Skinner’s and Pinker’s Prospects
Skinner as a conspicuous representative of behaviorism stands upon the position that the behavior of a person is conditioned by inner factors. Hunt, an individual is a mechanism which reacts on the stimuli of his or her environment. Moreover, the behavior is also determined by the adverse conditions which a person prefers to avoid. Skinner denies the existence of inner determinants of behavior except the “genetic endowment” which is responsible for natural reactions on the adverse stimuli like mechanically taking the hand away from the hot iron (Skinner, 1971, p.27-30). Let’s discuss the position of Skinner on an example from the real life.
For instance, several days ago I have decided to prepare a special meal for my friend who I have invited to my place. The meal I have chosen was Lasagna, which has a complicated recipe. If examining this example from the position of behaviorism, this decision was conditioned by several factors. Primarily, I have decided to prepare the meal to avoid hunger that is why the circumstances made me cook at least something. From the other side, I was under the influence of my will to impress my friend and to gain positive reinforcement that is why I decided to prepare a special dish. Probably, Skinner is right by saying that inner stimuli shape our behavior. Nonetheless, he avoids all the inner factors which contributed into behavior even in simple examples. It is obvious that my actions were determined by inner emotions and intellectual activity. Namely, it was my free will to act in a way that would somehow influence my friend. I could prepare sandwiches or anything else and my friend would also be grateful, nonetheless I have analyzed the case and made a conclusion to act in the particular way.
Another side of understanding human behavior is introduced by Pinker. He introduces an opposite perspective on this topic. Pinker questions treating person a “blank slate”. He provides an example of twin experiments which prove the great role of genetic endowment, which is not denied by Skinner. Nonetheless, according to Pinker treating a person as a receptive creature presupposes that he or she may be influenced by others in any way. That is the logical conclusion from Skinner’s theory. Pinker opposes the theory of conditioning and introduces the bio-genetic factors of behavior.
Thus, Skinner is an adherent of the reflective role of a person in society. However, he admits that this tendency is caused by reflexes each human being has. Pinker, on the contrary, highlights the influence of genetic factors and brain activity in the formation of the behavior. Thus, the concept free will is more common for Pinker’s theory. Nonetheless, according to pinker, person’s behavior is determined by the genetics he or she has.
Pinker, S. (2006). The Blank Slate. The General Psychologist, 41(1), 1-8.
Skinner, B. (1971). Freedom. In Beyond freedom and dignity (pp. 27-43). New York, Indianapolis: Hackett publishing company.