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