I found conditioning, both classical and operant, to be one of the most interesting and useful topics covered in this course. Pavlov used dogs, meat powder, and a metronome to prove that a previously neutral stimulus can be paired with another stimulus to elicit an automatic response. Known as classical conditioning, this idea has been seized by advertisers, who have found that by pairing their product with enjoyable stimuli, such as attractive men and women, they can increase desire for their product. Operant conditioning refers to learning controlled by consequences of the organism's behavior. B.F. Skinner proved it with rats where he used what came to be known as the Skinner box, but operant conditioning runs much deeper than this. Through the use of punishment and reinforcement behaviors of animals and humans alike can be controlled. Operant conditioning is the basis for our our prison system (punishment) and job salaries (reinforcement), especially those that are incentive based. Conditioning is constantly occurring, but often goes unnoticed. For example, simply being told "good job" is operant conditioning in progress. And as the following clip from The Office shows maybe humans are as susceptible to classical conditioning as Pavlov's dogs are.
scha1140: April 2012 Archives
The idea of implicit prejudices is a very interesting one. Implicit prejudice refers to the unfounded negative belief of which we're unaware of regarding the characteristics of an out-group. To test for this researchers have come up with the Implicit Association Test (IAT). According to the IAT 54% of subjects have moderate or strong preference for Caucasians over African Americans. This information is disturbing to say the least, but the tests validity has been called into question because of its lack of falsifiability. If you want to take the test for yourself it can be found here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/
Because the concept of implicit prejudice and the IAT place so much emphasis on the subconscious, I got to wondering how Freud would describe such a phenomenon. Would he explain it by arguing Caucasians' adverse feelings toward African-Americans are a result of them projecting their negative qualities onto another, or would he claim it's an act of displacement, directing an impulse from a socially unacceptable target onto a more socially acceptable target. Society seems to have deemed negative feelings toward African Americans to be okay, but negative feelings against one's own race to be unacceptable. Because of this, Caucasians may displace their negative feelings about their own race onto an out-group, which serves as a scapegoat in this situation. Unfortunately, there is no way for Freud himself to explain implicit prejudices, but it is an interesting thing to ponder. How do you think Freud would explain implicit prejudice?