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Desc:'Cognitive Science is the Creationism of Psychology.' OOOOOOOOOOHH BURRRRRN!
Category:Educational, Science & Technology
Tags:free will, Superstition, psychology, trainables, birdbrain
Submitted:j lzrd / swift idiot
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Comment count is 29
buttnutt - 2008-12-10
Pigeon gamblers
godot - 2008-12-10
See wiki for Project Pigeon, Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-guided missile.
godot - 2008-12-10
Interesting tidbit:

The pigeons were trained with slides of aerial photographs of the target, and if they kept the crosshairs on the target, they were rewarded by a grain deposited in a tray in front of them. Skinner later found that the pigeons were less easily disturbed under confusing circumstances if they were fed hemp (marijuana) seeds rather than grains.

Knuckles - 2008-12-10
But the pigeons aren't really "gambling" since they stand to lose nothing even if they peck at that disc all day.

Unless Skinner was somehow forcing the pigeons to wager a guaranteed chance at a small amount of food for an uncertain opportunity at a larger amount of food, the analogy doesn't really hold. And I don't think pigeons are capable of the sort of abstraction required for real gambling.
Blaise - 2008-12-11
I think the point is that people on slot machines are not "gambling" either. Their decisions are not based on any sort of risk/benefit rational, but simply based on the frequency of rewards.

Spend 0.00 on a slot machine and you will feel like you win a lot, even though you have a net loss of .00.

Knuckles - 2008-12-13
I disagree. People gamble to win more money than they started with. This is not a rational decision by any means, and it is definitely an action reinforced by incremental wins but the goal is always to win more than you came in with, not just to win a pittance that still results in a net loss. The occasional small "jackpot," then, IS impetus continue but not an end of itself, as it is with the pigeons. If a gambler takes a net loss of money they'll recognize that they lost.

j lzrd / swift idiot - 2009-07-10

zatojones - 2008-12-10
Try Skinner Brand "Fascism Lite" now with no free will!
chumbucket - 2008-12-10
the dharma initiative
baleen - 2008-12-10

Mostly false. (Geddy Lee et al., 1980)
godot - 2008-12-10
I'm with Skinner on this one. Do probabilistic quantum interactions of neurotransmitters and receptors at our synapses (pretty much the last hope for non-determinism presented by physicists) really constitute what we've meant by "Free Will" for the last few thousand years?

godot - 2008-12-10
In short, is Neil Peart just experiencing a evolutionarily advantageous perceptual illusion that his choice was not just the most recent in a causal chain of involuntary chemical reactions and biological processes?

Walt Henderson - 2008-12-10
Personally, I think this is a good place to take a cue from William James and ask ourselves what practical difference it would make if Skinner's theory is true.

Since I don't really have time to launch into an extended philosophical wankfest, I'll just say that I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference whether or not our behavior is mechanistically determined.

halon - 2008-12-10
You're an alright guy, baleen.

fluffy - 2008-12-10
Free will is a bit more than simple stimulus/response mechanisms. Abstract problem-solving is a skill which you can't simply train for.

You can train a pigeon to bowl but you can't train a pigeon to figure out how to train a goldfish.
thirteen3seven - 2008-12-10
At the same time, how you solve a problem is dependent on your education, experiences with similar problems, mood, thought processes, chemicals in your head, and so forth. If one were to know every last one of these variables (which is arguably impossible), one could make an accurate prediction of how you'd solve your problem.

At the same time, what caused X mood or Y experience would have its own cause, completely with its own innumerable variables, so forth back to the beginning of existence. The problem is that there are so many of these variables, and many of the mechanics are still ones we're trying to learn.

j lzrd / swift idiot - 2008-12-10
I take a little issue with the phrase, "Train (a pigeon) to figure out how..." I'm pretty sure if you could do the experiment in a suitably convoluted, but controlled environment, you could train a pigeon to train a pigeon. Maybe to train a goldfish, maybe not. If you set it up right, it would be obvious that the first bird isn't "training" the second bird, it's mechanically completing actions that earns it reinforcement. The training of the second bird would be incidental.

My point being, the pigeon doesn't "figure" anything out, at least not the way we think of it. We know humans figure things out, maybe higher primates, but there's no question we're the only species on the planet whos brains work the way ours do. In fact, I'm still wondering how the debate about Koko the Sign Language Gorilla is going. Monkey See Monkey Do, or is it the spark of intelligence there?

simon666 - 2008-12-11
I just wrote a fucking paper last week on Skinner's essay "What Is Man?". My biggest problem with his definition of free-will is that he assumes free-will is absolute. IE: If you don't have unlimited choices you cannot be autonomous, meaning because man can't flap his arms and fly, he does not have free-will. That line of thinking doesn't hold up well.

Also Skinner's position on free-will parallels some of the post-structuralist work of Foucault. The "Panopticon" Foucault argues is an environment that forces the prisoner (man) to behave well. Skinner basically follows this line of thinking, then adds the prisoner has the ability to change the design of the prison. It's a little suspect.

futurebot - 2008-12-11
Foucault certainly describes a kind of behaviorism as a disciplinary strategy, but he doesn't at all comment on its psychological tenability. The guy was deeply skeptical of psychology and essentialisms about human nature.

simon666 - 2008-12-12
The point I was trying to make is Skinner was merely adhering to a post-structuralist theme, a theme that was prevalent at the time.

SecretJunk - 2008-12-10
how big is your BRAIN skinner?
dr_mr_vandertramps - 2008-12-10
Awesome. Skinner is the man. I spent some time studying with and TA-ing for a couple behaviourists. waaaay back in 3rd year, I had a chance to train a rat in a skinner box.

the schedules played out EXACTLY as predicted.

Variable ratio (e.g., 1 reinforcement every 6 lever presses on average) resulted in a constant and high response rate.
Fixed ratio (e.g., reinforcement every 3 presses) resulted in a "post reinforcement pause"
Variable time (e.g. first press after every 20s on average) had a slow, constant rate
Fixed time (e.g., every 30s) would have the rat not press the bar at all for about 25s, then pressing in a frenzy for the last 5s (he learned to tell time, essentially)
erratic - 2008-12-10
I wonder if the fact that I find an average of 1 in 6 POETV videos to be particularly entertaining is contributing to my addiction to this site...

crote - 2008-12-10
Thank you for your input, Dr. Pointsman.

futurebot - 2008-12-10
I hope no one actually misunderstands this three hundred year old archival footage as at all reflective of modern psychology, Skinner lost this debate long ago.
oogaBooga - 2008-12-11
I come here to feel dumb.
Keefu - 2008-12-11
It sucks being a freshman because all of you old assholes dwarf me in knowing everything.
Derouin - 2008-12-13
What debate did he lose futurebot?
j lzrd / swift idiot - 2009-07-16

Skinner is the most awesome name for a bird EVER.

Pavlov is the most nerdy name for a dog EVER.

Schrodinger is the most-taken name for a cat EVER.

ScheiBen Frichenkopf is the most awesome name for a gerbil EVER!!
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