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Mechanical Man.jpgVarious theories of personality or identity formed in the 1960s as psychology moved away from the behaviorism of the first half of the 20th Century. J. B. Watson, considered the father of behavioral psychology, deemed the only true scientific study of human behavior sought to measure what were observed responses under reproducible conditions restricted by controlled variables. So the behaviorist would likely say, “If you want me to study it, show me a personality, a self, a mind, a belief, an identity, a soul. Then I can bring it into the laboratory to research.”

To the behaviorist, human and animal were alike based on evolutional theories; humanity was just further advanced, but mammalian animal nevertheless. To understand animal behavior through research, meant that since animals had comparable biological features and behavioral responses, the findings from animal studies could be generalized to humanity. One case in point might be research on the effects of various substances (alcohol, nicotine, or hallucinogenics) on animal behavior, which could be generalized to humans when one included body mass.  

Behaviorism studied more complex forms of behavior postulating that something goes on in the brain of a human being that is more advanced than in animal physiology. The structure and movement of the muscular-skeletal system, the processing of sensation and perception in the brain, were analogized to being like a complex machine. Interests in how brain processes can be replicated by machines further led behavioral psychology to depersonalize and relegate the human being to an object and the brain/mind as a computer.  

Rat in maze.jpgAs the penultimate materialists ruled psychology, they silenced the observations of Pierre Janet, William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, et al. whose observations took note of phenomena related to the above-stated “show me” list of the behaviorists. Everything was relegated to observing stimulus → response behavior: When the yellow light turned on, the animal pressed the bar on the cage wall within x number of seconds. Or, when placed in the maze, the timer began to measure the time taken by the lab rat to find the cheese. To the behaviorist, neither animal nor machine has that immeasurable soul which for centuries had been promoted by religion.  

Big Brother watching.jpg“Believers” in mind, soul, and any similar intangible meta-physical concepts were deemed at best, simple and naïve – at worst, deluded and dangerous. In spite of this scientific doctrine, America and the global culture were looking for something else. The Cold War brought fears of the imminent end of humanity from a nuclear holocaust with the world powers each trying to have the largest nuclear force. A sense of impending doom brought the average young adult to a mindset of situational values. The Me Generation, the Vietnam War, the women’s movement, domestic violence, child abuse, and the changing beliefs about the modern world’s ability to solve problems, led to identifying new problems resulting from levels of stress never before encountered in global culture. Mental illnesses were given names like bipolar depression, schizophrenia, or alcoholism. Literature like 1984 by George Orwell emphasized the loss of identity with governments controlling John and Jane Q. Public by giving everyone a number to track each member of that society and to maintain control. The behaviorists seemed of such a mindset that social/behavioral scientist would make the ideal leaders and give humanity a perfect world.  B.F. Skinner voices that very idea in his novel, Walden II. The novel shows the building of community with adults working in vocations to which they are well suited, while their children — from birth — live away from their parents who might wrongly instill unhealthy behavior patterns of individuality instead of community-mindedness.

–Lowell Routley, PhD | Executive Director | Core integrity inc

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