Positive Reinforcement and Love

“There is another point of similarity,” Frazier said at last when he saw that I was not going to speak.  “I don’t know whether you’ll understand this, Burris.  I expect you’ll laugh.  But try to forget your professional cynicism.”

He dropped the telescope and hesitated for a moment.  Then he flung his hand loosely in a sweeping gesture which embraced all of Walden Two.

“These are my children, Burris,” he said, almost in a whisper.  “I love them.”

He got to his feet and started back along the ledge.  I followed carefully.  He turned into the underbrush and waited for me to catch up.  He was embarrassed and rather confused.

“What is love,” he said, with a shrug, “except another name for the use of positive reinforcement?”

“Or vice versa,” I said.


B. F. Skinner, Walden Two, 1948/1962, pp. 299-300.



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