reading questions to
B. F. Skinner's Walden Two
Many of these questions have been taken from Dodge Fernald's
(1989) Walking Tour of Walden Two: a student's guidebook. (New
York: McMillan). My grateful thanks to Prof. Fernald for permission
to use these questions.
The Design of Thnigs
- The sheep follow their elders, staying away from the harmless
string. The Bishop (a watchdog) is also there in case this
does not work. What institutions or roles in human civilization
might The Bishop represent?
- How large is Walden Two? Why is this size a population useful
- What is done about adverse weather in Walden Two? To what
extent is this used in today's cities?
- How is the Ladder involved in the control of weather? In the
social development of children?
- Describe the Walden Two tea service. How are the citizens of
Walden Two encouraged to view all habits and customs? How would
you improve our contemporary cafeteria, classroom, or dorm?
- How is the lecture viewed in Walden Two? Should it have any
place in contemporary higher education?
- Why does Frazier encourage a "constantly experimental attitude
toward everything"? Could this be implimented in the St. Olaf
classroom? What would it look like?
- What evidence does Frazier supply for his claim that people
who enjoy crowds are "starved for friendship or affection"?
The Design of Life
- Describe the Walden Two system of Labor Credits. Does it seems
workable? In what way is positive reinforcement included in
- What kind of control do the board of planners and the board of
managers exert in the community? What controls them?
- Analyze the Walden Two approach to the arts? Do you think this
would lead to a "flowering of the arts" or "Golden Age" in a
- How does desinging a series of adversities resemble the
procedure of "shaping" described in class?
- What does Frazier think "mother love" is?If you can
consistently produce the bahrvior, do you need to worry about the
- Frazier says "When a particular emotion is no longer a useful
part of a behavioral repertoire, we proceed to eliminate it." How
do they do this?
- What is the main point of disagreement between Frazier and
Castle over wearing a lollipop?
- Suppose a child is easily discouraged with his ability to play
checkers. Describe a program , using Frazier's approach, which
would lead to greater pleasure and success on the part of the
- It is sometime said that in a community like Walden Two
everyone will be just alike. Why do people take this view? Does
this outcome seem likely to you? Why?
- Frazier says, with regard to self-control, "Don't be misled,
the control always rests in the last analysis in the hands of
society." What does this mean?
- What is Frazier's objection to grades in school?
- Describe the experiment on rooms for married couples. What was
the procedure? The finding?
- If Walden Two children do not want to be like their parents,
what alternatives do they have?
- "To wake matters worse," says Frazier, "we educate our women
as if they were equal, and promise them equality. Is it any wonder
they are soon dissillusioned?" What does he mean? Have things
changed since 1945?
The Good Life
- How is the Walden code related to our Honor Code?
- According to Frazier, what are the basic conditions of the
good life? What evidence does he offer for their correctness?
- Burris and Frazier have very different view about the need for
control in experimental studies. Explain each point of view.
- Who control the diet of individuals in Walden Two?
Politics and Heroes
- Frazier says that government should be based on the science of
human behavior rather than faith in human nature. Define these two
expressions as he uses them, and indicate the reasons for his
position. What is your position?
- Describe the work of the Political Manager in Walden Two. How
does this role differ from that of a political campaign manager in
- What is the chief responsibility of the Manager of Public
Relations? How does he or she carry out these responsibilities?
What is Frazier's view of this behavior? How is the disagreement
- "Government which use force are based on bad principles on
engineering." What does Frazier mean by this? Do you think it is
true? What evidence does Frazier (or do you) have for your
- How is religious belief and practice dealt with in Walden Two?
Do you think religion would "wither away" just like smoking in
- "You can't propagandize and experiment at the same time?"
- What do you think of Burris' sampling procedure?
- "Your personal relations--are you always so--scientific?"
Barbara asks, implying that Frazier is more interested in studying
people than in enjoying them. How does he reply? Does the botanist
example work in his defense?
- Frazier explains that he is not a product of Walden Two.
- "A society which functions ofr the good of all cannot tolerate
the emergence of individual figures." Why?
Freedom and Control
- "I think I would dump your science of behavior in the ocean,"
Castle says to Frazier. Would people gain freedom if the
behavioral sciences were discarded?
- Describe the incident with the falling book of matches. What
is Frazier's claim? Castle claim? Your point of view?
- Explain the difference in outcome, according to Frazier,
between positive reinforcement and punishment.
- "Absence of restrain isn't freedom." Why?
- "By a wise choice of techniques, we increase the feeling of
freedom," ays Frazier. What does he mean? Give an example of how a
person might feel free but still be controlled.
- "We not only can control behavior, we must." What does Frazier
- In what way do "the salesman, the bully, the cheat, the
educator, the priest" control behavior?s
Terms to Know
- Behavioral Engineering
- Cultural Engineering
- Domestic Engineering
- Social Engineering
- Experimental attitude
- Representative Sample
- conditioned reflex
- tolerance for frustration
- control groups
- positive reinforcement