Skinners contention that, behavior is largely influenced by the fear of the unknown or danger is true. Indeed what Skinner says in the article is hard to prove that there are a number of daily examples we can draw from. Personal experiences specifically demonstrate that, where there are issues a human being is uncertain about and as a result is afraid of; such a person is likely to flee the undesirable situations.
The paragraph begins with a claim that, all living things act to free themselves from harm something which leads to the achievement of freedom. Such behavior is based on reflexes and it is not restricted to man only as many other species exhibit such characteristics (Skinner, 1971). Skinner’s main points in this chapter include; the fact that, living things have a tendency to flee from danger by behaving in a manner which frees them. To demonstrate this, skinner gives numerous examples such as how a human being may vomit upon consuming poisonous food or indigestible food, sneezing, breaking free and so on.
According to Skinner, the above behaviors have been very instrumental in evolution and for survival of various species. The point Skinner is making here is that, living things naturally try to avoid trouble or negative stimuli by initiating actions which allow for the affected to escape problems. This is true because operant conditioning is evident in behavior exhibited by most living creatures. The behavior is not limited to negative stimuli but to all manner of stimuli whether positive or negative. For instance, the example given in the article such as the behavior of moving undercover when the sun is hot is very reminiscent of what living things and especially man can do when faced with danger (Skinner, 1971). Operant conditioning is characterized by the fact that, it is repetitive and it is learnt. Operant conditioning therefore results from a habitual process that calls for the affected to master the main cause of the undesired or the painful behavior. In addition and depending on the stimuli, reinforcement results.
Skinners article goes deeper in the explanation of man’s behavior in terms of negative reinforcement. It is noted that, living things and especially man try to avoid negative reinforcers which are aversive through a process of spatial separation. Numerous examples exist for such behavior and such include; the fact that man strives to form an environment in which undesirable behavior such as heat, harmful or uncomfortable situations. Although the points mentioned above are true in some cases, it is not wise to generalize them as there are numerous occasions in which the negative reinforcers may force man to fail obey the principle of spatial separation. This puts into dispute Skinners words and clearly demonstrates that, man or other creatures can only turn away from aversive situations as long as the situation allows them to.
Evidently, escape and avoidance are integral part of the efforts man makes in achieving freedom. Particularly, this is evidence by the fact that, a person may behave in a particular manner to avoid or escape a harmful situation. On the other hand, what causes the person to behave in a given manner becomes the reinforcer.
The role of aversive conditions is explained well by demonstrating how escaping from harsh or undesirable situations is likely to lead to a sort of “freedom” where the affected is no longer expected to conform in any way to the prevailing situation.
Attack as a form of escape is demonstrated as an option many take in regards to protecting themselves against destruction. This can not be justified because it goes against the general behavior exhibited by man in regard to ensuring struggle.
It emerges from Skinners explanation of human behavior that, humans react aggressively to painful or harmful situations as a result of struggle for freedom from among others, oppression. In some cases such behavior may be displaced especially in cases whereby the affected result into harming ‘innocent’ people as it is the case during riots and demonstrations.
A contention about the real meaning of freedom is brought up. The author alleges that often, people are induced to escape from or attack those they deem as barriers to their freedom. This is a fallacy in that, there are numerous instances whereby, innocent people are attacked irrespective of whether such threaten the freedom of their attackers or not.
Priests, villains, teachers and domineering parents amongst others are singled out as examples of people who perpetrate aversive conditions making it hard for people to live and in a way depriving freedom from those who deserve it. Skinner therefore sees the above mentioned as perpetrators of misery (Skinner, 1971). The philosophy of freedom which seems to justify aversive actions goes unchallenged as the author sets out to oppose well known arguments and opposition against actins such as ostracization and assassination. Although the above does not amount to absolute fallacy that the author seems to justify actions such as atrocities and assassinations raises questions of the relevancy of the theory in the quest for freedom.
Depicting the perpetrators of activities which threaten the authority of governments as heroes of freedom goes against common wisdom which shows that, those who seek freedom by attempting to or actually overthrowing and destabilizing governments end up interfering with other people’s freedom. Whereby they attain their freedom by changing the status quo means that, they achieve theirs at the expense of others, usually the majority. The freedom literature is seen in this article as a major way of ensuring that, people are reminded about the significant role of escaping or avoiding trouble and moving towards a level where they can agitate or defend their rights. Also the freedom literature is designed to allow people to proactively defend their freedom by not fearing to stand out for what they believe to be desperately their own (Skinner, 1971).
In conclusion, the article sets out to demonstrate that, the human behavior is affected by a number of factors and none is as important as the reinforcers which determine how man reacts when confronted with danger or undesirable situation. The different reinforcers are demonstrated to the key determinants on how a human being reacts and the subsequent behavior can be predicted henceforth with much easier since it tends to follow a given pattern. Although at some point the author seems to praise those who go to any extent to achieve their goals, there abounds sufficient evidence to the contrary as some behavior against authorities such as government has been shown to be a cause of more disorder as people tend be guided by selfish interests, going to an extend of fighting for their own freedom at the expense of others.
Skinner, B. F.1971.Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Hackett Publishing Company