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What is the one thing that, according to Skinner,is not shaped in our behaviour, and where can i find information about that? Thank you.

-- Sanja Bell (aleks@vitalogy.org), October 18, 2001


What is it that makes you believe there is one and only one behavior that Skinner said was not shaped? As far as I know (and there are people who have far more expertise about Skinner than I, to be sure), Skinner accepted no innate behaviors. Watson, by contrast, accepted a small range of three emotions -- love, hate, and rage, as I recall.

-- Christopher Green (christo@yorku.ca), October 22, 2001.

My friends teacher told them that there is only one thing that cannot be shaped,according to Skinner, but she didn't say which one (she left it up to them to find out the answer), so i'm curious too.

-- Sanja Bell (aleks@vitalogy.org), November 02, 2001.

If I could comment on whether Skinner accepted any innate behaviors: It's true that Skinner sometimes proposed ways in which behaviors believed to be innate might actually have been acquired through shaping by the environment. I do think, though, that he accepted that some behaviors have their roots in the genetic makeup of the organism. For this reason, for example, he designed the pigeon's operant chamber with a key to be pecked, and the rat's chamber with a bar to be pressed. Skinner recognized that pecking and manipulation with paws are innately connected to eating in those species. Anti- Skinnerians sometimes point to these design features as Skinner's secret admission that there are innate behaviors, but Skinner was pretty upfront about designing environments so that the most probable desirable response would lead to reinforcement. In the same vein, Anti-Skinnerians are fond of citing Breland and Breland's Misbehavior of Organisms article as some kind of flaming indictment of Skinner's theories. Finding that operant learning is bounded by some genetic limitations came as no surprise to operant conditioners, though. They didn't ask rats to peck lighted keys, after all. I also find it instructive that Keller Breland and Marion Breland Bailey were very active members of the Association for Behavior Analysis for their whole lives.

-- Warren Street (warren@cwu.edu), November 09, 2001.

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