Posts Tagged ‘behavioral science’


Monday, December 6th, 2010

This posting represents the last of a four-part series.

Science versus Superstition

“Do you recall a while back, Skipper, my saying that, in science, facts are facts until proven otherwise?” Max asked.

“Of course! I’m not senile . . . yet.”

The dentist fell silent momentarily, considering his own question. “God . . . Mother Nature, if one prefers . . . took a long time to create the three races and their sub-races as we are today. One can view God’s creation as similar to the keyboard of a piano. White keys. Black keys. Operationally, would all grey keys be more aesthetic or functional?

“Similarly, each race and sub-race, on average, has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. The consequence of falsely claiming strengths for the many actually possessed by only the few is to do a disservice to both the individual and society, a concept applying to both race and gender. Conversely, the consequence of understanding and acknowledging which groups tend to have which strengths is to create a more favorable context allowing each member the optimal opportunity to become all that he is capable of being.

“You know, Skipper, we all live on this modest planet in the midst of an unimaginably gigantic and hostile, cosmic environment. In times past, we didn’t recognize our true position in the overall scheme of things. Now, to a much greater extent, we do. All that we have is our planet to house us, our solar system to confer dynamic balance, and our sun to provide power. On our planet, ultimately all that we have as social individuals is one another. For most Americans, our quality of life is determined by the quality of our human relations.”


“So, it’s easy and heartwarming to say that we should get along by proclaiming racial equality biologically . . . but is it true? On average, for example, are Orientals more intelligent than Caucasians? In the long run, it may be best to recognize the differences and to deal with them justly, fairly, and effectively.”

“Like allowing racial and religious segregation?”

“Might not forced racial and ethnic association be worse than voluntary racial and ethnic separation . . . especially in matters private not public, such as private clubs or residential communities?”


“That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it, but is it based upon fact and reason? Why not let the facts guide our reason? What’re you afraid of, Marvin? Shouldn’t we follow the highway of insightful knowledge that leads to optimal harmony rather than the path of blind, emotional opinion that leads to maximal cacophony?”

“Yet,” the skipper interjected, “couldn’t the consequences of selectively using such knowledge be the promoting of unjustified prejudice and injurious bias toward various races and sub-races in various contexts? If so, why pursue it? Simply for the sake of the knowledge of the moment?”

“Yes. Knowledge is the highway leading toward wisdom. Even if few would take that road, and fewer arrive at its destination, ultimately it provides the only avenue for human survival. Thus far, at the very least, knowledge has led us to a way-point where human life no longer necessarily is short, brutal, and nasty.”

“Can’t knowledge also offer a detour toward destruction and self-annihilation?  Do the benefits of all forms of knowledge always outweigh the liabilities?”

“In my opinion, Skipper, yes. The scenery along the wide road of knowledge is clear and true. Conversely, the scenery along the narrow path of ignorance is distorted and false.”

“Your metaphorical argument may be poetic, but is it misleading?’

“Alright, look at it this way. Knowledge represents a tool . . . an informational one. Conversely, ignorance represents a ‘disinformational’ one, if you will. Any tool can be used for evil or for good . . . even ignorance. The PC-crowd acts as though using ignorance is justified in promoting a self-proclaimed good called ‘social justice’ as they happen to define it at any given moment. I say the risks inherent in ignorance never can justify its existence. In the end, ignorance becomes its own punishment; whereas, knowledge becomes its own reward.”

“How so?”

“Ignorance suppresses human intellect, the quality that makes us humans most human. It promotes mysticism and superstition that, in turn, foster famine, disease, war, terror, and tyranny. Promoting PC, albeit unintentionally, promotes ignorance and, thereby, its terrible consequences.”

“And knowledge?”

“Knowledge enhances human intellect. As far as we know, the human brain is the only lump of matter in the universe aware of its own existence. Oh, a few other mammals can recognize themselves in mirrors, but they can’t report to themselves that they actually exist.(16) We can. Using our brains, we can optimize our unique quality and prosper, or, in this nuclear age, we can minimize it and perish.”

“Still,” the skipper asked, “isn’t it true that knowledge also carries its own risks? Are those risks always justifiable?”

“Again, in my opinion, yes. Returning to my previous metaphor, I maintain that. admittedly, the road of knowledge implies complexity and risk . . . but creating exceptions to pursuing wisdom and citing complexity or risk as an excuse is to tread the dark path of ignorance toward the black hole of folly, at best, and evil, at worst.”


“Evil . . . like the political and economic tyranny America already is entering. Remember, democracy, too, implies complexity and risk. To survive, our democracy reasonably and appropriately must protect the rights of individual citizens with regard to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness . . . including by pursuing wisdom through knowledge. It also must place the responsibility for the optimal exercising of those rights upon those citizens themselves.

“Our Constitution fulfills those criteria. It explicitly posits protection via the judiciary and responsibility via the ballot-box. Besides, ultimately somewhere . . . somehow, knowledge will have its way, much to the detriment of those who would deny others its benefits. Best that it be where liberty thrives for the benefit of the individual not mass serfdom for the benefit of the State.

“Today, Skipper, many knowledgeable observers believe that the world is facing an Armageddon; if not physically, at least spiritually. What can save us from ourselves?”

“According to you, knowledge through science and technology.”

“Right! Without science providing us the knowledge that can lead toward wisdom, victory by the forces of mysticism, superstition, and their offsprings, folly and evil, becomes a near certainty. Since the dawn of human self-awareness, a few men and women seeking truth and embracing altruistic enlightenment have waged an unending war against the many defending falsehood and self-serving ignorance.

“Behavioral science, most recently through the modern biobehavioral orientation, deals most directly with the issues in question. It describes laws and principles that determine what we do, what we think, and how we feel (

“E = mc2.  In 1905, Einstein published the fundamental equation in physical science . . . energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.(17)

“B = f(x). In 1911, Thorndike described the Law of Effect as represented by that fundamental equation in behavioral science . . . behavior is a function of its consequences.”(18)

Max explained that, in behavioral science, there are two, independent variables . . . biology and environment. There are four, dependent variables . . . behavior, cognition, emotion, and physiology. The four, dependent variables can modulate one another.

“That modulation allows cognition to influence behavior; thereby, creating free will,” he noted. “The Bible characterizes free will as both a blessing and a curse. Free will allows us humans to tread the bright highway of knowledge paved by scientists, leading toward wisdom and well-being. Conversely, it also allows us to follow dark paths laid by false but charismatic prophets who promote ignorance leading toward folly, evil, then doom. Knowledge strengthens free will. Ignorance weakens it.

“Consider the following two postulates, Skipper: One . . . knowledge demands truth. Two . . . in any given context, behavior is a function of its consequences.

“Truth can be beautiful, or it can be ugly. In either case, PC becomes the enemy of The Truth any time that The Truth fails to conform to the idiosyncratic, pre-conceived, shifting notions of social acceptability at the moment.

“Yet, even when The Truth presents itself with disgusting and frightening ugliness, there lies a kind of beauty in facing that ugliness with honor, courage, and perseverance. Unless we face the truths and the consequences of natural events and of our own actions, we humans never shall save ourselves from extinction nor spare countless other species similar fates. Neither shall we promote our own success in living as individuals in a democracy with freedom and justice for all.”

The skipper sat gazing across the table sympathetically at his friend. He sighed, “After listening to you, I need a drink . . . and I don’t mean tea.” He went to the cupboard for two glasses then to the food-locker, retrieving a cold bottle of colorless liquid. It was vodka made from potatoes . . . vodka made in Idaho. “I feel sorry for you, Max.”


“No caviar.”

Faith and Marvin

Time passed. One Sunday evening, as usual, the couple sat in the salon, drinking coffee, and finishing their day-long reading of the New York Times. Several articles related to racial issues.

Marvin, with his head still behind the newspaper, broke the prolonged silence. “I still can’t believe it? The nerve of that guy.”


“Max . . . our so-called neighbor. A Jewish bigot, spouting his racist propaganda.”

“I’m not sure I agree with you entirely. I’ll admit initially I was shaken and appalled at what he was saying. Still, after some research and further thought . . . .”

“And talking with Bubba? I got his bill yesterday.”

“Yes, and talking with Bubba, I tried to look at the issue from Max’s point of view.”

“Sweetheart, we ourselves were slaves in Egypt. How can you not support the Blacks and their causes?”

“How? First of all, many of those Blacks hate us. Listen to that Islamic Farrakhan-character or Obama’s Christian preacher, Wright. Secondly, you’re spouting paleological nonsense.”

“Spouting what?”

“Paleological nonsense . . . equating predicates instead of subjects. It’s illogical or, in this case ‘paleological’. Subject A equals Predicate A . . . Subject C equals Predicate A . . . therefore, Subject C equals Subject A. Sociologically, Blacks were slaves. Sociologically, Jews were slaves. Sociologically, therefore, Jews are the same as Blacks. Wrong!

“A syllogism. Marvin, equates subjects not predicates. Subject A equals Predicate A . . . Subject C equals Subject A . . . therefore, Subject C equals Predicate A. Humans are mortal . . . I’m a human . . . therefore, I’m mortal. A syllogism is ‘logical’ not ‘paleological’. You defeat your own argument when you spout such nonsense.”

“So, what are you saying? You agree with Max . . . or worse, with Bubba?”

“Not exactly. What I’m saying is that America is a nation on fire. I agree with how Max advises analyzing and resolving contentious issues fueling that fire . . . through science not politics or ideology. Yes, I agree with him that, in the end, the consequences of hiding from what’s true are destructive. No, I don’t agree necessarily with what he says. We need more information . . . information that we can gain only through research . . . research that currently people like us are suppressing. Using that information, society can make more informed decisions about social policies . . . decisions that are optimal for America and all her citizens, whatever their races or ethnic heritages. Max calls that ‘scientifically-based’. As more information becomes available, we can modify those decisions and policies. Max calls that ‘scientifically-driven’.”

“Look, Faith, race and racism aside, let’s get operational. What’re you making for supper tonight?”

“Why, reservations, of course.”

Reality Intrudes

As Faith and Marvin were chatting inside, two men were tying their dinghy to the swim-step outside. Silently, they climbed the ladder to the aft deck then approached the open glass-doors to the salon. They watched and listened before each withdrew a pistol from his belt. Then, they stepped softly onto the carpeting of the salon.

Sitting on the couch and facing aft, Marvin was the first to see them . . . two young, muscular, black men dressed in black clothing, black stocking-caps, and black basketball-shoes. Faith immediately detected danger when Marvin’s eyes widened, and his tanned face became a dark shade of grey. As she turned to face the men, a bolt of fear from deep inside her stomach shot throughout her entire body. The time for intellectual abstractions had ended.

Shakily rising to his feet, Marvin was the first to speak. “Can I help you?” he asked lamely.

“No need for yo’ t’help us, mah man. We helpin’ ourselves . . . t’what yo’ got, including this fine-looking, white bitch o’ yours.”

“Now, wait a minute, gentlemen,” Marvin replied. “Can’t we talk about this like four, civilized people in a civilized world.”

The taller of the two thugs strode across the salon toward Marvin. With a swipe of his hand, the butt of his pistol opened a deep gash in the pleading man’s left temple. Marvin fell backwards onto the couch, blood flowing freely. His vision grew bleary, and he hardly could speak. Even so he mumbled, “Can’t we talk about this?”

Faith began screaming. “Get out of here, you filthy Ni**ers. Get out! Get out! Get out!”

The shorter of the two rushed toward her, violently spun her around while clamping his hand so firmly against her lips that she thought her teeth would give way. “Shut up, bitch . . . or I be puttin’ a knife in you.” Then, he began tearing her clothing away from her body until she stood naked among the three men. The thug threw her to the floor, unzipped his pants, and slid between her legs while Marvin continued mumbling, “Can’t we talk about this?”

As the man was about to penetrate his victim, a thunderous boom shook the salon. The taller thug’s eyes rolled upward. He dropped his pistol, slumping to the floor. Then, a second thunderous boom sent the shorter thug rolling off Faith onto the carpeting as a dark-red stain began widening from beneath his forehead.

“Well, I guess those boys won’t be doin’ much more damage,” the big man in the doorway said with no emotion.

Sobbing, Faith turned her head toward him, momentarily unable to speak. Then, words poured from her lips. “Oh, Bubba, thank you . . . thank you . . . thank you . . . thank you.”

Bubba holstered his weapon, grabbed a blanket from a deck-chair, and laid it over the shaking woman. “Ya’all are most welcome, ma’am, but, while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank the Second Amendment and the State of Florida for allowin’ me to carry my firearm . . . the one that just saved your lives. I’m only sorry I had to use it on those boys. Ya’all may not believe it, but I feel bad for ‘em . . . bad that they needed killin’ so bad.”

With Bubba’s help, still shaking, Faith struggled into a deck-chair. She glanced at her husband with a look of contempt. He had stopped mumbling and appeared to be regaining his senses.

“Bubba?” Faith looked up at the big man, her eyes shouting gratitude. “I guess you were right, and I was wrong . . . about those . . . those Ni**ers, I mean. They’re hopeless. If no Black ever had lived, how would the world be the worse? No ‘rap’? Compare that to if no Western European ever had lived . . . or if no Jew ever had lived.” The bitterness in her voice pierced even Marvin’s still-clouded consciousness.

“I’ve been thinkin’ about it, ma’am. You know, what the Klan has to say isn’t all wrong . . . like about miscegenation. I’m not sayin’ every black boy wants a white girl, but many do . . . maybe most . . . and most black girls know it and resent it. I resent it, too.

“Also, what the Klan says isn’t all right. Black folks are here, and they’re here to stay. They have their rights just like you have yours and I have mine. We have to give ‘em their due . . . no more, no less.”


“So, I’m thinking that Doctor Max may be on the right track. You know, I can’t help but hear him and your husband arguin’ when I’m aboard working. Personally, I’d send every Black back to Africa if I could, but I can’t . . . well, maybe not every one. So, where does that leave us? Doctor Max claims it leaves us with only one thing . . . we have to add Science to the mix in a way that the average man can understand. I agree. Maybe, every single thing he proposes isn’t right. I don’t know, but there’s one thing I do know is right.”

“What’s that, Bubba?”

“If we don’t start solvin’ the problems of this nation using Science, as Doctor Max says, there’ll be consequences . . . and they’ll be bad . . . and inescapable ( Now, we best call the police.”

16. Bearzi, M and Stanford, C: “A Bigger, Better Brain.” American Scientist 98: 402 (2010).
17. Isaacson, W: Einstein: His Life and Universe. New York: Simon & Schuster (2007).
18. Thorndike, EL: Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies. New York: Macmillan (1911).


Monday, November 8th, 2010

It cannot be said too often that our youths are our future. Ominously, the past two generations have witnessed the introduction of mindless television; hyper-stimulating video-games; and inane, electronic messaging. As our behavior increasingly comes under the control of these electronic devices, the trend raises the question how best to offset their pernicious effects. Education naturally comes to mind.

Yet, the past two generations also have witnessed a widespread, deepening deficit in promoting educational achievement among American youths. An inescapable consequence has been a failure in teaching our youths how to think ( Some may link this potentially fatal failure with the emphasis upon teaching them what to think

A nation the populace of which is unable to think but only react is a nation ripe for political, economic, and social tyranny. Ironically, given the progress in behavioral science from the modern biobehavioral orientation, teaching our youths how to think is not all that difficult. Moreover, one can view it as an essential element in a comprehensive education in the business of living.

A Very Short Story
The other day, I was having a telephonic conversation with a friend. Informal conversations tend to roll from subject to subject, and this one was no different. As the various topics rolled into and out of focus, we touched upon goals in living. My colleague, an expert in behavioral science, long ago had abandoned the field to become an independent investor. After having published a number of documented successes in education, he found the consequences of his endeavors to be either 1) extinction through inattention or 2) punishment through hostile criticism. The controlling variable amongst bureaucrats in the educational establishment belied the stated mission of educating youths and proved itself to be the unstated mission of promoting the educational bureaucracy. His work had shown a better way of doing things. The bureaucrats hated it. Battered, bruised, and bloodied, he finally targeted a new goal and changed his behavior. His new goal was to have made ten million dollars. How well had he been progressing toward fulfilling that goal? He never said.

“What about your goals?” he asked.

“Mine?” I paused then made what I considered a rather bold statement. “My primary goal,” I said, “is to have done my own small part in furthering the education of the American public with regard to employing behavioral science from the biobehavioral orientation to affairs both societal and personal.” I knew that I was talking to the wrong person. Even so, I couldn’t stop myself.

“Well, that’s an idealistic . . . if not megalomanic . . . mouthful.”

 “I know. I’m choking on it. What do you think are my chances for success?”

Without hesitation he replied, “Almost none.”

“Really? Here, I was thinking my chances actually were none . . . none, at all. What a relief! It’s truly gratifying to talk with an optimist such as you.”

A Call to Cognition
My friend’s pessimism was well founded. In contrast to the other sciences, behavioral science has made few inroads into the everyday business of living. As he had demonstrated to his regret, even when proven more successful than non-scientific approaches, behavioral science has been and largely remains ignored; if not resisted actively, including in the medical marketplace.(1)

Ironically, its basic principles are easier to understand and to apply than those of any other science. In addition, its benefits can be obvious and immediate. In fact, the basic concepts are as simple as 1) a single law, 2) the ABC’s, and 3) the difference between topography and function. That’s it! Understanding three, simple concepts allows you to change society and yourself.

The single law is the basic law of instrumental or operant behavior . . . what you do; not what you think or feel. That law is the Law of Effect.(2) . . . B = f(x) under c. In a given context, behavior is a function of its consequences. If you want more of a behavior, reward it. If you want less, don’t reward it. Yes, you can punish it, but punishment carries with it a host of undesirable side-effects.

The ABC’s refer to Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence. Antecedent is the event that occasions a behavior to occur. Behavior is the activity upon the environment. Consequence is the event following the behavior that determines its future strength.

Behavioral scientists describe behavior according to topography and function. Topography is how a behavior looks to the eye of an observer. Function is the consequence that controls the strength of the behavior and, thereby, related to the Law of Effect.

Behaviors that look identical may differ in function. Two men walk into a bank then walk out. Topographically, their behaviors are identical. The first, however, is applying for a job. The second is withdrawing money at the point of a gun. Functionally, their walking-behaviors differ markedly.

Conversely, behaviors that look different may be functionally identical. A vagabond is sitting by the side of a deserted highway. His goal is to have arrived in Los Angeles. An executive is flying in a private jet-aircraft. His goal also is to have arrived in Los Angeles. Topographically, their behaviors are dissimilar. Functionally, they are identical.

Pre-pubescent sixth graders can understand these three, simple concepts. Teaching them provides youths with an education in living . . . an education in describing what they do and why they do it, if you will.

Once the leading nation in completion of college, America today ranks twelfth.(3) The reasons are multi-dimensional; nevertheless, one issue should be clear to every educator. A deficit in understanding the basic principles governing their own, personal behaviors handicaps children throughout the remainder of their lives. Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of each school-district to ensure that each pupil receives the opportunity to learn those concepts? Contrary to a recent proposal by the Commander-in-Chief of Big Government, our children don’t need another commission with offices in the District of Corruption to study the problem of failing education in America. They do need proper instruction in the traditional, educational basics necessary for success in everyday living. . . reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. . . .  and in the non-traditional basics of the principles governing that everyday living.

Is it not our duty as adults . . . yours and mine . . . to ensure that it happens? If so, let’s do it, beginning now. Let’s prove that my friend was . . . hmm, shall we say ahead of his time?

1. Moss, GR: “A Commentary on the Status of the Behavioral Approach in the Healthcare Marketplace.” Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry 24: 311 (1993).
2.Thorndike, EL: Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies.  New York: Macmillan (1911).
3. Banchero, S: “Graduation Rates Stagnate As Latinos Continue To Trail.” The Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2010, page A4.


Friday, August 27th, 2010

The year . . . 1975. The location . . . Marina del Rey, California. The restaurant . . . my usual haunt, The Beach Coffee House.

I sat gazing at the inlet. Like a mirrored tabletop, the still water reflected the resting boats, both sail and power. A faint breeze was beginning to stir. Within an hour or so, it would be blowing fifteen to twenty knots. By that evening, the fleeting breeze would have died.

Frederick and I were drinking coffee and smoking cigars. The low deck of stratus from the early morning cleared. The Sun appeared overhead, the umbrella next to the table providing a shifting shade.

“Chamber of Commerce weather,” I commented to myself, moving my chair out of the direct glare. The only drawback was the obvious layer of brown-colored smoke-and-haze that enveloped the entire Los Angeles basin; too many people in too small a space and the wrong space, at that.

Out of the blue . . .  or brown, given the color of the air that we watched ourselves breathe . . . Frederick asked me, “Have you ever thought about the fact that virtually nobody writes novels involving behavioral science?”

I drew on my cigar, preferring to consider the question rather than answer it. I released a stream of white smoke into the brown smog. “No,” I replied casually.

“No … what?”

“No, I never thought about it.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Why not … what?”

“Why don’t knowledgeable people write novels involving behavioral science?  I mean, they write novels involving the other sciences. Why not behavioral?”

“No market?  No interest?  No talent?”

He appeared to be mulling my reply; eventually, saying, “Other than the controversial novel by Burgess (1) ….”

“Controversial and commercially successful,” I noted.

“Anyway, Skinner’s the only other one I can think of who did. (2)”

“Write a legitimate and valid novel?”


“Ummm … not exactly an acclaimed classic although it, too, did sell,” I noted again. “Maybe there is a market . . . just a market without much product.”

“Maybe. If so, I’ve a possible explanation.”


“People don’t want to know what it really takes to change their behavior. Why?  Because knowing implies acting, and acting requires work. Look at us . . .  you and me.”

“What about us?”

“We’re supposed to be experts in this stuff, right?”

“Right!” I agreed.

“Do we apply it to ourselves?”

The answer was obvious; so, after another leisurely draw on the cigar, I supplied it. “Sometimes, when it’s not too much work.”

“Then, why would people want to read about it?”

“Maybe they wouldn’t,” I answered. “In my opinion, to do it right, you’d have to educate the reader. The danger is that you’d wind up with something resembling a textbook . . . dry, heavy, repetitive, and boring. Not exactly what everyone wants to read!  Let’s be realistic, when it comes to understanding and changing behavior, people prefer to masturbate mentally with mind-games than to educate themselves with science, especially behavioral science.”

“Unfortunately for the individual and humanity, thinking good thoughts doesn’t make it so, to parody Shakespeare.”  He then remained silent before seeming to change the subject. “You realize that Gerry Ford’s issuing those W.I.N. buttons isn’t going to whip inflation now or ever.”

“Not likely!” I agreed. “What’s your point?”

I watched him re-light his cigar then slowly sip his cold coffee. As it happened, he did have a point. “Inflation is the cruel consequence of reckless spending by the federal government.”

“Is it?  How shocking!” I said in a vain attempt at humor.

“Spending is a behavior. So, what does Ford do?  Does he change the politicians’ spending behavior?  No!  He distributes buttons to its victims. If the guy had any sense, at least he’d sell them to reduce the federal deficit . . . not give them away.”

“He can’t sell them. Nobody would buy them.”

“Isn’t that the point?  Consequences!”

“Whatever you say,” I mumbled, looking at nothing in particular.

“Look, the world has big problems. America has big problems . . . take Viet Nam.”

“The Communists already have,” I reminded him. “Could I choose another country?”

He ignored me. “We’re foundering!  Why?”

“Tell me … why?  Say, wasn’t that a song from the early Fifties?  By the Four Aces, I think.”

Again, he ignored me. “We’re foundering because we, as individuals and as a nation, refuse to face two simple facts.”

“Which are?”

“Everything we do is a behavior  Right?”


“Now, which science describes behavior?  Physical science?  Chemical science?  Biological science?  No!  Behavioral science. For Americans to understand how they got themselves into such a mess and how to get out of it, they’re going to have to understand something about behavioral science.”

“Okay … now what?”

“Now, do something about it!”

“What, Frederick?”

“Write a novel.”

“Not me!  You write a novel. Let’s see if you can enlighten and entertain at the same time.”

“I can’t. I’m dyslexic.”  He occasionally signed his name “Freberick”.

“Poor excuse. Anyway, why me?”

“In college, weren’t you a salesman during the summers?  Can’t every salesman tell stories?”

“Jokes … not stories.”

“Besides, you’re a physician. You can bring together the biological and the behavioral.”  Frederick himself was an experimental not a clinical psychologist and a true scientist.

“Would you buy the book?” I asked.

“Of course not. I’d expect you to give it to me. It is my idea.”

“It’s your suggestion. It would be my ideas. Okay, let’s say I write it, then I give it to you. Would you read it?”

“If it’s legitimate and valid … and if it’s any good.”

“But you wouldn’t buy it.”


“Then, give me one good reason even to try.”

“Someone has to,” he murmured almost to himself.

I re-lit my cigar as Juan, the Mexican busboy, replenished our respective supplies of caffeine.

“Frederick, you’re right!”

He was right. A desperate world really did need knowledgeable authors to write entertaining, enlightening, and compelling stories incorporating behavioral science. Gratuitous sex and mindless violence were not going to save America from decline . . . neither were cookbooks nor diet-books. Still, the challenge represented an obvious paradox. To be effective, such stories need to be didactic. To be read, they need to be entertaining. The less didactic and the more dramatic, the more likely to sell; the more didactic and the less dramatic, the less likely to sell. Ideally, such stories would achieve a delicate balance between the didactic and the dramatic . (3)

Many years later, I sat at the same table; this time alone. Frederick long since had departed Los Angeles, live-aboard boating, his lady-friends, and his career; dissolving into a distant anonymity and obscurity. As they say on Fairfax Avenue, “Go figure!”

This day, the low deck of stratus refused to budge. Worse, a chilling breeze was blowing from the West.

“June gloom,” I said to Enrique. Juan, too, was long-gone.

Then, left to my reveries, I began recalling the past. My remembrances took me back to that conversation in 1975. I thought about the events that had transpired since Gerry Ford tried to change economic behavior by giving away buttons. I thought about Inescapable Consequences, the novel that I’d been reluctant to write but just completed . . . based upon behavioral science and updated from the viewpoint of the 21st-century, biobehavioral orientation.

“Gerry gave away buttons to change behavior and failed. Will I be more successful?” I asked myself. “At least, there’s not much competition.”

Maybe someday Frederick might buy a copy of my novel because I surely am not giving him one. If he does and if he reads it, I hope that he remembers one thing . . . at least, I didn’t give away buttons.

1. Burgess, A: A Clockwork Orange. Oxford: William Heineman (1962).
2. Skinner, BF: Walden Two. Indianapolis IN: Hackett Publishing Company (1948).
3. Moss, GR: “Selling behavioral technology in the health care marketplace.” In Corrigan, PW and Liberman, RP (Eds.): Behavior Therapy in Psychiatric Care. New York: Springer (1994).