Thursday, June 24, 2021

Skinner's Methods for Self-Control

 Despite B.F. Skinner being intensely deterministic, he was incredibly skilled in the art form of self-control. Determinism is the belief that, for the most part, humans are entirely a result of their genetics, or some other cause that supersedes what is commonly called "free will". From Skinner's perspective, organisms and their genes interact with the environment to reproduce behavior that is the most adaptable at the time. Since Skinner so strongly believed in this notion of behavior being a result of environmental interaction, he curated his environment to influence his behavior. 

Skinner often recommended creating spaces for a specific task. Changing one's environment, and restricting that environments use to specific tasks, creates a conditioned response (behavior) to the conditioned stimulus (the room, being paired with the task). To put it more colloquially, Skinner made his environment one in which he could vibe better. 

Skinner also made it a point to do the specific task in the specific room at a certain time, making the pairings of each stimulus even stronger in eliciting a response. That is to say, if we have a writing room, and we are comfortable and enjoy the space, and write at about the same time everyday, the behavior of writing will begin to be elicited much more easily and more consistently. The brain will recognize the time and the room and activate the procedural behavior that has been conditioned over time. There are, of course, many more complications to discuss with regards to self-control and free will, but Skinner was a master of self-control, despite believing humans had very little free will.


Powell, R. A., Honey, P. L., & Symbaluk, D. G. (2017). Introduction to Learning and Behavior (fifth). Cengage Learning.

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea that skinner had! I actually practice this when I go to bed. I make my bed right before I shower and spray a lavender spray for the covers and it helps me go right to sleep since I go to bed almost the same time every night.