Monday Miscellany: BF Skinner, Baby Boxes, Ballet

For the whimsical macabre, you should be following the Night Vale twitter account. (I suppose you could also listen to their podcast, but I never got into it.)

Shannon Friedman on the anti-placebo effect:

Its easy to miss treatment working.  For example, as a kid grows up, its easy to miss how their vocabulary is growing, but for someone who doesn’t seem them every day, it may be immediately obvious “my how they’re talking more!”  In other words, an anti-placebo effect is what happens when someone is having an intervention that is causing their life to improve, but the person does not believe that they are improving.
The reason that this is important is that those recovering from anxiety and depression have a tendency to believe that they are not doing as well as they are – due to this cognitive bias creating an anti-placebo effect for them, which results in their giving up too soon on interventions which are effective and thus not getting better and regressing to old unpleasant patterns.

This is really important, but it’s also confounded by the fact that many interventions (particularly in cases of depression) don’t work for many–even most–people who try them. Taking your own metrics is a way to sift through this a little, but given how many people experience as a lack of motivation, “just track progress very carefully!” seems oversimplified.

As far as data tracking goes, I suggest SAM for anxiety tracking and MoodPanda seems to be a good start for charting ups and downs of emotional state.

Rats appear to model empathy, and also are much more accurate, much cheaper alternatives to drug dogs.

BF Skinner (known for behaviorism and operant conditioning) built a box….for his baby. (And it’s definitely not what you’re thinking)

Halloween always manages to assemble a collection of weird-‘sexy’ (sexy house costume), appropriative-‘sexy’ (sexy Cherokee warrior), and of course, the mental patients, the straitjackets, and the ‘sexy’ psychos. This year, the internet banded together against the portrayal of mental illness as sexy, and began to tweet pictures of themselves going about their business in their everyday #mentalpatient costumes. And companies responded!

What I won’t tell you about my ballet dancing son:

I’ll tell you about a baby boy who felt music in his soul before he could crawl, grooving to the beat of push-button toys in the church nursery and spawning jokes about his young parents’ need to curb the tendency if he was to become a “good Baptist baby.”

I’ll tell you about a toddler spinning on his head on the living room carpet, the grocery store linoleum, the church foyer tile, eliciting amused comments from strangers about his wannabe break dancing. I’ll tell you of his unquenchable need to move in the presence of rhythm and an obvious inborn ability to feel music.

I’ll revisit the memory of him bounding in the front door on a December afternoon, tossing his kindergarten backpack and, wild eyed, telling us of the music class in which people leaped and twirled to music, strong men jumped high in the air, danced on their toes and lifted ballerinas across the stage. He wore black sweat pants and a white undershirt every day of Christmas break that year, asked Santa for black ballet shoes, watched dozens of online videos of boys’ ballet techniques and by Christmas day had memorized every note and crescendo of the entire Nutcracker Suite.



  1. Carol Lynn says

    I know someone who was raised in a Skinner box! (Her parents were research psychologists at a prestigious university) She turned out just fine.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Hey, I was going to say that! I know someone raised in an Air-Crib as well (one version was marketed as the Heir Conditioner). Again, turned out just fine.

  3. johnmarley says

    any mention of BF Skinner and baby boxes (even if apocryphal) always brings this exchange to mind:

    Monroe: It’s a special isolation chamber. The subject pulls levers to receive food and water. The floor can become electrified, and showers of icy water randomly fall on the subject. I call it… The Monroe Box!

    Grampa: Uh huh. Sounds interesting. How much will it cost to build?

    Monroe: Oh, that’s the beauty part! It’s already built! I need the money to buy a baby to raise in the box until the age of thirty.

    Grampa: What are you trying to prove? Monroe: Well, my theory is that the subject will be socially maladjusted and will harbor a deep resentment towards me.

    Grampa: Mm. Interesting.

    From the SImpsons season 2 episode “Old Money”

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