Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner

The week between Christmas and New Years, I had a “staycation”. Which basically means, because I have done so much travelling this year, I wanted to stay home over the Christmas period, and do nothing. Well, lie on the beach, read, and watch cricket and movies. Which I did! (And I didn’t even get that burnt!)

I had about 6 books to read, and I read 5 over the week, which is pretty good. A whole mix of things – non-fiction (Murder in Mississippi by John Safran), fiction (The Escape by David Baldacci), one of my faves (High Society by Ben Elton), a random (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk), and one that was recommended to me by someone who is as big a fan of ABA as me 🙂 (Walden Two by B.F. Skinner.)

I feel like it is one of those books you just have to read if you want to call yourself a behaviourist. I actually didn’t mind it, it was quite dry, and basically a conversation about the application of the principles of ABA to a real world setting, but a conversation between a few people, over the span of a few days, including discussions, arguments and realisations.

Throughout the book, I felt like different characters at different times. I feel like Skinner was trying to do that, trying to cover all possible angles and points that people might have, and addressing them with a solution.I felt I most related to the character narrating the story, but I don’t think I would have ended up in the same position as him.

Basically Walden Two is a community where people live and work, and it is completely structured and created around applying the principles of ABA to any situation, to make things easier and “better” for everyone involved. A place where like-minded people can live and everything is sorted and easy.

There are six visitors to the Walden Two community, and it is their experience of the place that we observe through the narration. They visit for about a week, and make up their own minds about whether or not it is the life for them.

There were some interesting points, and some things that seemed a bit far fetched. I felt as though sometimes the ‘creator’ of Walden Two, who was accompanying the visitors on most of their trip, seemed to have an answer for everything. I find that hard to believe, particularly as one of the attitudes of science is philosophic doubt […to continually question the truthfulness of what is regarded as fact. Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).] And yes, while he seemed to have been experimenting with a range of things over a few years, and yes, he seemed to share this viewpoint, it just seems a hard concept to grasp.

I may be ignorant to say this, particularly as I am an avid believer of being able to apply the principles of applied behaviour analysis to any situation where there is observable behaviour, and it is of social significance or importance to the individual/s concerned, and be able to come up with a solution. Also, particularly as this is what I do, and what I believe. But I just found it hard to see this working so harmoniously and perfectly.

I know, I know, it is a work of fiction (and an old work at that – they were discussing the idea of negative reinforcement being punishment, and, based on a 1975 paper I read recently, they were confused about that initially until they conducted more experiments and realised negative reinforcement strengthened behaviour), but it started to get annoying! Every query, seemed to have an answer. I may just be a hugely cynical person (I don’t think I am!) but it all just seemed “too good to be true” – which I guess is the case with any utopian society.

It made me think about a few things. The first being, how much I apply the principles of ABA to my everyday life. I am always looking at every situation and figuring out what the function of a behaviour is at any given time. What is reinforcing me to do this again and again? I think I could be a bit more analytical about this in 2015. And really begin to live and breathe ABA 😀 (As a side note, there is a very good hashtag on twitter for this now – #everdayABA 😀 )

I also thought about the whole dissemination of ABA and how much this has not necessarily been done too well. I don’t think the book could be used as a way to promote the ideas of applying ABA to society’s issues necessarily, but in the way that I know ABA has many applications and uses, and could be beneficial in many areas of society – government, health, judicial systems… it did get me thinking about ways to share information without coming across as too judgy or ‘full on’ (which I do have a tendency to do!)

I guess I shouldn’t jump the gun and worry about how to make the whole world want to get on board the ABA train, particularly when the people I am working with (teachers, support staff – even some parents) find it hard to implement, but hey, dream big.

On the whole, I think if you work within a behavioural framework, it would be worth a read, at least to see the applications of ABA in everyday life. I also think people who are interested in socialism and ‘living off the earth’ (i.e. my Dad) would find it interesting, but it is quite a droll read (seriously, it is basically a transcript of their conversations over the week!) Any other suggested readings for behaviour analysts?


B.F. Skinner, (1948). Walden Two.

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Michael, J. (2004)Positive and Negative Reinforcement, A Distinction That Is No Longer Necessary; Or a Better Way to Talk About Bad Things. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 24:1-2, 207-222.

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Book Review: Walden Two – B.F. Skinner

Goals for 2015

As I am waiting for my flight back to Sydney (in the middle of a massive storm :s) I thought I should make another blog post. This one is on some goals for 2015. I usually avoid creating goals for myself, because if I have nothing ‘set in stone’ then if nothing happens, I can’t be disappointed! (I know, that is terrible of me, I need practice what I preach more!)

However, it definitely is something I need to keep in mind to help keep Great Start ES going and moving along, and I think the goals I have are achievable. I’m sure everyone creates goals, and keeps things moving, but I did see a few others post goals, including Tiffany at The Behavior Station, and Tricia-Lee from Behaviourist At Play post goals for 2015, so it did prompt me to get moving 🙂

  1. Continue with at least one more subject towards my BCBA coursework.
  2. Get back into supervision for my BCBA certification.
  3. Attend at least 2 conferences.
  4. Read at least 2 research articles a month on ABA technology.
  5. Learn about a different application of ABA (i.e. not related to Autism).
  6. Collaborate with other behaviour analysts and disseminate information about ABA

I think 6 is enough. They are sort of ongoing for the year anyway. I do really want to get back into study. I am much more motivated when I start studying, and I really need to get cracking on my supervision. I did do the online supervision training module, which was informative. And I really want to see different applications of ABA. Just like finding everyday examples helps me to understand it better, I think seeing it in another field would be not only beneficial, but interesting. I’m quite interested in the application of ABA to prisons and the justice system.

There are already two conferences I can go to this year, possibly three. I don’t know if I am quite ready to present (or have the time to prepare) just yet, but that may become goal 7.

I think 2015 is definitely going to be a good year. It is definitely off to a great start… 😀 (I’ve been waiting all year to do that!)

Goals for 2015

Happy 2015!

It’s a beautiful New Year’s Day here in Sydney, and I spent the day with friends and family, and experiencing my friend’s young son’s first trip to the beach! It has been fascinating watching him grow up and see all the things he likes to do. It has also been fascinating being able to see situations in which the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis apply to different situations with him 🙂

This kid is absolutely adorable and such a great kid. He listens, is interactive and social, and easily redirected. He also has a few known reinforcers, mainly chips, which are usually plentiful when we are at our gatherings.

I am such a great/terrible Aunty (depending on who you ask – the kid or his parents) because everytime he comes to me and says “Pwease” I give him a chip! The bowl happened to be next to me today, and he came over to me and sat on my lap and said “Pwease” and I gave him a chip (one for each hand!)

As my brain does not turn itself off, every day I notice different examples of reinforcement, or shaping, or pairing, I immediately try to figure out what is causing him to keep coming to me.

In this scenario, he saw the bowl of chips and me, and knew that the reinforcement (chips) was available.

He also knew the behaviour of coming to me and saying “Pwease” has, in the past, resulted in him getting some chips.

And what do you know, he did it today and it worked!

Antecedent – chips & Loz available

Behaviour – going to Loz and saying “Pwease”

Consequence – he receives chips (and it is most likely reinforcement because he has done this in the past, and continues to do it!)

Another example I observed today was when we visited the beach. It was his first time in all his one and a half years of life of going to the beach. He loves swimming and the pool, but the beach is a little different – unpredictable, noisy, funny textures!

He went into the waves (waves = tiny little waves, maybe half a metre), clinging to Mum or Dad for dear life. Every time a wave came, they would dip him into it, and bring him back up for a cuddle. And every time he went into the water, and came back up, Mum, Dad, and the rest of us cheered!

At first, he still looked a little scared and unsure. After about the 5th time he was dipped, he came up with a little smile, and then it got bigger, and bigger. Success! He loves the beach (just like his Aunty Loz!)

This continued on for about 20 minutes. He was still quite apprehensive about actually standing in the water, but he did want to continue, even asking for more.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what part of ABA this is in relation to. At first, I thought pairing – we were pairing our praise with going in the waves – trying to make the waves as reinforcing as our attention. However it is not quite on the mark. If anyone has any suggestions or further thoughts on this, I’d love to hear it 🙂

Basically, I am really starting to think I live and breathe ABA… which is not necessarily a bad thing, I just need to figure out how to use it to make a changes to a whole lot of aspects of my life.

On that note, I recently read Skinner’s “Walden Two” and am definitely thinking I will write up a book review soon. It was an interesting read.

Happy New Year!


References

Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition

Behaviorbabe Website

I Love ABA Website

Happy 2015!