Have you ever tried to change a behavior but fall back into old habits? In this episode, we explore the work of B.F. Skinner who believed behavior was affected by one of three operants. In his book, Beyond Freedom & Dignity (1971), he implied that humans had no free will or individual consciousness. Join us for an interesting discussion on the power of habit and the ability to change, including:
Breaking Free of Your Habits Transcript
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado, we are diving into the greatest minds of psychology. We’ll talk about habits and conditioning. But before we get started, I want to remind you to subscribe to our channel. If you're watching us on YouTube, there’s a little button here in the corner, click on it and subscribe. Also set up the alerts. There's a little bell there, click on that, you'll get an alert every time a new podcast episode is released. If you are listening to us on any of the podcast services, Spotify, iTunes, other wonderful services that host our podcast, please be sure to subscribe, so you don't miss another episode. Actually go back and see previous episodes of all these great minds of psychology that we're covering today. Who's the great mind of today, Rob?
Robert Maldonado 01:25
Before we get into it, I wanted to give a shout out to our evolving entrepreneurs. We love you guys. You're doing great work, keep it up.
Debra Maldonado 01:37
Our evolving entrepreneurs are graduate groups that are moving into putting their passion into action. They are actually going out and making difference in people's lives and making great success.
Robert Maldonado 01:51
BF Skinner, if you ask most people who is the biggest, most influential psychologist besides Freud, most people say Jung, Adler, maybe Bandura, maybe Pinker. People that are in the popular imagination and in the popular culture won't mention BF Skinner. We'll talk about why that is. But BF Skinner, his work is everywhere and is used by almost everyone in psychology and in culture. His work was very influential. We’re still debating his contributions. We'll see why as we go along. But he was born in 1904, a long time ago, before we were in first grade. Then he taught at Harvard from 1948 to about 1974. He wrote some incredible books, including — and this is recommendation, we'll put a link below — a book called Beyond Freedom and Dignity that came out in 1971, which was very controversial for that time as well. Have you ever heard about Skinner?
Debra Maldonado 03:42
Until I met you, I never heard of Skinner. When we were first starting to train our coaches, you brought it up, I was learning along. I never heard of him. But I've heard of the ideas and the experiments he was doing, very fascinating.
Robert Maldonado 04:01
He's considered a behaviorist, of course. He wasn't the inventor of behaviorism but he was definitely the most vocal proponent of it. He elevated Behaviorism to a really high level where for a long time, or for a while, it appeared that this was going to be the way psychology was going to be done from now on. It seemed like you had that power, nice scientific backing that made it incredibly important.
Debra Maldonado 04:43
For our laymen out there, could you define behaviorism? People who study psychology know what it is, but just for our lay fans out there.
Robert Maldonado 04:56
In psychology, there's different models. A lot of people think psychology must be one science, and everybody agrees on that. It's actually many schools, each with its different perspective on what the mind is, what behavior is, how to work with that behavior. Clinical psychology takes from those models and develops different therapeutic modalities. One of them was and is still behaviorism. Now it's mainly cognitive behaviorism. It's a compromise between cognition, meaning what's going on in the mind, our thoughts and emotions and how we look at behavior.
Debra Maldonado 05:43
Behavior, meaning our patterns or habits, what we're doing, and the cognitive is what we're thinking. Most people in the modern world, even pop psychology, is all about “Think positive”, you do positive things, your thoughts and feelings create your actions and reactions, and we get into these condition pattern. What he was looking at was not the mind, just pure behavior, just action. Observing something, you can observe your senses versus you can't read someone's mind, but you can watch their behavior.
Robert Maldonado 06:26
If you’d ask him about the mind, feelings, thoughts, he'd say “Show me those things. Where can I see them? If you can show them to me, I'll take them into consideration. But because you can’t show them, weigh them, measure them, they’re essentially useless to us.”
Debra Maldonado 06:51
Did they have brain scans and things like that where they would be able to measure the synapses back then? But he didn't even consider that.
Robert Maldonado 06:59
At that time, it was in a primitive stage of development. There wasn't these fancy MRI machines.
Debra Maldonado 07:10
We have to think about when these greats came up with their system, they didn’t have the benefit of all the things we know today, genetics and brain activity.
Robert Maldonado 07:24
He knew about the brain functioning of the brain. By that time it was well established, he’d simply say those are correlates, meaning they correlate with behavior and thought, but they're not necessarily evidence of thought patterns and emotions going on in the human being. Behaviorism goes back to Pavlov. Everybody has heard of Pavlov's dog. It’s classical conditioning, there's an association between an event and the reinforcer. The reinforcer is the food, the event would be a bell. The dog learns that when somebody rings a bell, what follows afterwards is food.
Debra Maldonado 08:27
You see this now in those pet videos on YouTube. The owner shakes the box of dog food, the dog remembers that sound and rushes to the bowl. That would be a similar idea.
Robert Maldonado 08:41
The animal, the organism, human beings as well associate what happens right before we get the reinforcer and learn. When you smell food, when you hear the clanking of the dishes in the kitchen, something is activated in you, you start to anticipate the food.
Debra Maldonado 09:11
What they do in restaurants, when people walk by, they're pumping the smell of the food out onto the street, so when people walk by, it smells good and they want to go in. We're just as conditioned with food as a dog or a mouse.
Robert Maldonado 09:29
It’s a powerful mechanism. That's why it's so influential, we can’t discount it. It's operating continuously, it's everywhere. But again, people don't remember where it came from, except for Pavlov. Pavlov is more well known than Skinner. But Pavlov initiated this idea. He was a Russian physiologist, earlier on. He was studying animals and conditioning. He published these ideas, then other behaviorist took it up in America and made it their own.
Debra Maldonado 10:20
Can classic conditioning be also something that happened? You hear a helicopter go by, and you were in a war, so every time you hear a helicopter, you feel danger. Would that be classical conditioning?
Robert Maldonado 10:35
Debra Maldonado 10:39
An external event making you have an internal experience.
Robert Maldonado 10:42
But notice that the sound is not necessarily truly linked to the reward. Sound is not really the food. But because it's associated in the mind, it triggers that response.
Debra Maldonado 11:04
That's associated with preserving the body, which is a protective mechanism, versus going toward pleasure, which would be “I'm going to make sure I'm safe.”
Robert Maldonado 11:16
In the animal model, the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell instead of the sight of the food or the smell. Before it even happened, before even the reward is truly there. Now the sound, which is a neutral thing, elicits a very powerful biological response in the animal. It's the same principle.
Debra Maldonado 11:44
The point I'm making is that we're conditioned both with a positive stimulus and negative stimulus.
Robert Maldonado 11:51
We'll get to that because that's where Skinner comes in. He takes some of these ideas, there was this guy named Watson before Skinner, who had popularized behaviorism in America. It was very popular at that time, they were on the cover of Time, these were big, important people at that time.
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Robert Maldonado 13:15
Skinner comes along and says “Let's look at behaviorism and think about developing psychology as a true science. Because if we can observe it, we can then use it to create a real science of behavior.”
Debra Maldonado 13:41
I think with Pavlov, it's waiting for the stimulus to happen, we're passive when those experiences happen. What Skinner was doing is creating the conditions for the stimulus. Is that what it was?
Robert Maldonado 13:59
Actually Skinner was more reacting towards psychoanalysis, which was very popular right before he came into the picture. It was Freudian stuff that was popular, Jungian stuff, Adlerian psychology that was popular before he came in. From his point of view, he was saying “You're talking about dreams, instinct, desires, intuition. We can't see any of that stuff. You can't see it, you can't measure it. You're essentially speculating on this black box.” He thought of the mind as a black box that we can’t look into. He said “What's the point of developing a psychology based on this black box that we can never really see directly into? You're essentially creating a false science basically.”
Debra Maldonado 15:05
Even a false sense of control. If you think positive, you’ll have positive things happen in your life. He says “It doesn't matter.” That's why he's in his own little world because no one else wanted to think that.
Robert Maldonado 15:20
He was actually very influential and very important. Again, he was on the cover of Time. Everybody thought this guy was going to now take psychology to the space age, into modern times. For a while behaviorism became the psychology in America.
Debra Maldonado 15:44
Because it was more scientific, because you can observe it, or you can’t observe thoughts. Let's talk about the Skinner box. How did he come up with his theory on behaviorism and the tests that he did? I think those are fascinating.
Robert Maldonado 16:02
That's why he was so powerful, because he actually demonstrated his principles, it wasn't just theory, he was saying “I have the evidence, I have the data. You can look at it, you can observe it, here are the numbers, here's the data on this theory.” He developed the Skinner box, which is, if you're interested, look up on YouTube Skinner box experimentations are experiments. Very interesting stuff. Essentially, he would put a rat in a box. In the box was a little lever that the rat could push with his little paw. Every time the rat pressed on the lever, little food pellet would come out of a slot and the rat would eat, get a reward. The rat learned that if he pressed the little lever, he’d get a reward. What would he do? Of course, he'd press it and get satiated with food.
Debra Maldonado 17:29
The rat felt in control because it could control “If I do this, I get this.” It gave the rat more confidence and sense of control that it can eat whenever it needed to.
Robert Maldonado 17:41
For him, this wasn't classical conditioning, this was operant conditioning.
Debra Maldonado 17:50
Because the rat is creating the behavior, getting rewarded versus waiting for the pellet to just drop and associating it with something.
Robert Maldonado 18:03
There's still an element, of course, because the association becomes that if I press this, I get that. But Skinner was saying it's the rats behavior that’s creating the conditions.
Debra Maldonado 18:20
Versus the external action that's creating the condition. We all want that, we all want to feel like if we take an action, we're going to get a certain result, we're all attached that way.
Robert Maldonado 18:31
Anyway, he developed this up to a very high science where he was measuring “What if I alter the reward pattern? Only after the rat presses the lever five times, it will get a reward. What will happen? Will the rat still learn?” Sure enough, the rat would learn that it takes five times to get the reward, it will condition the rat to perform that action. He started to develop this whole theory that the environment is continuously shaping our behavior. He demonstrated this through other experiments. One of the hallmarks of a good psychological model is that it can predict and account for behavior. They asked him “Can you account for superstition, for example?” Sure enough, there's an actual video of a pigeon performing very bizarre actions because of the rewarding of a certain kind.
Debra Maldonado 20:02
The pigeon would flap its wings, then the reward would come out. It’d be like “I'm gonna flap my wings, the reward will come out.” Then it would not for a while, then it would try to turn around. All of a sudden, a random pellet came, so the pigeon started coming up with this elaborate dance because it thought “If I repeat everything, the pellet will come.” It kept learning more and more of this ritual. This is why the tribes and early men were probably doing these rituals. “It rained, let's do that again.” In sports it’s like “I am not going to shave for the playoffs”, you see them with their beards. Nadal, the famous tennis player has this whole ritual. They call it OCD, but it's like a ritual he does before he serves because if he does not do it, he feels like it's gonna jinx him. That's the conditioning. It's almost automatic. There's a fear of breaking that conditioning, or breaking your action because there's a fear you won't get that reward.
Robert Maldonado 21:12
There you see the power of the reward. Skinner outlined three important operates. One is the neutral stuff that's in the background but that doesn't really seem to be associated with the reward. But then you have reinforcement. Reinforcement is the result that has a positive reinforcement on your behavior. Positive reinforcement means that you're going to tend to repeat that action. Then there's negative reinforcement. It's not what people think, it's not punishment, it’s another one. Negative reinforcement is when you take away something, but the behavior still increases. If you tell your kid, for example,”If you do your homework, you don't have to do the dishes,” you're taking away the task of washing the dishes, which is a negative thing, but it's reinforcing the behavior of studying.
Debra Maldonado 22:35
If a team member reaches their goals, we could say “You don't have to come in on Friday.” It's not giving something but also taking it away. Taking something away elicits a positive behavior.
Robert Maldonado 22:58
Anything that increases behavior, a certain behavior is reinforced, positive or negative.
Debra Maldonado 23:06
But I'm talking about feelings. I think when you say that Skinner did not talk about “feel good or feel bad”, it was more behavior and punishment or reward.
Robert Maldonado 23:16
Punishment is actually when you omit a behavior and you get punished. If the rat gets a shock when it presses the lever, that's a punishment. It's an aversive stimulus.
Debra Maldonado 23:35
There was one where the light had to be on and the lever had to be pushed only when the light was on. If they pushed the lever before the light was on, they got punished. They learned to do it at the same time. Then they changed it, made it random, where they didn't know when they were going to get the reward. They couldn't figure out what the mechanism was, it was so confusing. Was he the one who came up with that learned helplessness or is that later on?
Robert Maldonado 24:06
That was later on but it was associated with working on those principles.
Debra Maldonado 24:15
If you're a kid and you know that when “I do this, I'm rewarded, I get something, I don't have to do hard work anymore, I get out of my chores”, you know what to expect. But when it's ambivalent, you’re uncertain, sometimes when I clean up the dishes my mother's happy and sometimes she's mad at me. Then you wonder, uncertainty drives anxiety because you don't know what to choose. When people have that feeling of anxiety or they can't make a decision, it's they don't feel the locus of control is in them. They feel like “Whether I do it or not, it doesn't matter”, you lose motivation. Is that where motivation comes from? Or am I getting ahead?
Robert Maldonado 25:01
You're going into other models. Skinner wa, and this is part of the reason he was criticized and also why we're not talking about him as much today, because he was a radical behaviorist. Anything that smacked of thought, feeling in any decision, he says you're simply speculating, you're going into an unscientific perspective. But let's consider his model just from the point of view of behaviorism. Let's use something we all know and have experienced, dating.
Debra Maldonado 25:49
When I was a relationship coach, back in the early part of our career, I was working with a lot of people dating online. They’d get their phone out and go on their apps. If they were getting dates, they were getting some people liking them back, they were getting something out of it, they’d continue and be like “I love online dating.” But a lot of them would go on and say “No one's responding. I don't see anyone I like”, they're less likely to repeat that behavior. They think “I'm not going to do apps, dating apps don't work for me.” They didn't get the little pellet of “I'm interested”, or get the date, or get any response, or they're looking and saying “There's no one I'd want to talk to anyway”, they’d stop that behavior without thinking, it was a conditioned response. Even going on dates, they’d go on dates and have a bunch of bad dates. They'd be like “I’m here trying to find love, I’m trying to get this reward. I'm getting nothing. Let's just give up on dating.” I see so many people do that too, giving up on something when they're not getting the result. If I push the lever and get the pellet every time, think about how conditioned we are as a society to go to work every day. If I work 60-70 hours a week, I get that promotion, I want a bigger house. I want to commute and work harder, I'm gonna get a bigger reward. We create these golden handcuffs where we are conditioned to be at work, to get the paycheck from someone else. Even if we are stressed, even if it's not a full reward, we're going for that paycheck. That's the pellet we get. That's why there's so many unhappy people at work, because it doesn't have a meaning to it, they're acting out of that operant conditioning.
Robert Maldonado 27:53
Money is a powerful reinforcer. The paycheck, of course, that you get at the end of the two weeks or the month, is reinforcing the behavior of showing up at work on time, pressing the keys, just like the little mouse pressing the lever. This reinforcement is very powerful. What it does, again, it increases the likelihood of you performing that action. That's what reinforcement means, it makes the behavior stronger. It's a very powerful system of conditioning.
Debra Maldonado 28:55
In leadership, some of the things I learned from being a leader of a team is find out what motivates your team. Do they like time off? Do they like money? Do they want appreciation? Everyone's pellet is different. Sometimes it's not money, they're motivated by having a creative input. Finding that motivation. It’s operant conditioning, they'll be more likely to do it, if you're rewarding them for that service. Speaking of money, and that ties to the paycheck, for me, it was very scary to leave that conditioned response. I knew if I went to work and had a job, I’d have insurance and a steady paycheck and predictability. When I left the corporate world, a lot of people can relate, leaving and becoming an entrepreneur, you can't just show up and get a paycheck, it's different. You can show up at your office and do the action, but now it's not coming from an employer anymore, you're the employer. We have to reorient ourselves to how we reward ourselves as we're starting up a company and not getting that steady paycheck yet, and it's uncertain. How do we reward ourselves to stay on task? Would that be a way to think about operant conditioning, for us more likely to continue if we're getting pleasure or some kind of reward out of our action?
Robert Maldonado 30:26
That's one of the questions that came up in evaluating behaviorism as a model. What is a reinforcer for one person may not be a reinforcer for another person. If I'm interested in money, then it becomes a powerful reinforcer for me.
Debra Maldonado 30:54
Just looking at your bank account, some people love the numbers. Then other people are like “I want more quality time with my family, so I'll forego the money. I want some more time and quality, or doing something I enjoy. I'll take a pay cut to do something I enjoy.”
Robert Maldonado 31:12
Human beings are a little bit more complicated than mice and rats and pigeons. We have likes and dislikes. But Skinner thought there must be primary reinforcers, like food, sex, something tangible that you can experience directly. Then there are secondary reinforcers, like money, money doesn't fill your belly but you can use the money and trade it in for food, which means it's a secondary one.
Debra Maldonado 31:52
The other one is dieting. When I first started as a hypnotherapist, I did lots of weight loss. One of the things that I had in common, I didn’t struggle with my weight, but was always self conscious of it, my whole life I was obsessed with being a certain number. I remember feeling so miserable all the time. My clients would tell me “I feel like I'm being punished. The food I love is being taken away. I have to punish myself for 30 days.” Then they’d cut out their sweets, cut out their carbs, exercise, which they didn't like, force themselves to do this thing. Then they wouldn't see the results right away. If there's no reward, they don't stay with it. That's why dieting really doesn't work, because you're basically pulling away all rewards, you're prolonging that reward. But the mind needs that little piece of joy. You want to make it a lifestyle. It really doesn't work because maybe you suffer for six months, drop 50 pounds, but then you're going back to your old behavior again, the things you love, that conditioning, you're still conditioned, it doesn't get rid of the conditioning by taking it away, actuality you miss it more. Then you end up doubling down when you get off the diet. That's that roller coaster idea. It's not enjoyable, you don't stick with something you don't enjoy. If you're an entrepreneur trying to build a business, you're doing all the things you don't like, you're like “I just want to do this to get the goodies,” you're not enjoying the process, you're going to quit, you're going to say “I’ll go back to my job where I don't have to work as hard. I'll get a smaller reward than the prolonged reward.” There's this whole idea of delayed satisfaction. Skinner didn't look into that because that's more of a mind. Was there anything about delayed satisfaction, like postponing and waiting?
Robert Maldonado 34:06
I'm not sure, he looked at different continuouses, different patterns of getting the reward, the reinforcement, but food is a special one because food is not only a biological need, but also tasty. Especially now that everything has sugar, we know sugar is a big reinforcer for us, so people get hooked on food essentially.
Debra Maldonado 34:38
I've worked with a lot of people that went through chemo and lost a lot of weight. Then as soon as they were done with the chemo, they gained weight, so they associated thinness with with sickness. If they started to lose weight, it almost triggered them.
Robert Maldonado 35:03
You also have the social component, sitting around with friends and family is itself a reinforcement. You are getting reinforced in a lot of different ways. It's almost impossible for people to resist those powerful reinforcers.
Debra Maldonado 35:24
A lot of the eating was about celebration and family. Food has celebratory connection. If you're eating a salad and everyone else is eating a big steak and a pie for dessert, and you're having nothing, you're left out of that joint experience, it’s reinforcer. Everyone's enjoying the same thing, and you feel that punishment again, there's something wrong with me, I'm bad because I can't have that.
Robert Maldonado 35:58
If you notice, the people that are able to do these things make being thin or being fit and working out a stronger reinforcer for them than having that meal. When those things replace the satisfaction of eating and being with friends and family, then people are able to make those changes. Again, we're taking about Skinner's perspective, we're not saying this is the way it should be.
Debra Maldonado 36:38
It's good to know about this powerful force we're working against. When we're trying to make change, we want to understand how powerful the power of habit and conditioning are, it takes effort. A lot of people, I know for myself, trying to break habits, they’re hard on themselves when they can't stick to something. You have to understand that you're going against the tide, you’re swimming against the grain to make a change. These deep unconscious reinforcers are there. What is possible now? Skinner had a very pessimistic view of this.
Robert Maldonado 37:19
Let's talk about his downfall, the rise and fall of Skinnerism. One of them was that he was adamant about not considering the mind as an important factor in psychology, which is, of course, crazy because we're talking about where the behavior comes from. It comes from the mind, we know that the brain is ordering and directing a lot of our behavior or all of our behaviors.
Debra Maldonado 37:56
I must add in that he probably didn't think about spiritual ideas and thought about us as biological conditioned creatures.
Robert Maldonado 38:04
He actually stated that human beings are biological machines. It's a particular point of view. He wrote a book that I mentioned in the beginning, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, which essentially where he said “We are not free, we do not have free will, if you consider that these operates are everywhere in the environment and that we're reacting to these operates through these reinforcers and punishments, if you take that on the whole, human behavior is essentially conditioned responses, not freewill. There's no way we can have free will under these conditions.”
Debra Maldonado 38:55
Probably 10 years ago, I was at a personal development branding event a friend of mine had, I was on stage. We were talking about branding, and I always had dinner with the members of the presenting team. I sat next to this guy, he was really pessimistic. He was like “You do personal development, don't you think there's really no hope for people?” It’s just what Skinner said, they're going to be conditioned, thoughts aren't going to change anything. I said “You don't understand the unconscious. You don't understand Carl Jung's theory of individuation.” But I remember there were some people that adopted his theory, they still live in that world of we're just conditioned creatures. I was really shocked to see. I said “Why are you even here? This is all about personal development." He's like “I don't think there's really any chance for people." I'm like “You have a very pessimistic view of the world and what's possible.” I never heard someone talk about that before, but I'm sure there are many more others.
Robert Maldonado 40:04
Skinner wasn't pessimistic. He simply thought that's what we're going to have to work with. He came up with ideas where he wanted to engineer society. He said “If that is the case, we can engineer society to where people get the proper reinforcements that make them act in the way we want them to act. It's control essentially, behavioral control. What is behavioral modification? It is behavioral control through environmental conditions.
Debra Maldonado 40:48
A lot of leaders, even cult leaders, understand this concept. They understand that if they get this reinforcer they could basically control other people's behavior.
Robert Maldonado 41:01
If you look at social media, it's based on the “like” principle. What is the like? It's a reinforcer. The more reinforcers you get, the more you want to be on social media and spend more time there. Now think about what happens to kids.
Debra Maldonado 41:20
The teenagers are really suffering with that. A research came out that the earlier you start with social media, the lower self esteem you have as an adult, because it lowers self esteem.
Robert Maldonado 41:34
Watson, who was the precursor to Skinner, actually went and worked on Madison Avenue. He became a madman, a person that works on advertisement.
Debra Maldonado 41:52
The woman in the bikini on the sports car to sell them the sports car. Women in their ballgowns doing vacuuming to sell the vacuum cleaner. It's so glamorous to do housework.
Robert Maldonado 42:10
These companies and organizations know these principles, they know that work. They've been tested, very powerful systems. They're applying them in social media to get you to spend more time online and on their platforms.
Debra Maldonado 42:30
We just saw that movie, Air, with Michael Jordan. A kid buying a sneaker associated with Michael Jordan is a positive reinforcer. They’d use the celebrity, “I'm just like them”, it's a positive reinforcer. That's powerful.
Robert Maldonado 42:47
According to Skinner, freewill is an impossibility. According to Skinner, there is no freewill. When I was studying some of Skinner's work during my master's degree, I had a very good teacher who forced us to look at all the experiments and really think about them to see if there was any loopholes in his theory. There was a little loophole there that there was some rats that actually examined and were curious and explored their environment, the mazes and stuff, without being reinforced. Curiosity, exploration itself perhaps was a reinforcer, I guess Skinner would say, but still, there was a loophole here because if they were not being reinforced by the cheese or the pellet, the food power, what prompted them to behave, to take action? I started to see that there's a little gap in his thinking, not 100%. At the same time, I was reading the Bhagavad Gita, which is talking about karma. Most people would not associate karma with behaviorism. But it's intimately tied to it because the ancients were aware of this conditioning power of the environment. They call it conditioning actually, or it's translated as conditioning. But it is essentially the same question. Are we free to act or are we simply acting because we get the reward, because we get the reinforcers from the environment?
Debra Maldonado 45:01
Attachment to the reward, and they practice non-attachment. If you act whether you get the reward or not, that's when you're free.
Robert Maldonado 45:10
The answer is that if you never develop non-attachment to the reward, this ability to act without trying to get the reward. In essence, it would be: are you willing to work not for the money and not for the reward but simply for the sake of fulfilling your desire to work? You're taking that action.
Debra Maldonado 45:44
The reward is in the action itself versus the fruits of the action. You feel aligned with your purpose. Taking an action is part of who I am, part of my duty, part of my passion. Like an artist creates art, a writer just wants to write stories, they don't care if it sells or not. They're doing it, there’s that freedom. There's actually more creativity because you're not attached. There was an experiment where kids in kindergarten were seen drawing while they were waiting for their parents. They were like “We should do a contest.” As soon as they attached a reward, the kids interpreted it as work, they didn't find it fun anymore. Giving a reward sometimes can have a negative effect because now I have to work for this. Now I have to do this thing, if I don't, I'm not going to win because there's a competition involved.
Robert Maldonado 46:56
Psychology evolved into social psychology later on. The marshmallow experiment or the creativity experiment where if you give people certain incentive that is external, they don't tend to be as creative as if the action comes from their own curiosity and their own willingness to express it.
Debra Maldonado 47:28
Their ability to play and just have no agenda. I always find that my most creative ideas are when I'm not thinking about a certain goal that I'm trying to reach, but more like “Wouldn't it be fun if I did this or that?” It comes from a different place, it comes from that deeper spiritual place of our essence.
Robert Maldonado 47:48
Intrinsic motivation is the desire that comes from within you. Extrinsic motivation is the desire to get the reward for your action.
Debra Maldonado 48:00
Skinner didn't come up with intrinsic because he didn't think they had any chance. But you're seeing that with the rats going through the maze by themselves. They had an intrinsic motivation.
Robert Maldonado 48:12
It's both. Can you act out of pure conditioning? Yes. Most people, I’d say, act out of pure conditioning. If you think about how we're conditioned from the time we’re kids on, adults always emphasize that you want to act to get the reward. Why do you want to study? So you can get good grades. Why do you want good grades? So you can get the job. Why do you want to get the job? So you can get the money and the prestige. The message always is you should act to get the reward. It's implied in everything.
Debra Maldonado 48:55
We’re trained to get the A in school, a good grade so you can get in college, then get good grades there, then get a good job and then get more pay. We're like always chasing these rewards.
Robert Maldonado 49:06
If you're acting that way, there is no free will, you don’t have free will, you're simply acting out of your conditioning, out of the environment. Whereas if you’re able to drop the attachment to the reward and act from intrinsic motivation for the things that you want to experience, then you have freewill.
Debra Maldonado 49:29
It's really interesting that you say that because before I met you, I was acting like “When am I going to meet the person?” When I joined the dating service where we met, I said “I just want to meet interesting men that I can have an intellectual and deep conversation with, I just want to meet interesting people. If it turns out to be something, great, but I feel like I want to have deeper conversations.” I was learning about the unconscious with my hypnotherapy, I was feeling hungry for having those conversations. Who's the first one to show up? It is Dr. Rob who talks about the collective unconscious. I set the intention that I just wanted to have these deep conversations with someone and I’d enjoy dating just to get to know other people and have less of an attachment, like “Are you going to marry me tomorrow? Do you want kids? What's your future?” It’s more like “Let's get to know each other.” I think there's people, whether you're in sales, whether you're in dating, to have that non-attachment to meeting people and not having an agenda for other people. You're just coming from that place of “let's see what this relationship evolves to”, it just does so much for you.
Robert Maldonado 50:42
In work, the principle would be if you can work for passion, for your vision instead of working for the money and the prestige, you're free from that conditioning. Some people protest here and say “That means I won't get any money and any proceeds.” No, as long as you take the actions, the rewards will be there, you're simply dropping that attachment to it. You're not doing it for the external reward. You're doing it from the intrinsic motivation.
Debra Maldonado 51:21
It's less suffering because when you're attached and you don't get the reward, it's a painful experience. But if you're not attached, when you do have it, it's great. If you don't have it, great. You're not up and down in anxiety. The last one, dieting too. When I was younger, I’d weigh myself four or five times a day, I’d starve myself just to stay the super skinny teenager. Then when I started working and doing something I loved, I started working in New York, I worked for MTV, and I really loved what I did, I just forgot about dieting, I just was happy, I ate when I was hungry. I eat burgers and fries and still remained the same weight. I was stressing so much, I was so unhappy, and when I just let it go, my mind wasn't so obsessed about staying in that weight, it automatically happened, because I was less attached. It takes our body, there's a balance that takes care of ourselves, the intelligence within us that takes care of us. Our ego tries to get in the way and have this agenda that interrupts actually the natural flow of getting what we really want. Then the reward is sweeter because we're not hanging on to it and waiting for it to go away. The other shoe’s not gonna drop when we get it.
Robert Maldonado 52:42
I still recommend reading Skinner and looking at his work, incredibly brilliant mind in psychology, contributed tremendously to our understanding of behavior and the human condition. The only reason we're not talking about him more is because of his radicalism and emphasizing behavior and reinforcement over considering the mind in its multifaceted aspect. As human beings, we have dreams, we have emotions, we have ambitions that are unique, they give life, its color and its flavor.
Debra Maldonado 53:36
What does it mean for coaching? What I've seen is that you have to get goals, set goals, reach goals, that whole “do, do, do”. That's fine but coaching needs to include less of what you can see, the person's behavior, or even hear, their conscious thinking. We have to go deeper into the unconscious and see what is really going on. If you want to reprogram a person, you're seeing a human being as a machine, like Skinner, and saying “I'm just going to reprogram you to be a better machine” versus “I want you to individuate”, which is what Jung said, to become a unique, free thinking, conscious person.
Robert Maldonado 54:21
People emphasize the getting of goals, they're making people more attached, more subjected to conditioning by the environment, instead of setting them free to have real freewill and choice.
Debra Maldonado 54:42
A lot of times people make these goals, then they look and say “Why did I want that goal anyway?” Everyone's saying this is a goal you should achieve, it's not even in their heart. They're just acting on autopilot, trying to get this goal, then they reach it and they're not as satisfied. I saw that in the music industry, one hit wonders would work their whole life to get a big hit, they get the big hit and would be like “That's not really what I thought it was gonna be.” Again, that attachment to results is the thing we need to break to be free. This was a juicy conversation, we could talk about Skinner forever but we do not want to because we have to move on to other great minds. We’re going to continue this series on the great minds of psychology. If you don’t want to miss the next episode, don’t forget to subscribe here if you're watching us on YouTube. Or if you're listening to us on the podcast services, make sure you subscribe, so you get the next episode. We're going to continue this series. Practice watching yourself this week, see how conditioned you are to things. Even the stimulus, that classical conditioning. What stimulates you to motivate you, or the associations you make in your life for rewards.
Robert Maldonado 55:58
The final message is that we can break free of conditioning.
Debra Maldonado 56:03
We don't want to recondition ourselves. We want to break free completely and have that free will, that is possible. Take care everyone, have a great day, and we'll see you next time.
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