Skinner's concepts of operant conditioning have often been interpreted as being simplistic because he either ignores or negates the richness of life. The assumption is often made that Skinner doesn't deal with human emotions and thoughts and has virtually nothing to say about the complex behaviors of life that are displayed in creative activities. In general, Skinner seems to ignore the realm deemed "creative," which includes the imagination, because it is not easily open to direct observation and presents difficulties on the experimental level. Skinner saw the creation of a poem, for instance, as being analogous to having a baby or to the process of laying an egg by a hen. He believed that there is no creative act that is autonomous. The person who writes the poem has a particular background and is living under certain conditions that reinforce one's view of the world. Therefore the creation of the poem is merely a function of how the environment has treated that person, as opposed to some uncaused event that sprung from nowhere. The criticisms of Skinner on this point have more to do with his mechanistic view of human nature than the resulting conclusions about creativity. It follows logically that if a human being is nothing more than a machine of sorts, then there is no need for an inner life of which imagination and creativity are parts. These aspects of life bring a multidimensional enjoyment of life that many people cannot reconcile with operant-conditioning principles.
Was this article helpful?
Do you suffer from a habit or a behavior or a repetitive thought pattern that keeps you from being who you want to be? Do you try to change this or that aspect of your life, but wind up right back where you started? You're not alone! Millions of Americans try to make changes, but the whopping majority fail exceptionally.