The creators of behaviorism intended that the new scientific knowledge gained be applied to devise the technology
and techniques with which human behavior could be altered to shape human behavior, improve humanity, and
reduce things like hatred, war, poverty, and greed.
Behaviorism is attractive precisely because reducing humanity to empirical science makes it possible to
scientifically analyze, and scientific understanding usually brings technological control. It has already revealed
some general principles of learning and promoted rigorous scientific standards in the study of human nature. It
must then be decided if behaviorism be accepted on its merits, if it philosophically sound, and if it has produced the
results it promised.
Behaviorism, Science and Technology
Behaviorism was originally devised as a means to improve humanity. The intent was to gain knowledge of human
nature by scientific study and apply it to a technology to shape and condition human populations to improve their
lives. Behaviorism assumes that scientific knowledge of human behavior will allow a 'social engineer' to make
value judgements about how to improve it.
This concept of social engineering fails to distinguish knowledge from the use of knowledge. Observational data
cannot indicate right or wrong behavior. To produce a technology of human conditioning requires decisions about
right and wrong, which cannot be observed. Judgement requires interpretation of the observations, which requires
a free will and mind.
The behaviorist's stated objective is to improve the quality of human existence, yet the 'social engineer' is a
'condition-response machine' so her ideas can not have any meaning or value. Since the actions of any human
(including the 'social engineer') are completely deterministic, there is no way for the social engineering to make
In addition, behaviorism leads to the idea that morality, ethics, respect for others, dignity, pride, self-esteem, and
so on, are simply trainable skills, rather than philosophical principles based on individual insight into human
nature and the intrinsic value of human beings.
Learned behaviors are not inherently right or wrong, so the reduction of human existence into conditioned
responses eliminates any criteria by which improvement can be measured.
Behaviorism used for manipulation
If behaviorism is not philosophically perfect, it still seems to have discovered powerful tools for changing behavior.
If someone who has the ability to make good value judgements can create the proper set of reinforcements for the
rest of society, the masses can be conditioned to live better, happier, more moral, and be harder working. If this is
the case then behaviorism may be worth keeping.
A scientific analysis of humans has enabled better understanding of how humans respond to conditioning.
Unfortunately, behaviorism has not brought us truly closer to understanding human nature, culture, and society.
The techniques of psychometrics, economic analysis opinion control, social planning have the same destructive
potential with human society as ordinary technology does with the environment.
Ironically, though behaviorist techniques are not beneficial for the general betterment of society, they are finding
their most use by those who best realize the failure of behaviorism. Advertisers use knowledge of sights, sounds,
colors and themes that produce different emotions to make more profit. Governments and politicians maneuver to
pull the right strings, say the right words, and do enough to make citizens feel happy, yet in some areas shockingly
little is really being done to improve conditions.
The biggest winner in behaviorist theory is big business. Corporations everywhere have human resources
departments. Employees are treated as objects, they are dehumanized, given less and less security, fewer benefits,
and they are conditioned to accept it.
Behaviorism is a dehumanizing approach to technological welfare. People are seen as manipulable tools.
Behaviorism was meant as a technique to improve life, but it has become a tool of manipulation and authority to
control those who don't know the methods by which they are being controlled.
Behaviorism assumes that scientific study of humans will lead to social technology to improve life, but observation cannot scientifically define right or wrong, and it cannot provide the criteria for improvement. Without any concept of right or wrong, behaviorism becomes a tool for manipulating people. Behaviorism is an insidious, dangerous view of human nature that contradicts our basic conceptions of individuality, morality, and free well.