Divided on PBS or Zimbardo's film about the Prison Experiment) that
humans have a remarkable propensity to quickly learn to be
prejudiced and mean towards people who are seen as different. Some
of the easy things to learn are very wrong. Degrading others,
however, can be self-serving (rewarding). So, different parts of our
brain have to check the rationality of other parts.
As Tolman insisted 50 years ago, the organism's purposes and
expectations seem to be important (although not always
commendable). One related issue is why avoidance conditioning
doesn't extinguish. Consider this example: suppose a dog has learned
to jump out of a shock box at the sound of a tone to avoid the shock.
But now the shock is turned off. After many, many jumps to the tone
without receiving any shock (this is an extinction procedure--the dog
gets no punishment), the animal should stop jumping, but it doesn't.
Why not? Perhaps because the animal expects to avoid shock by
jumping, which happens every time and this, in turn, confirms and
reinforces the expectation. So, the jumping doesn't extinguish even
though, unknown to the animal, there would be no shock. That makes
sense. Similar expectations may be involved in useless human
compulsions, obsessions, and worries (chapter 5). For instance, if you
avoid talking to black men, then, like the dog in a shock box, you will
never learn to interact with and trust black men. In fact, the paranoid
expectations may grow.
The study of cognition (thinking) has become a major part of
psychology in the last 15 years. It is another important, complex part
of life, along side behavior. In this book you will learn about several
cognitive theories and therapies: Social Learning Theory (see next
section), Problem-solving Therapy, Reality Therapy, Cognitive-
Behavioral Therapy, Rational-Emotive Therapy and others.
The early behaviorists also neglected biology and genes (of course
we can't expect them to have known everything discovered in the last
50 years). It has only been in the last 10 years that fascinating
research with identical twins raised apart has shown that talents,
interests, temperament, personality (e.g. altruism, empathy, and
nurturance), habits (smoking, drinking, and eating), physical health,
speech patterns, and even nervous mannerisms are probably genetic
to a considerable extent. We can't alter these influences (although we
can usually over-ride them); we certainly shouldn't deny them.
Neubauer and Neubauer (1990) describe identical twins raised apart
from birth who were almost identically obsessed with order and
cleanliness. Both had dressed immaculately, arrived exactly on time,
and scrubbed their hands until they were red and raw. When asked
why, one convincingly explained, "Because my mother was a
demanding perfectionist" and the other said with assurance, "because
my mother was a total slob." Our genes work in secret (even more so
now that our grandparents and great-grandparents are often strangers
to us). There is so much we do not know: How do neurons and glial
cells influence each other? How do life experiences change brain