September 12, 2010

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee..."

"... to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years."

38 comments:

mesquito said...

Heh. I read that and immediately thought about Watson and his silly book, Walden Two.

God spare us from intellectuals and their enthusiasms.

traditionalguy said...

Sadly, this is a true statement. Then you get the trainees to call outliers "insane" for wanting to become more than the system permits out of its people. ALTHOUSE FOR PRESIDENT started with a trainable cadre and expanded until Bob Dylan became a cabinet officer with a guitar.

paul a'barge said...

This is blasphemy.

I wouldn't stand too close to this mutt when the lightning storm passes, if I were you.

Cedarford said...

"Nope. Typical "blank slate" or "cultural determinism" fallacy. For some reason, many people become so swept away with the observation that environment matters a lot (which is obviously true) and extrapolate to the claim that environment is the ONLY thing that matters (which is not true)."

seattleWa said...

This sounds like another grab by the teacher's union.

PatCA said...

Look to the behaviorists' own progeny for the sad results of this theory.

The Long Dark Night of Behaviorism

Elliott A said...

This is yet another in a continuing series of attempts to convince people that genes don't matter. I believe they mater totally. The trick to getting the most out of a blank slate (a new infant) is to identify strengths and develop them, and to identify weaknesses and prevent them from undermining the strengths.

Math is clearly one area requiring that a brain be wired a certain way. I missed one question (stupid mistake) on the SAT math, yet couldn't help explain calculus to my daughter. My nephew understands higher level math as if it were basic arithmetic. (He is actually in school to become an aerospace engineer)

Art is another fully inherited talent. Additionally, you cannot be a surgeon without having manual artistic ability. You cannot be taught to see the images Ann sees then commits to a photograph. My bet is that they jump out at her while others looking at the same view don't see the image.

Language (related to math in abstract structure) whether mastery of your own language or linguistics is also something born not acquired.

I do not wish to have an individual of average intelligence diagnose my illness or design the brakes on my car. No one would buy my prose, music, or artwork.

There are differences in intelligence between individuals. There are differences between groups. To acknowledge that is not judgmental, rather logical and practical. People have differing limits on their abilities. The "enlightened" Europeans know this and that is why they peel off kids from academic tracks at about age 13. They are then given the years to learn worthwhile and marketable skills and not sleep through the drudgery of education as it exists in the US.

lucid said...

Walden II is actually by B.F. Skinner, but same general category as Watson.

Mary Beth said...

No claim that they'll be good at that speciality. Or that they'll enjoy doing it.

John Lynch said...

No, because some of the infants won't want to do what they are told. What then?

sydney said...

Isn't that basically what the Jesuits are credited with saying?

"Give me a child for his first seven years, and I will give you the man"

http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070825015743AAtbNey

Zach said...

Given the number of successful stage parents out there, you probably can train a kid to do almost anything.

The harder question is whether you're getting anything out of the training. At some point, internal motivation and natural talent start to take over.

Maguro said...

I wonder if our would-be Henry Higgins realizes how many people are made ineligible by his 85 IQ minimum.

Hint: The median IQ for African-Americans is 85.

http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/dickens/20060619_IQ.pdfoushincy

Moose said...

I'd completely agree with Mr. Watson.

If you take a person and mold them, then yes. I've seen extremely competent people in the business world who were total failures in their personal lives. "Rising" to success in a profession is not an act of integration of one life and aspirations. It's just the accretion of skills.

jimspice said...

Maguro, if you're suggesting what it sounds like you're suggesting, the very article to which you point undermines your argument. That scores have been narrowing between races implies that that IQ does not, in fact, measure what it purports to measure -- INNATE intelligence. Whatever it DOES measure has been changing over a time too short to be caused by the evolutionary means necessary to create a race-wide difference.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Isn't this the basic premise of Brave New World?

Freeman Hunt said...

László Polgár did it.

Maguro said...

I didn't suggest anything except that the metafilter guy is excluding a hell of a lot of black people from his little guarantee.

Maybe he's a racist.

Freeman Hunt said...

Quite a few vaudevillians did it.

Big Mike said...

Clearly Watson does not understand forms of reasoning that are the sine qua non for certain professions. If your ability to visualize shapes in three dimensions is weak, you will never be a competent organic chemist. Period. If you cannot reason abstractly and symbolically, you will never be a mathematician. If your brain is not wired for physics, you will never be a physicist. Jaltcoh's comment at the link is dead on point.

Nurture counts, too, as of course it must. It is entirely possible that sometime in the last couple weeks the greatest physicist who ever lived entered first grade in some inner city elementary school. He or she will never become a physicist because the Democrats who run most American cities find it politically expedient to capitulate to teachers unions instead of seeing to it that inner city children are well-educated.

If this was the only strike against Democrats -- and it is not -- then I'd have ample reason to hate all Democrats with a passion that they lack adequate brain cells to comprehend.

Freeman Hunt said...

Dedication and hard work almost always, I think, trump IQ. (And, of course, you could get into the argument of whether or not IQ measures intelligence well.)

So many of the things that people think are inborn can be learned. A person without any natural inclinations toward something may or may not be able to become world class at it, but he can certainly reach a very high level of competency if he is dedicated.

William said...

Thanks to PatCa for his linkage at 8:45. I wonder what mixture of pride, intelligence, and circumstances could possibly go into making such a foolish man. I don't think it would be possible to replicate such an idiot......My own study of behaviorial psychology leads me to believe that if you feed children regularly and give them lots of love, they generally don't end up as serial murderers. Jeffrey Dahmer is the exception that proves the rule. There are just too many variables to reduce any human being into an equation.

Anglelyne said...

jimspice: That scores have been narrowing between races implies that that IQ does not, in fact, measure what it purports to measure -- INNATE intelligence.

No. I don't think there's anybody out there studying IQ who denies that it has an environmental component. So a change in IQs over time doesn't debunk "what IQ purports to measure", not does it demonstrate one way or the other that there are no differences between groups that are due to genetics rather than environment.

Whatever it DOES measure has been changing over a time too short to be caused by the evolutionary means necessary to create a race-wide difference.

Again, no. There's been plenty of time since human beings started wandering out of Africa for natural selection to produce measurably distinct between-group differences in all sorts of traits, and natural selection acts on brains just as it acts on any other organs. People will be arguing about whether those differences exist, or what they mean if they do exist, for a long time, but to dismiss the possibility out of hand because there "hasn't been enough time" is just flat-out nonsense.

David said...

John B. Watson is right. Give someone the right conditions and you can also create the perfect twit.

David said...

Freeman Hunt said...
"Dedication and hard work almost always, I think, trump IQ."

Easy for a smart person to say.

Certainly dedication and work matter a lot, and most important activities are more a matter of judgment than blazing IQ. But some people are just plain scary smart, though even they can screw anything up.

(Don't bring up academia, commenters. Most of them aren't all that smart.)

ThomasD said...

"All men," Helvétius maintained, "have an equal disposition for understanding."

Diderot disagreed.

And it's been that way ever since.

Jeff with one 'f' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff with one 'f' said...

The fatal flaw of this leftist desire for humans as blank slates is their insistence that homosexuality is inherent, not learned behavior. All of their "gender is a construct" bullshit avoids this topic like the plague.

traditionalguy said...

This "science"is the framework of modern mind control methods. The cruelty of these Scientists out does the cruelty of Turkish Sultans. Both revel in dominating other humans for sport. The methods of Goebbels and Madison avenue are still trying to dominate the minds of other humans. For some reason these men's carefully constructed myth of Obama has been shattered, thank God.

kentuckyliz said...

1. Good luck wrenching away 12 infants from their devoted mamas who through birth and breastfeeding have a powerful oxytocin bond with their babushka.

2. Good luck creating your own specified world. Only 1 "person" ever did it--The Creator. You create your own world, and don't be surprised if the rest of the world doesn't conform to your solipsistic expectations.

3. Maybe you can conduct this experiment with all the retiring journalists who think it's cool to retire to university towns.

Kensington said...

Give me a billion dollars, and I'll guarantee I'm a wealthy man afterward.

Freeman Hunt said...

Easy for a smart person to say.

Smart, but am I a doctor or a lawyer? No. Those are specializations that require hard work and dedication to learn. I know plenty of not so smart doctors and lawyers. And note that I don't mean stupid, as in being ignorant of their own trades. They know their specializations; they're just not high IQ.

Don't have talent? Doesn't matter.

somefeller said...

Regarding Watson's Behaviorism, I don't think many people believe in that theory anymore, so this is sort of an example of beating a dead horse. Behaviorism does have one singular achievement, however, in that it is the one theory of psychology with even less basis in fact than Freudianism.

John Lynch said...

This ignores the negative sample: the people who get all the attention and training but amount to nothing.

There are lots of people who just don't want to be what they are supposed to be. Not just the people who can't be what their parents want, but those who don't want to.

That's the thing with a free country: we have the freedom to tell our parents to go to hell.

Environment is also a choice. I think we all have a lot more freedom to do what we want (which might be a bit more genetic) than ever before.

J said...

Oh grow up Randolph.

Alex said...

I'm sensing a lot of discomfit in this post. I think you know this guy is right and you don't want to admit it. Mothers are totally overrated. What children need is training and discipline, not mothering.

MrBuddwing said...

Suddenly, I feel the urge to quote President Calvin Coolidge:

"“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Word verification: waeuri.

Free Lunch said...

I say with great confidence that the "all nature" and "all nurture" parties are wrong. I make no effort to determine the balance for children. It seems likely that it varies widely -- few naturally talented children will be completely ruined by bad nurturing and few exceptionally nurtured children will overcome serious natural limitations.