operant conditioning

If you are traveling by air tomorrow, I am writing this for you. Others may listen on as they will.

Tomorrow is “National Opt-Out Day” for all air travelers. If you are flying out of any of 68 US airports tomorrow you will be faced with a choice: whether to get nuked or groped? The organizers of the protest are hoping you’ll show up early and choose the grope.

I was listening this morning to an Alex Jones interview of Jesse Ventura, the former governor of my former home state, who has just announced he will no longer travel by commercial aircraft. In the course of their discussion, one or the other of them said that the “enhanced” security is a means through which the American population is being prepared for things to come.

As I thought about this and of admissions by TSA agents that the “enhanced” physical pat-downs are so invasive and humiliating because they are intended as negative reinforcement in a system of social control, I had a spark in my brain and a single name appeared: B.F. Skinner.

If you want to understand what is happening so visibly at our nation’s airports, you must understand Skinner’s ideas. They are providing a blueprint and methodology for how all of us are being manipulated into slavery—and all along believing we are free!

It has been such an awesome feat of deceit, you have to admire the minds behind it. At the same time, informed and free people cannot let them get away with it. So here is a little background about B.F. Skinner’s brand of motivation science so you can better appreciate what’s at stake tomorrow in your decision about whether to be nuked or groped.

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) received a PhD from Harvard in 1931, and served there as a researcher until 1936. For the next dozen years he taught at the University of Minnesota and at Indiana University, where he was chair of the psychology department. In 1948 he returned to Harvard as a tenured professor and remained there until retiring in 1974. Skinner is best known for his work in establishing “Radical Behaviorism” and most especially for his invention of the “Operant Conditioning” model, and for his identification of rate of response (the key “dependent variable”) as an effective control for monitoring, measuring, and influencing cultural change.

Skinner’s theory is based upon the idea that learning is a function of changes in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual’s response to events (stimuli) which occur in the environment. A response produces a consequence such as understanding a word, hitting a ball, or solving a math problem. When a particular Stimulus-Response pattern is reinforced or rewarded, the individual is conditioned to respond accordingly.

According to Wikipedia, operant conditioning is “the use of a behavior’s antecedent and/or its consequence to influence the occurrence and form of behavior. Operant conditioning…deals with the modification of ‘voluntary’ (or operant) behavior.”

Operant behavior “operates” on the environment, is maintained by its consequences, and thereby acts as a self-reinforcing system.

Operant conditioning has been widely applied in clinical settings and prisons (i.e., behavior modification), education (i.e., classroom management and programmed instruction development), and business (i.e., performance engineering, management, and compensation). I worked for many years in the corporate training, incentive, and human resources industries and saw firsthand the inroads Skinner’s ideas had made in management science. Skinnerism was—and is—huge in business and (as we can see in schools, prisons, propaganda, military, “black ops,” and now in airport “security”) in government.

Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner’s “Stimulus-Response” theory. A positive reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be an external motivator like verbal praise, a good grade, a bonus or a trophy or medal or prize, or an intrinsic motivator like the good feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. Skinner’s theory also covers negative reinforcers—any stimulus resulting in the increased frequency of a response when, as in opening a dam, it is withdrawn. In Skinner’s language recalibrations, “negative reinforcement” is different from an “adversive stimulus”—punishment—which generally results in reduced responses. Skinner devoted a great deal of attention to schedules of reinforcement (e.g. interval versus ratio) and their effects on establishing and maintaining behavior.

Seen in this light, the humiliation of a genital grope functions either as a negative reinforcer for those who will choose to either be irradiated or not to fly, or as an adversive stimulus for those resisters who opt for the government’s heavy (and squeezing) hand. Predictably, the controlled media are trotting out interviews of lots of passengers who are saying the scanners are no big deal and that their safety is more important than privacy. They almost always say something like “people who don’t like it are free not to fly.”

Free? Shades of George Orwell and Doublespeak! Hey you guys: “Freedom Is Slavery.” Get with it!

I think it’s significant the title of Skinner’s last book was Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971). In it, Skinner argues that entrenched belief in free will and the moral autonomy of the individual (which Skinner referred to as “dignity”) hinders the prospect of using scientific methods to modify behavior for the purpose of changing society. Skinner says misunderstandings of control championed by the defenders of freedom and dignity “encourage the misuse of controlling practices and block progress towards a more effective technology of behavior.”

Oooh, that’s a little cold-blooded sounding, isn’t it? Slytheran speak.

As this photograph revealing TSA humor makes so chillingly clear, Americans are being conditioned to accept intrusive control from an early age. I have seen videos of three-year-olds being wanded and a six-year-old being patted down on his bare torso.

In case you can’t make out the image on the screen, here is a clearer view of a parody “children’s book” making its way around the Internet. Apparently the TSA thugs think it’s funny enough to have become part of their office humor.

(You should hear the office humor of morticians.)

The whole purpose of this safety theatre is to objectify us and strip us of our dignity. Its aim is to prepare us for more infringements on our Freedom.

Skinner’s science of control is being deployed everywhere in tandem with technology. The TSA is even deploying mobile scanning units for use at ball games, concerts, and train stations. Forget probable cause. Everyone is to be subject to the blue glove treatment.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the most dignified act of resistance may be to choose to be groped tomorrow. If enough people go through that experience tomorrow in a defiant state of mind, maybe the Homeland Security folks and Congress will get the message that people will not tolerate them anymore.

As the sign below says, just watch your tongue.

With my mouth, I’d probably be detained if I were flying tomorrow; but like Jesse Ventura, I’m grounded.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Jimi Hendrix performing “Freedom”


Support National Opt-Out Day on Nov. 24

(Find out more in comments to Nov. 19 post.)



Paul found this film link to share with you. It is called “Human Resources,” and presents an in-depth view of the influence of behaviorism on social- and mind-control in America. A very disturbing but important film.


11 Responses to “operant conditioning”

  1. 1 Al Dente
    November 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Dan!

    After launching their Program to Examine Random Voyagers (PERV) the TSA has attracted a raunchy crew to their ranks…..SHOCKING story at:


    Happy Thanksgiving, and Peace! 🙂

  2. November 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Hey, Al Dente (yeah, I get it!)

    That’s a pretty funny post! Thanks–and I encourage all readers wanting a good laugh to visit!

  3. 3 maxsscoutservicesllc
    November 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I studied at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Psychology.

    Home of the teachings of B. F. Skinner PH.D.

    I heartily endorse this column.
    The reference to Jimi is most appropriate, too.

    Keep up the good writing Dan!

  4. October 8, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a friend who was doing a little research on this.
    And he actually bought me lunch simply because I found it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here
    on your web page.

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