Books, Film, Rhetoric

Rats in a cage

Question: is it better for a human to choose to be bad than be conditioned to be good?

The American psychologist B. F. Skinner believed that human behaviour was determined by environmental variables rather than free will, and that by systematically altering those variables human behaviour could be modified. In this way humans could be conditioned to display good, rather than bad, behaviour. He developed his theory of applied behavioural analysis from experiments he conducted in the 1930s on rats. He invented and constructed an enclosed soundproof cage with food dispenser that a rat could operate by pressing a lever, called a ‘Skinner box’. Continue reading

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Law

Prison books

A court in Portland Oregon, on Monday 27th January 2014, sentenced Rebecca Rubin for the offence of arson in the following way:

1. 5 years imprisonment.
2. $14 million restitution on her release.
3. She was required to read, whilst in prison, Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath.

The prosecutor had asked the court to sentence her to 7 ½ years imprisonment and pay $40 million restitution (it is not recorded what book, if any, they required her to read). It seems rather savage to impose literary obligations on prisoners. Continue reading

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