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Within a single lifetime our physical environment has been changed almost beyond recognition. Yet there's been little corresponding change in how we as individuals relate to the world and experience reality. New tools and techniques of the human potentiality and presenting to us an exhilarating and dangerous frontier renewing in our minds the old question what are the limits of human ability the boundaries of the human experience. What does it mean to be a human being. Seminar Big Sur are a series of discussions focusing attention on the front tiers of human development presented by K x K x FM in San Francisco in cooperation with the Aslan Institute of Big Sur California a Center which studies those trends and religion philosophy and the behavioral sciences which emphasize the potentialities of human existence. This week we present highlights of a discussion from a seminar led by Dr. B.F. Skinner professor of psychology at Harvard University. The general theme of the seminar was programming nonverbal
behavior. This week's discussion entitled human freedom and dignity and education. Here now is Dr. B.F. Skinner as he met in session with his seminar at the Aslan Institute as some of you now are. I have been close with associated for over the years with programs for the movement that have inspired and excellent article by George Larry. A lot of other not excellent has not been very bad programs and market craziness and so on and so on and the public have gotten to dismiss the whole thing as somehow or other relevant to putting across a simple
but to be quite inadequate to broaden to include other NGs very well I've finally got around after the hour and a lot more numbers that are a ride or answer some of those witnesses. And you want to go. I gave the paper Harvard School of Education which is going to appear in a small book usually by the press doing papers by Caradhras Jerry Gruner peer in the night of the match. That and the teaching thinking through program instructor right. Yes thinking is not really good for the program. I'm less than a month ago a New Yorker gave
birth and motivational aspect of the program structure in which I raised the question whether this is human whether it misses out strong personal element. So on. And to take the burden for what you really shouldn't need to do with respect to programming. And whether or not to educate. You know here that a lot of close contact with people I'm all for that. For the tutorial situation in this part of Owens our Bible replaced today with a need to read your mail and then do it today your doubts and so on. We certainly can't solve this problem with the ordinary face to face
teaching and I want to read one danger one lives here with people that you know apply these techniques on a broad scale the individual I like to do that somehow because I want to raise the question as to whether a. Program instructing or how much broader operant conditioning. Can deal with the individuality of the story. Our zine deal with that. Numbers do this quite an it often rare connection where so-called creativity creativity is supposed to be something to assess for everyone. When the usual them are right you are standing people and the question is are there others reprogramming that Erica.
My pleasure satisfied or predictive power I don't like to put it that way. The creative student I recognise isn't going to be dull and his creative that here students do the Haven creative work and we want to know why. But to explain it by saying it's because they possess creativity that that's a no. And we can move beyond that. We are sorry where students they hated individual original creative work and you have to find real cause rather than fancy dinner causes. If we want to make the kinds of substantial changes they won't produce the same cause we're here. Now you may say but this 100 percent here I have created here you mean behavior that doesn't have any cards. What do you
mean you're going to find the objective because well that is true if you really know that there is behavior which has no empathy which is truly original. Then this formulation wrong hope that the question arises whether the attorneys are here and I think another way of putting the graph on this program except of our deterministic or scientists. There is nothing in the scientific view of man. The question on individuality everyone is an absolutely you me carbonate product combination of multiple sources of genetic and environmental. Every one of us here is genetic. The place for you is our fingerprints or find out that individuality. But every part of our body as unique as our pain your brain
and we have this unique content. As America where great talent environmentally were all our different family backgrounds different backgrounds governmental economic There are. No nothing about the march Terminus conception of the car we're the notion of individuality and the problem really is to see whether we can design a teaching technique that will further an individuality that's very different from nourishing something called creativity creativity or originality presupposes something from our start. Inside the organ that individuality recognizes that control or there's outside genetic and
environmental recognizes. There are lots of them. There are unique combination of these both which reduces and the other one. Now what time do we want. We certainly don't want people simply to be different or unusual. A nightmare is just creative. As a painter we want more not the psychotic as a creative person. Sometimes we don't necessarily want more psychotic. How do we decide on the kind of individuality we want to foster I think we have to appeal here to the notion of cultural evolution and the model which seems more useful for many years actually biological The natural to. The evolution of species you have on the one great stability
in that it material much reproduces and with a great There was a village but the baby would get nowhere if there were not element of individuality and these come from without their invitation rather brought about by external environment or factors of one kind or. Another I want to tell you our cultural practices. You have the same kind of thing. There are very the strong need for stability. We must speak the same language must change too fast so that we can communicate and must have certain rules of conduct certain governmental and whatnot and it's important that we maintain against at least two rapid tracks but the court would get nowhere or simply settled for stability. There must be a novelty introduced somewhere. And in
this case we are ahead of the geneticist at all he's beginning to talk about deliberately producing certain kinds of mutations and changing the germ plasm. We can already do that in the Cultural Revolution. We can literally change practice. And those are the mutations which will then be selected as a culture was wrong or at least in terms of practice work or not. Well we have we don't this is not a very good value to go by but we have a valuable survival guide. We have culturally range in order to survive and attempt to reduce change which will make that more likely one of the things certain I would support and that people being in the middle as they can be in turning up what are essentially called the new play which will then contribute to the eventual strength of the
parallel theme for me good enough for all our current revolutions remarking with biological level of many different workers. Now let's look at actual techniques. Control you never in the education elsewhere and see what can be done about Margaret Sanger that the individuality of the student most likely to emerge is most likely to do things which are different from a lot of people do. And yet again most likely contributed to the culture. When the press played where are controlled by other people there are reasons why religion's government forces control religion and government usually work through adversity and draw our rules and violate economics were true to persuasion paper doing this other thing. You
operate your cell on the right power or controls and can be an arm as you it was me that education should accept one of its goals. Making people aware of the extent to which they are drawn by other people. And. Teaching them how to resist their role that education itself is involved. It's important to manage students in a governmental science and sport and there are other ways in which the educators want to play to have attempted control Now any person who is being controlled by others by institutions or by other person as an individual. Him not himself an individual so we have to look at this very closely. How can you limit the extent to which people are controlled by other people. So either they will be free to education in addition to using of residence and drop
students around them. That's another problem you have to get the student in a particular way so that they need to be reinforced. This is a problem. For instance what I think you do something you got it for you doing you just can't sit around waiting for something build up special repertoire which enabled us to get the student to behave in a given sort of force Britain example or simply telling them what to do given instruction or given directions 24 hours or something happens and you then learn for example that. Struck you know how to operate a piece of equipment. You first of all operated by the power in the structure and the work and that teaches you how to operate and even forget the directions and operate in the equipment without that of the verbal control which was there in prison
and we do that when we do not it when we tell them what to do. We even the words To reach of these feet given time and so on. Eventually we want that support to be drawn and that's to become not dependent on people as groups our health. Kind of think about this. People who are corrupted by other people but that nature made everyone good. We want to get students independent of people and have them think and you're doing that for example if you have a child that's been in the school in the morning and you every morning there's a hurry up now it's time. I will wait for you have now it's time for the women. Sure but you was making dependent on the clock rather than on your person and free to do their very difficult to withdraw are
your verbal drawer and bring him under the control of either an internal. Or sometimes only because of our time on this floor or the clock on the wall. But it has to be done eventually or remains dependent on another person. Our dependence on things can be quite rig rigid unit doesn't mean it's going to be an individual as soon as you watch the clock. But things where things change right. People do not. People can perpetuate their own kind on the except if you can make students dependent on things rather than on other people you are maximizing the chance that they will be influenced by changes in the physical environment which will be indeed now the student producing all primed for now. One of the things the preachers do is to build up an imitator repertoire. We teach not only to imitate us to speak the words we seek to do it that way by we way via bias or on and then we do we continue this dancing
teacher that fills up all the doors and the repertoire steps and you can show you a new dance by doing it and you do the same thing before you go if you know the steps and so on that can become very powerful. So we go around imitating people in the little time I've been embarrassed by this myself. Terrible imitative to see someone come in and sit down and try to talk to me and the four other reporters are in them forward and then you're all there. And before I know I talked to a professor from Cambridge University only five being a very efficient price for originality. Being like other people I was very important to have that in the repertoire in the beginning. People that take you a long time just
reinforcement but the whole art of vanishing gravel another support program and you're right hard work very clever technique for withdrawing the support we put in the first place so that they are then the. Thing for people and people that teach further education and help me understand the art of getting that here you're there in the first place and then withdrawing our instructional support leaving the student dependent on the world at large is already facing up to this problem and it and I'm sure that we have techniques available now for our repertoire of behavior of another without having any reason you will drop from teacher to interfere
with the possibility that the student will now respond novel features of the environment. But there are a few things. What about this what about the knowledge we impart whatever the skills we are as you know we sign books to be read to be listened to get examined and when they can they've been read and listened to and so on. And the dollar. Live your own education. It is that the students would understand perfectly what he's taught or more or a little book. The rule book on how to read a book incest the birth during the reader is to understand exactly what the authors. Get together in a group and back to work. Man let's get going much too far
and I don't think there's any reason to understand things perfectly. And you'll be a lot more original if you don't you know educational as it is constructed now are we set. Perfect understanding is the goal for that we say right because we don't teach people don't really understand. And yes there have been times in history and education is extremely powerful and limited to a pure notebook retard writer and the result was very far from create for all of you. The behavior you had imparted to a stick and isn't now just what somebody else has said in the past or done in the first in the case of CEOs and it was so well that there was no chance for it to transfer in this situation and I would be united hard to make this case that I would be in for deliberate design instructional techniques that don't quite work.
Don't put things across too clearly or to well I think that you can get across what is useful in the past. You can transmit body of culture without transmitting it in a rather rigid form which is represented by a book. And have the pursuers large numbers of students who would be most likely. Now with this in their possession to deal with new situations as they arise. Because if you never get to behavior. Defiant to specifically under the control of certain scenes it won't generalize on France for other situations. So rather than these two points and I might summarize as far as I do occasion must teach. In such a way that its own influence disappears as fast as possible and what it teaches should not be true
rigidly tied down to specific patterns. This isn't going to make progress much originality. Even so. There aren't more deliberate ways of producing unusual crimes for hate. You can teach the techniques of discovery for example really wanting said Jane education discovery map and I know that elsewhere I think in general it's not correct. Think of discovery being taught properly and I don't think you need to imply to the steward and he doesn't need to learn what other people know that he can discover the whole sum and substance of human knowledge himself but it is really important to teach exploration curiosity and so on and curiosity again is not a trait not something like creativity. That explains why people are curious. If you want people to curious you must
reinforce him for looking things. Recently I had a friend who got a new car. She was teaching the dog to fetch and she'd throw something out and feel your job or run if you found anything that you didn't find them right back and she wouldn't go out and get it. Never gave that are a chance to discover that perhaps just turning their heads would turn out the size of the stick that she was for hours. As is true of children and less valid. If you explore without helping you never give them the chance to acquire the behaviors of looking you're looking for and and so on and really therefore making sure out of course we tend to punish curiosity. Than not. And reinforce for people working and so on and then we turn around
and sisters that is not an appropriate face this part frowned and that your scientific research would be of this nature in you. You can teach see things not feeling that tonight as I have done with it in this ride on teaching. Thank you but your family properly designing instructional materials build up a high level of curiosity and dedicated search which will bring the individual maximally under the control of not all aspects of the environment which no one's ever responsible for and this is one of the great sources of the forest. I'm individual of the novel the creativity in addition to that there are no special techniques that help people you use to produce you know I think there are some of them acquired. Simple if you're a short story writer and want a
new plot you can get a thing called plot on your screen some wheels has turned up a character national hero in an instant. You got a couple of these characters in this film and so on you've got a hell of a story and you're going to break this and this is where are you going really. Plus you don't need. We also always get down on you and take standard I mean first the sex of the prince for characters or something like that you bet your life. The logicians in that magicians are always doing that as the first time somebody is I'd question one of your friends actually underbody Russia and all the other ones like no particular reading your question see what happens if you're Chinese physicist who discovered in on paragraph four years each shake the genius of divination system and you're like a bundle of sticks and for all and then the pattern leads you to an encyclopedia and you look under that pattern and you're alive and that you were sentences. And some of them will be relevant somehow or
other that what you get. It works best of all you don't take it seriously. Which I'm sure to face to prison but there are ways of cooking are entirely original thing or just a random get as accidental as the atomic radiation will be introducing all of the monsters financial that mutation is an accident. The drop of a bundle of sticks is an accident that it produces in the first place an original species perhaps satin and original. There's something that I wanted to read you know these are only two little techniques exploration. Now all environments and the generation of now I dear reader only too many I can go under and I wonder as a question. What happens when. You know order to encourage a person to be an individual who would deliberately wait for original
back paper and then reinforce. How we do it. Your glib relay or by active button that writes I want to raise with you is what the significance of a thing is scientifically if I it just specifies some particular behavior on the part of the nervous system. I can make that up or wait for it to occur. The force of the never got the behavior that the old technique in animal trials. Karen what. But supposing now instead of specifying in advance. Behavior I'm going to reinforce I simply say it must be new that what happened. Well it turned up a little bit smaller and not very conclusive but interesting as has been done with the porpoises at sea life park and on the lower side of the loop and I was out there a couple weeks ago and cried my hard work was just to make sure I take that here.
But let me tell you what I did this experiment to give you at Best Buy Pam. The redox. This Friday part of our basic research they don't want any more inland people come and say this is for a purpose there are mentally I was of our first and then we will back flips and so on the moment and so on and coming through and it was an operant technique for the public to see that actually true. So every day hours and on top of the doing of the pigeon and I am
Seminar: Big Sur
Human freedom and dignity, part one
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, presents a discussion led by B.F. Skinner.
Series Description
Discussion and lecture series from Esalen Institute at Big Sur, Calif., headed by Michael H. Murphy devoted to exploring the psychological nature of man.
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Producer: Esalen Institute
Speaker: Skinner, B. F. (Burrhus Frederic), 1904-1990
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-30-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:37
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Chicago: “Seminar: Big Sur; Human freedom and dignity, part one,” 1967-07-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Seminar: Big Sur; Human freedom and dignity, part one.” 1967-07-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Seminar: Big Sur; Human freedom and dignity, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from