Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FBI and "behavior modification"

For the purposes of our discussion, one of the main questions, and, it seems to me, very important one, from ethical, moral, political and probably many other points of view, is: can a government agency of the free and great country attempt a behavior modification, or behavioral change of its citizen in a nontherapeutic environment and for nontherapeutic purposes, if these practices indeed take place (and they most definitely did occur in the past), regardless of their goals and underlying rationale? Is this not a threat to Liberty that we cherish so much, is this not dangerous in many respects, is this not contrary to the very foundations of our social lives?
I excised this passage from a post on analysability of behavior not because of the self-censorship or any discomfort with this subject; just opposite: because it is so important that it deserves a separate mentioning and a special research, investigation and discussion. However, I do not think that this is a right time for a public discussion of this issue (although, arguably, of course any time is a right time for any public discussions). I think there are a lot of other pressing issues at hand that might deserve a higher priority. Besides that, I do not really know much about it and I do not think that anyone does except, maybe a group of "specialists". I think the best thing to do at this point is for the FBI to conduct their own internal examination of this issue and all its potential implications. Personally, I will continue to study this subject, as reasonably, as my time permits. I do not think there are reasons  at this point not to trust the FBI with moral and ethical judgements in general and with this issue in particular. From my point of view, I would question not only the ethical and moral aspects of it, but also, not less importantly, the overall efficiency of these strategies, their scientific basis and their cost-efficiency. As my questions imply, I suspect that they are inefficient, have very little, if any, scientific basis (behaviorism itself, it seems to me is a rather crude and mechanistic approach to human nature), and are very expensive to conduct. If FBI decides to consult me on this or any other issue, of course, I would be happy to help, but at this point, again, I think they probably would feel more comfortable to deal with it by themselves. Which does not exclude the expectation that their findings (open, honest, in-depth) will be shared with the public and will be discussed with the public. Again, this issue is too important to ignore it or to cover it up.

Michael Novakhov

Links and References

Applied behavior analysis - GS

Applied behavior analysis - W

Crime analysis - W

applied behavior analysis and fbi - GS

behavior modification - GS

Operant conditioning - W

behavior modification and fbi - GS

Does fbi practice behavior modification? - GS


Behavioral Analysis Unit - W

Behavioral Science Unit - W

sociotherapy - GS