural practices, and (3) the individual's history of reinforcement, which we have just discussed. Ultimately, however,

"it is all a matter of natural selection, since operant conditioning is an evolved process, of which cultural practices are special applications" (p. 55).

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Breaking Bulimia

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