1935 - ON POTENTIALOne thing I HAVE learned is that one of the reasons why, after learning psychology for 10 years, teaching psychology for 5 years, and writing that textbook, I did not know anything more about people than a lay-person is that the psychology I learned, taught and wrote about was based on a inadequate and inaccurate concept of the person. This behaviouristic concept of the person could be considered as a system of five propositions:
Behaviourism as Thesis
The person has only extrinsic needsCourses on motivation focus on the first proposition - the person has only extrinsic needs; courses on learning focus on the second proposition - the person is conditioned from the outside in. There are no courses focussing on the third, fourth, and fifth propositions because those logically follow from the first two and embarrassingly expose their inadequacy and inaccuracy.
The first proposition considers the nervous system simply as a mediator between the internal environment (the other systems within the body) and the external environment. It mediates between needs (hunger, thirst) in the internal environment and satisfiers of those needs (food, water) in the external environment. It mediates between threats in the external environment and emotions to deal with those threats - rage to fight and fear to flee. Thus the nervous system contributes to our survival by providing us the means of approaching things which are good for us (e.g. things we eat) and by avoiding things that are bad for us (e. g. things that eat us). Since the nervous system has no needs of its own, the implication is that we would be content as long as those biological needs were satisfied. We are hedonists concerned only with the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.
If the person has only extrinsic needs, then the person is conditioned from the outside in. There are two types of conditioning - classical conditioning, as described by the pioneer, Ivan Pavlov, and elaborated by J. B. Watson, and instrumental conditioning, as described by the pioneer, Edward L. Thorndike, and elaborated by B. F. Skinner. In classical conditioning, a stimulus, previously neutral, can come to elicit a response by being paired with a stimulus that already elicits that response. In instrumental conditioning, a stimulus, previously neutral, can come to elicit a response, if that response is instrumental in gaining access to a stimulus that already elicits that response.
This behaviouristic concept of the person implies that the 150 members of my karass are all empty slates on which experience will write. The concept of us as empty boxes to be filled from the outside in is unflattering but is at least democratic. We are all equally empty. Our motivation must be explained in terms of the basic needs and emotions required for survival. Everything reduces ultimately to the famous four Fs - feeding, fornicating, fighting and fleeing. In a famous behavioristic experiment, chimps were taught to work for chips which could be traded in for bananas. This chimpomat study was viewed as a demonstration of how capitalism was a matter of secondary motivation (acquiring money) linked to primary motivation (eating).
This could partly explain the motivation of the various cohorts I've listed as businessmen - Jack Welch, Luciano Benetton, Adnan Khashoggi, Werner Erhard, and Robert Vesco. But it does not explain why they aspired to much more money than was required for mere survival, nor does it touch on their different values about what was legitimate in acquiring this excess wealth and the vastly different ways they spent their money. Some of the religious leaders worked hard like the chimps for chips (Jimmy Lee Swaggart, Reverend Ike) but it does not come even close to explaining the movitation of the others (Dalai Lama, Jayendra Saraswathi, George Carey). Scholars are notoriously poorly paid, yet my scholars - Jay Ruby, Jerry Fodor, Marcello Truzzi, Edward Said - are immersed in their domain of interest, with money being merely a means of looking after the mundane maintenance matters so that they can stay immersed. Activists are not paid at all yet Eldridge Cleaver and Susan Brownmiller continued their activism, moved by some motivation outside this behaviouristic model of the person.
The motivation of the behaviourists (which also could not be explained by their theory) is clearer now. We wanted to be scientists and followed in the footsteps of the most respected scientists - the physicists. Thus we viewed the person as a mechanism, which will remain at rest unless acted on by an external force. To the behaviourist then, all the members of my karass are passive mechanisms waiting to be moved by our various environments. In later chapters, we will see how important factors in determining the lives we are leading are not considered in traditional psychology. Choice (see 1984 ON CHOICE) is not considered because science requires prediction and we could not predict behaviour of our subjects if they did what they damn well please; death (see 2005 ON MORTALITY) is not considered since it comes after life and, in science, the cause must come before the effect.