9.17.2004

The Skinner Box

No, that is not a taxidermist's toolbox.

B.F. Skinner was a behavioral psychologist, and his Box is an abstraction, not an actual item. A so-called Skinner Box is a environment designed to direct the development of a person's behavior. For example, letting your child play with children of many ethnic groups will theoretically result in more racial acceptance, therefore one aspect of a Skinner Box could be having your child play only in groups where there is an multi-racial presence.

The morality of purposefully doing that is definitely debatable, because I think an error in judgment could have drastic effects. Rumors that Skinner raised his daughter in such a Box, and that she later went crazy, sued him, and then committed suicide are unfounded (mostly because she refutes it, being quite alive and living reasonably well as an artist). But the potential for screwing up severely while playing God is there.

But astrology adds its own dimension to the Skinner Box concept. If the idea behind the Skinner Box is that a designed environment will impress itself upon the psychology of a human being in a foreseeable way, astrology holds that the viewpoint of a specific person in any environment is also determinable. In astrology, the natural viewpoints you have had from Day One are as much a part of your psychology as the sum of your experiences, and can determine what you take away from experience after experience after experience.

Why can two people experience the same event yet walk away with two different attitudes towards it? Given a set of circumstances and a person's natal chart, an astrologer is capable of predicting reaction, focus, feeling, importance...all sorts of variables that the individual themselves would look at logically and say:

"I am that way because..." and follow up with what they've learned from the past. To which I answer, but why did you learn that from your experience? Why do you remember that the dog that bit you as a child had brown fur, how much it hurt? It bit Jimmy, too, but all he remembers is the way he ran home crying, and even that memory is rather fuzzy.

The natal chart helps note where the mind naturally focuses in a given situation. In fact, it is so natural and so automatic that there's usually no need to even think about it. You'd have to slow your mental process down to a crawl to get an idea of what was happening, and people usually see no reason to do that, with the exception of some pretty deep introspective work. This is the main reason many astrologers - myself included - advise against trying to read into one's own chart too hard. We're just so close to ourselves that we cannot completely avoid our own subjectivity, which means fewer true and clear answers.

So if you are viewing the world through a sort of psychological lens that can be shown with a natal chart, and have always viewed the world through that lens, does that mean experience means nothing because we all have a natural psychology adopted at birth? Does it mean we have no way of viewing from another perspective?

Actually, I'll hit that second question first. Yes, everyone has a way of viewing from another perspective. It is kind of built in to our psychology, that ability. The way we do it differs from person to person, and why we do it, and how, and when. But it is a part of us.

As for whether experience matters, it may seem from what I am saying that we would develop in a certain way no matter what we experienced. And that is basically true. It is the central process that helps natal astrology work...that an astrologer who analyzes your chart understands how you have developed and how you would see things because it has always been so, and because it is natural to you.

Ahh, but here's the rub: experience happens whether it is natural to you or not. And that is where the concepts behind the Skinner Box come back into play, because a person's perspective only has very limited control over environment. Events force us to do things that we feel are not natural, or "right." They go against the grain of our personalities, make us alter our behavior in ways that leave lasting impacts. When that happens we experience trauma and stress. But we are forced to learn and grow based on those very conflicts, and that makes experience anything but pointless.

In fact, not having enough experience can be a problem. Sheltered lives lead to stunted growth. People whose lives are relatively easy have trouble dealing with serious conflicts. Or, a continual flood of events that directly conflict with a persona can cause severe psychological damage, as is the case with abuse. And these are just a few extreme examples of events affecting personality irregardless of what the natal chart says, even though the natal chart would still give clues as to how that damage is likely to manifest.

The inner self and the outer world both act independently of one another, yet they are constantly interacting at the same time. We just don't often think about it that way. We don't usually feel any need to. Because we are fully half of that interaction already, we concentrate on the other half...the world around us.

9 Comments:

Blogger LisaPal said...

You nailed it in our commentary conversation a few posts ago when you mentioned the frustration that someone who usually picks up things quickly might feel when not getting all this stuff right away. Patience, Lisa!

I did have a small epiphany last night, when some sensible part of my brain said,"begin at the beginning." So, I looked at my1st house- the ascendant, Aquarius, ruled by Uranus. Saturn occupies this position. So, I tried to connect the meanings of these three things, according to the interpretations on astro.com.

Finally, something that reflects an uncannily accurate picture of many aspects of myself that have been clearly present (and continue to be) since I was a small child. I can also see how all the water balances the thinking with the feeling, but the thinking side must be very, very powerful to be as strong as it is in me. It may get muddy sometimes, but there is no fire to create a fog. :-)

Thanks for helping me move along. There are no bounds to what I consider worth an effort to understand and I'm finding it all quite interesting.

1:21 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Correction- It's Pisces and Chiron in the 1st house. (I'm still getting used to reading this thing.) Saturn is in the 12th house (but it's sitting under the section that is covered by Aquarius, just over the horizon). I still don't quite get how that works.

In any event, Pisces in the first house still describes many aspects of my personality very well. I don't know about Saturn in the 12th house in Aquarius. Not sure how that works, so I can't relate it to myself.

I also think that I assumed that the ascendant was always bisected by the horizon line because mine is (I just noted it's at 14.42°), but now, looking at my son's, I see that's not necessarily so. My frame of reference was too limited, as well as my comprehension. So many features to attend to and I'm always in such a hurry to take it all in. I bet that has something to so with Mercury... but i'm just guessing.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

On the Houses: a sign encompasses a wide section of the sky, and the horizontal line across the chart signifies the Eastern horizon and the start of the First House. That could be anywhere within the 360 degree rotation the Earth goes through in a day. If I am understanding you correctly, yours happened to start midway across Pisces (the 14th-15th degree out of 30 degrees per sign). So, the Eastern horizon was in line with the 14th degree of Pisces. Someone born half an hour later would have had their start around 10 degrees later into Pisces (roughly estimating). My own was 9 degrees into a sign.

The sign at the beginning of the House dominates the House. So even if Aries shows up well before you get to the Second House, Pisces would still be your first. It is not unusual to catch the tail end of a sign at the start of a House, then have the rest of that House's "section" seemingly controlled by another sign. But the beginning sign still "rules" the House.

Just to be clear, the beginning of the House is on the border with the House before it. So the First House begins on the 12th/1st border, and whatever sign is there is the winner.

2:10 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

I think I muddied this up, then. The horizon line bisects Aquarius at
14.42°, which makes Aquarius my acsendant. So half of Aquarius is below the horizon in the first house and half is above it in the 12th house. When I saw Saturn in Aquarius, I neglected to notice that just because it's in Aquarius doesn't mean it's in the first house, (because half of Aquarius is in the 12th.)

But now it begs the question: is there significance in the fact that the first house covers parts of Pisces as well as Aquarius? Or is it only the planets that reside in the houses that are relevant?

How long did it take you to understand all this?????????

Thanks for being so patient!

7:55 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

I guess I'm not paying close attention. You said whoever is there wins, and so that's Aquarius. But Pisces doesn't even get some kiind of consolation prize for occupying part of the house? Is there no influence on the ruler? (That just doesn't seem fair! Haha.)

8:00 PM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

Ten years, and there's still more to explore and discover.

A perfect example, I am positive that it does mean something to have another sign begin in a House. I think it must. I just don't know what, not the way I know that the sign beginning the House does in fact define that House.

I wish I could tell you what - if anything - the presence of other signs in a House would mean.

Although...if a planet is in that sign, say Pisces, in that House ruled by Aquarius...then Pisces does have a noticeable presence in that Aquarian House. It would mix, you know, like a blue light (Pisces) shining through a yellow transparency (Aquarian-ruled House) to create a color upon the wall.

I hope that all made sense. My brain's a bit off its game today.

4:40 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Beautiful, absolutely perfect analogy!

5:33 PM  
Blogger VW said...

Phew. The books arrived today. They are HUGE. In the past I would be able to go through them quickly but with 2 children... sigh. May I ask you questions as I go along? Just reading the comments here makes me think I will be learning another language and it would be nice to have some help occassionally. Though you are in luck, I'm starting with Goodman's Love signs and that doesn't seem to bad right now. ;-) I opened the Parker's and saw all the 'stuff' and was floored. It will certainly be teaching an old dog some new tricks. :-)

1:25 PM  
Blogger Lasciate said...

I don't mind answering questions, if I know the answers. And yes, Linda Goodman makes for far more enjoyable reading. Parker's is truly a kind of textbook format, and it's best to treat it is as such (I never read any of MY textbooks straight through, haha).

This isn't a subject to be mastered overnight, at all. So going at a pace you're comfortable with (and able to) is pretty much inevitable :P

7:25 AM  

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