Behavioral Psychology and its Practical Implications – The Great Courses Daily News

Posted: October 16, 2020 at 11:54 am


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FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science

Burrhus Frederic Skinner, a Harvard psychologist, who was influenced by logical positivists, adopted Watsons work. He, too, was interested in studying human behavior in response to certain stimuli. He found a mathematical relationship between environmental factors and human responses as well as the influence of positive and negative reinforcement on such responses. For example, he studied how room temperature influenced how long it would take a subject to drink a glass of water. Even further, he observed how reward and punishment would make the subjects behave in specific ways that he wanted.

These findings had both theoretical and practical implications. They helped gain knowledge about the structure of reality and also to manipulate people.

Skinner wrote a book titled Beyond Freedom and Dignity, which was reminiscent of Friedrich Nietzsches book Beyond Good and Evil. According to Nietzsche, good and evil are not inherent properties of the world. They are human-made features manufactured by the weak to restrict the strong, which has helped the weak prosper and keep the strong behind. Thats why human progress has been restrained. Similarly, Skinner held that moral concepts of freedom and dignity are not features of the world. They are created to glorify the individual and have retarded human development.

Rather than autonomous agents capable of rational thinking, human beings are regarded as creatures of habit. If these habits are shaped randomly, they will have no consequences for us. If they are correctly shaped, they can lead to our advancement. They can also be formed in a way that they limit human progress. The only way to achieve human growth is to identify the best culture that contributes to such growth and prepare the conditions for humans to thrive. Freewill is a mere myth that deters human flourishing.

This is a transcript from the video series Redefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Learn more about solving psychological mysteries.

John Watson was fired from John Hopkins University, where he held an academic position. He pivoted his career to advertising to use his expertise in enriching business owners instead of advancing humans. By manipulating the masses, he used his knowledge of the human mind to create gold, like the alchemists philosopher stone.

Psychology gave him the power to shape individual minds and culture as a whole. He found out fear, rage, love, habits, or needs were crucial for making humans take the action we want. Testimonials from ordinary people and celebrities were two powerful marketing strategies proposed by Watson.

The same ideas were adopted in the fashion industry by Sigmund Freuds nephew, Edward Bernays. He found out that he could use the results of his psychological studies in the world of fashion and advertising.

The term public relations was his idea to replace propaganda. He rightly thought that propaganda had negative connotations because it was associated with the military and the Nazis. So, he used a propagandistic term as a euphemism for the word propaganda.

In one of his books, Propaganda, he outlines the instructions to engineer public opinion, which formed the basis of modern public relations. Due to the collapse of monarchies replaced by democracies around the world, he believed that Power had been taken from the king and given to the people. So, the power of masses had to be harnessed by controlling the peoples behavior to achieve profit and authority. Now, rather than a tool for searching the nature of the human mind, psychology was used to manufacture false realities in the mind of people to make business owners wealthier and help certain politicians get elected.

Learn more about how human nature evolved.

In the realm of arts, the same notion was adopted, too. In the 1910s, Marcel Duchamp started a series of works called Readymades. He treated mass-produced goods as works of art by putting them in galleries. He made people rethink the way they looked at these everyday objects by putting them in not-so-familiar places.

The same approach was taken by Andy Warhol with his paintings of soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. In the same vein, he took objects out of their standardized contexts and made his audience see them from another angle. He meant to show us that we were conditioned and manipulated by advertising, and, as Skinner had in mind, we could finally behave like autonomous beings with freedom and dignity.

John Watson is the founder of behavioral psychology. He was the first person to introduce the doctrine of cognitive significance to oppose the idea that psychology was the study of consciousness.

Fredric Skinner was an American psychologist. He found a mathematical relationship between environmental factors and human responses as well as the influence of positive and negative reinforcement on such responses.

Edward Bernays was Sigmund Freuds nephew. He coined the term public relations to replace propaganda. He believed in controlling human minds to gain profit and authority.

Readymades are mass-manufactured products displayed in galleries as art. The concept was first introduced by Marcel Duchamp to make people see everyday objects in a different way.

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Behavioral Psychology and its Practical Implications - The Great Courses Daily News

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October 16th, 2020 at 11:54 am

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