Books

Quotes from Opening Skinner’s Box.

“How can we locate Skinner? His experiments are disturbing in their implications. On the other hand, his discoveries are absolutely significant. They, in essence, illuminate human stupidity, and anything that illuminates stupidity is brilliant.”
“Consider, however, Prozac today. It is a drug hailed for its supposed specificity, and we like that. It makes us feel we know what we are doing, shooting well-aimed missiles into our mind now, instead of some primitive plunge with a knife. The truth of the matter is, though, no one really knows where or how Prozac operates in the brain; no one understands its mechanisms. ‘Pharmacological specificity,’ says researcher Harold Sackheim, ‘is a myth.’ And like lobotomy, no one knows quite why Prozac cures.”
“In the 1950s and 1960s Skinner’s behavioral methods were taken to state asylums and applied to the severely psychotic. Using his principles of operant conditioning, hopelessly schizophrenic patients were able to learn to dress themselves, to feed themselves, each rise of the spoon rewarded with a coveted cigarette. Later in the century, clinicians began using techniques like systematic desensitization and flooding, drawn directly from Skinner’s operant repertoire, to treat phobias and panic disorders, and these behavioral treatments are still widely employed and obviously efficacious today.”
“Also because of Skinner, we know that people respond better to rewards than punishment.”
“A drug seemed so much better, less invasive, even though the side effects were obvious stupefaction, sweating, and acute motor restlessness. It seems we would rather enter the brain through our stomachs than do so directly, same as we would often rather talk around a terrible truth than touch it.”
“Alexander is angry sometimes. He accuses the biomedical establishment of suppressing important scientific information about the complexity of drugtaking for political purposes. After all, if rat park’s findings were given their due, we would have to clean up our inner-city projects and change our policies, funding education over medicalization.”
*All quotes are from Opening Skinner’s Box by Lauren Slater. My review  of the book can be found here: Book Review: Opening Skinner’s Box
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