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Not Liking Uncertainty
> Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Another Mnemonic Technique
How Associations Wear Out
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
You Can't Go Home Again
Excerpt from Walden TwoThe following excerpt from Walden Two is a perfect example of how the meme Don't Fight Your Mind can be applied to a particular fact about the mind, the principle Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
“We found a few suggestions worth following in the practices of the clinical psychologist. We undertook to build a tolerance for annoying experiences. The sunshine of midday is extremely painful if you come from a dark room, but take it in easy stages and you can avoid pain altogether. The analogy can be misleading, but in much the same way it's possible to build a tolerance to painful or distasteful stimuli, or to frustration, or to situations which arouse fear, anger, or rage. Society and nature throw these annoyances at the individual with no regard for the development of tolerances. Some achieve tolerances, most fail. Where would the science of immunization be if it followed a schedule of accidental dosages?
It should be clear that the story is didactic, not fictional, and that's how I chose to rate it. Skinner himself describes it as such in the introduction.
… an account of how I thought a group of, say, a thousand people might have solved the problems of their daily lives with the help of behavioral engineering.
Skinner is famous as a behaviorist; I'm not one, myself, but that doesn't stop me from learning from him. (I'd say “from detaching his ideas”, but I don't get the feeling they were strongly attached in the first place.) For reference, here's what my dictionary had to say about behaviorism:
The psychological school holding that objectively observable organismic behavior constitutes the essential or exclusive scientific basis of psychological data and investigation and stressing the role of environment as a determinant of human and animal behavior.
According to this definition, there are two points to behaviorism, the use of objective observation and the environment as a determinant; I think both are valid but overstated. I think there are useful things to be learned from subjective observation, i.e., introspection, but I'm not sure I'd want to try and build a science on top of the results. What gets me about the second point is the word “determinant”, which suggests determinism, and determinism, even though demolished by the randomness in quantum mechanics, still sounds like a lack of free will … and until we really, completely understand consciousness, I'm sticking with the subjectively plausible assumption that I have free will. Stressing the environment as the determinant also bugs me. The exact balance point between nature and nurture can be debated, but I don't think I'd emphasize one over the other. (There are some related thoughts in The Mind.)
The thing I like about Skinner's book, as you can probably tell, is his interest in the practical application of facts about the mind. In my cosmology, this is an aspect of memetic engineering.
Don't Resist Temptation?
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
@ June (2000)