The “brainwashing” defense of Patricia Hearst has sent newspaper writers scurrying for explanations of the apparently exotic process that transformed a happy heiress into a gun-toting bank robber with the improbable nom-de-moll of Tanya. None of these writers has sought to challenge “brainwashing” as a political label or to seek its analogs in everyday American life. Instead they have exhumed the experience of Korea, interviewed prisoners of war, and sought illumination from experts in psychology. The results of their researches are typified by an analysis run recently in The New York Times: “What Happens In Brainwashing Is Only Vaguely Understood.” In many accounts, “brainwashing” is portrayed as something carried out by insect-like cultures. It is alien, arcane, inscrutable. In a word, it is Chinese. “The Symbionese Liberation Army subjected Patricia Hearst to the same kind of brutal thought control techniques invented by the Chinese Communists,” the Chicago Daily News reported. Yet must we go to China to understand “brainwashing?” Consider a March 7 account in The New York Times of the continuing maltreatment of U.S.
Note: One of the key issues in the debate over the psychological conditioning technology known as “behavior modification” is who should decide what behavior to modify, and on what basis. Critics of behavior modification say that when therapy reaches this point science dissolves into politics and the therapist becomes a coercive agent of the status quo. The following article illuminates this controversy as it applies to changing homosexuality to heterosexuality through “aversive” procedures involving electrical shocks. Until recently the only opposition to such goals and procedures came from militant gay organizations. Now, however, the issue has divided behavior modifiers within their own ranks. San Francisco — The holidays were a busy time in Gay San Francisco. The city’s 80-some gay bars were preparing for a massive New Year’s Eve celebration to mark not only the advent of the Bicentennial Year but also the enactment of California’s new sex reform law. All private sex relations between consenting adults would become lawful at midnight. Just a few months before, gay activists had won their long fight
Mexico City — The psychology of operant conditioning pioneered by the controversial American experimenter B.F. Skinner is spreading through Latin America with the force of a crusade. Its strongest apostles are young, activist Latins in universities who want to liberate academic psychology from its philosophical past, and educational designers who want to use the technology of behavior modification to transform the social landscape of their countries. Much like the situation in the United States ten years ago, the Latin behavioral movement is mainly a campus phenomenon and the largest practical adaptations of theory are to be found in instructional technology. Behavior modification has not yet been adapted for the kinds of social control purposes which have made it controversial in the U.S. — possibly because Latin regimes have little need for subtle tools. There is ideological debate over behavior modification on the campuses, but interestingly many of the most ardent Skinnerians are to be found on the Left. The younger behaviorists are loyal to the Third World and highly sensitive to any move which suggests
Ann Arbor, Mich. — David Lebowitz has a problem. One of his supervisors at the large hospital he manages in New York state is supposed to be interviewing new interns after their first six weeks on the job to tell them how they’re doing. The problem is, the man is not doing the interviews; he is submitting the post-interview checklists without ever seeing the interns. Lebowitz knows this; the supervisor doesn’t know he knows it. Behaviorist Richard Malott holds a business seminar at Ann Arbor. Now Lebowitz is talking with Carol Dunford, a training representative from Maryland National Bank, and Jim Hanley, the personnel director for the Hooker Chemical Co. They are all younger management types, and they are trying to work through David’s problem using the novel techniques of applied behavioral analysis they have been hearing about all morning. It is the second day of a five-day workshop entitled “Managing for Performance Improvement: Principles of Behavior Modification Applied to Work Settings.” The workshop is run by the Graduate School of Business Administration of the
Chicago — “What happens if tomatoes do have feelings?” a young woman was heard to ask as she and her companion left the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The question was inevitable; just as setting a thousand monkeys to work at typewriters would eventually produce Shakespeare, setting several thousand psychologists together in the Loop was bound to produce silliness. The national convention of the American Psychological Association was in its third day. Over at the Palmer House commercial exhibitors were hawking a fabulous assortment of technology, from biofeedback systems to M&M dispensers (yours for only $148 from Lafayette Instrument Co.), from hideous experimental chambers for monkeys to the latest personal vibrator for your wife (or yourself, and while you’re at it pick up a jar of Special Moment “Massage Cream for the Two of Us”). There was no getting past the exhibit of the Multi-Media Resource Center of San Francisco. Glassy-eyed professionals blocked the aisles to watch a middle-aged couple make joyful, noisy love in the center’s newest sex therapy film. Right next door the center was