A: How much free will have I got?
B: You? Lots.
A: I mean ‘I’ as a human?
B: I’m not sure. Isn’t there something about this by that Skinner chap?
A: It was. It was Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B. March 20, 1904, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania D. August 18, 1990, Cambridge, Massachusetts) did a fair amount on conditioning.
B: Of course. Remind me…..
A: Well Skinner’s research looked at reinforcement. If an animal is rewarded for behaviour the animal is more likely to continue carrying out that behaviour.
B: So how would this pan out in real, every day, living your life, terms?
A: Well as Stevie (Belle and Sebastian) puts it;
”What’s important is a code by which to live. Here’s mine…drummed into me at an early age
1. Never hit a woman
2. Never cross a picket line.
3. Always get your round in at the bar.“
B: I see. So dead practical.
B: I also read that when people were asked to write the name ‘Michael Schumacher’, most people write this quicker than when they write other names.”
A: Interesting and true.
B: Didn’t Pavlov do something like that with his dogs?
A: He did. However there was some spooky business going on with Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov (B. September 14, 1849 Ryazan, Russia, D. February 27, 1936 in Leningrad).
A: Yes. He worked with Lenin.
B: The Lenin?
A: No his brother. Of course the Lenin – Vladamir Ilyich Lenin (B. April 22 1870 Simbirsk, Russia, D. 21 January 1924 Gorki, Russia). Apparently he gave Pavlov a special task. Pavlov’s assignment was to write a summary of his life’s work – but he was to apply this knowledge to human beings,
A: Three months later Pavlov handed Lenin a 400 page manuscript. Lenin shook Pavlov’s hand firmly and told him he had guaranteed the future of the Revolution.
B: So Lenin used these finding on his people?
A: Apparently. According to Aldous Leonard Huxley (B.26 July 1894, Godalming, Surrey, England, D. 22 November 1963 Los Angeles, California)Pavlov showed that the central nervous system of dogs can be broken down using various unpleasant methods. Therefore, in principle, so could the central nervous system of political prisoners. It is simply a matter of applying the right amount of stress for the right amount of time.
B: So the funny little things he did making dogs bark weren’t so innocent.
A: Um… no.
B: So tell me about the dog experiment thing.?
A: Well Dr Pavlov was looking at conditioned reflexes. He showed that dogs could be trained to physically react (salivating) to an external stimulus (a bell) without food being present.
B: Wasn’t there a disciple of Pavlov who recorded experiments on other animals?
A: Indeed Edward John Izzard (B. 7 February 1962 Aden, Yemen) made some interesting observations of Pavlov’s less successful work with cats.
A: Professor Izzard describes that after Pavlov had managed to condition his dogs, he tried to repeat the experiment on his cat;
“Pavlov’s cat results:
Day 1: rang bell – cat f****ed off.
Day 2: rang bell – cat went and answered door.
Day 3: rang bell – cat said he’d eaten earlier
Day 4: went to ring bell, but cat had stolen batteries
Final day Day 5: Went to ring bell with new batteries, but cat put paw on bell so it only made a thunk noise. Then cat rang his own bell, I ate food.”