[MD] FW: MD A Question of Balance / Rules of the Game

From: Case (Case@ispots.com)
Date: Mon Dec 05 2005 - 15:06:24 GMT

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    I don't discount behaviorism to the degree that it can help us understand
    hidden structures that influence our behavior. Indeed, many social
    structures turn to behaviorism for lessons on using behavior altering
    techniques on people (the famous study of restaurants painting their walls
    red to generate more client turnover, when red was found to significantly
    increase the rate of eating and diminish the likelihood of "hanging around",
    while blue walls slowed eating and made people hang around more).
    Advertising (although Platt considers it to be Holy and Pure) has long
    looked towards behavioral psychology (generating an entire branch called
    consumer psychology) to see how lessons learned in behavioral studies could
    be used to influence consumer behavior.

    Psychology has long suffered from a kind of schizophrenia. The Cognitive
    branch has tried to incorporate ideas like consciousness and purpose and the
    "inner why". This has typically resulted in what Platt likes to call
    psychological mumbo jumbo. Behaviorist basically said, screw that, what does
    it do and focused on the observable. They more or less regard the internal
    workings of the brain as a black box that the neurosciences will eventually

    The behaviorist's goal is to predict and control behavior. They do not see
    this so much as a process of cause and effect as a process of increasing and
    decreasing the probability that this or that will happen. The same process
    will work in populations as with individuals. Particularly since in a
    population one is always looking at a frequency distribution of individual
    behaviors. I am not familiar with structuration theory as I said but I often
    see people and populations being manipulated in ways that are clearly of
    behavorist origin.

    But I think structuration is more adequate consideration of agency than
    behaviorism alone can provide. Structuration theories, for the most part,
    are not usually concerned with microgenetic variations (dogs salivating at a
    ringed bell), but are generally interested in cultural variations (why
    Eskimos see varieties of snow as different, or why people born poor also
    tend to die poor).
    In short, behaviorism tends to focus on the S->R moment, while structuration
    looks at patterned behavior over historical time.

    A dog salivating at the ringing of a bell is regarded as Classical
    Conditioning and generally treated by behariorists as a separate phenomanon.
    This is because the behavior being influences is a purely biological
    response. Salivation is not something that can manipulated much.

    The main body of behavioral sciences focuses on shaping more complex
    behaviors. It would say that Eskimos name more varieties of snow because
    variations in their interactions with differing snow types has occurred in
    the past. Over time those S->R moments of the past increasingly gain power
    to shape the behavior of the present. I would say in the same way that a
    path becomes a trail and a trail becomes a road.

    Perhaps you could elaborate on this agency business...

    But to the question, "is behavior learned", the answer is of course, yes.
    The structurationists answer would be, "as external structures (symbolic and
    material) are appropriated over time, behavior (and thought) is guided
    towards social-cultural expressions expected by the immediate structural
    realities of the micro-cultural context." A mouthfull, to be sure, but worth

    As I said I am not familiar with structuration but it sounds like
    behaviorism applied to sociology. The behaviorism's chief advantage is to
    show how enormously complex behavior results from a relativly simple set of
    rules. These rules I would say are the set of ideas that could wind up being
    picked to death in an MoQ discussion. They would include reinforcement,
    punishment, generalization and discrimination.

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