Let me explain what I mean when I call myself a Behaviorist. No, it’s not about blank slatism, or being able to completely manipulate anyone at will. It’s about not taking what people say at face value.
See this tweet:
No, no. Just, no. Please, somebody just close all the psychology faculties. Or close the whole universities while they’re at it. But this is completely wrong. Nonsensical, really. “People believe that…” doesn’t make sense. Look at this closely. It assumes that people have stuff inside their heads (“ideas”) and that that stuff inside their heads has some causative effect in how they behave. This is an utterly wrong way of thinking about this.
I mean, you don’t know what’s going on inside people’s heads. You just don’t. Look at this study in particular. They ask people about their own eating behavior and that of others. The answer to that question is not the “ideas” in the people’s heads. I mean, just look at the setting closely. You have:
1. Some college students
Being asked some question by:
2. A professor or grad student
About their own behavior.
And surprise, surprise, they make themselves look good and make others look not so good. Why would they do that? Well… maybe they want to make themselves look good. Because they want to appear high-status because that’s what people do.
Imagine this other setting: you are in Berkeley, and leftist thugs are running a Maoist style struggle session. They grab unpopular kid, who they think might be a Trump supporter, and they ask her what she thinks about heir own and the leftist eating habits.
What do you think she’s going to say? If she doesn’t want to get beat up with bats until she’s unconscious and gets half her rib broken, she’ll say her eating habits suck and that those of others are awesome. Why? Because she wants to survive. That’s also something that people do.
If you want to know what drives people’s behavior, you have to look at… people’s behavior. What they actually do. Not just ask them questions. Questions are social behavior which follows social rules. It’s all about context.
Modern social science still works on the rationalist paradigm, that people have “ideas” and that they “reason” about them. That is just a descendant of the Christian emphasis on “faith”, i.e. that some people have “faith” in their “hearts”, which makes them better people. Of course that was just a subterfuge to run a loyalty assessment on people. Making a good show of the “faith” in your “heart” was a very good costly signal to show your loyalty to the Christian team. Politics runs on this sort of misleading rituals. They work very well. I’ll loudly proclaim my loyalty to Kek and prostrate in front of its image whenever needed. The more people think it’s stupid the better a signal it will be.
But science should be about how things actually work. And the way things work is that you must look at what people do, not what they say. Or more accurately, you should understand what people “say” as a kind of “do”. If all those “scientists” got out of their parochial WEIRD world they’d actually understand that.