“Self Control & Creative Thinking” (Vintage!)

Found in my graduate school archives, lol (I’m not 100% sure what I’m trying to say, but I think I still agree):

Self-control and creative thinking are similar within Skinner’s conceptualization of each. Each involves external variables that act upon the organism to lead to what we know as either self-control or creative thinking.   For self-control, however, the “individual often comes to control part of his own behavior when a response has conflicting consequences—when it leads to both positive and negative reinforcement.” (Skinner, 1953, p. 230).  Conversely, while both forms of thinking are concerned with manipulating behavior, the process involved in creative thinking does not identify the behavior to be controlled.  Further inquiry into the differences between these two processes can lead to a greater understanding of self-control and creative thinking.

Self-control occurs when one manipulates environmental variables of which these variables of which behavior is a function.  Thus, for example, if someone is hungry and has multiple food choices to eat—say, “junk” food and “healthy” food—the process of self-control would then occur as one would manipulate each of these environmental, external variables to conclude.  There is positive and negative reinforcement at play in each of these examples, so the “self-control” at play would lead one to grapple with these choices.  Positive reinforcement would occur through, perhaps, a “sugar rush,” or maybe even the healthy choices will lead to positive reinforcement as the individual will feel healthier and more satisfied in that regard.  However, the after-effects of eating unhealthy food—perhaps that bloated, regretful feeling—maybe also lead to negative reinforcement, further reinforcing the notion of self-control taking place in this example.  In this process, the individual knows what behavior is controlled (the eating habits/choices).  If this was occurring under the “creative thinking” process, the individual could not know what behavior was controlled.  However, these variables are not always accessible to others, leading to a great misunderstanding between the two processes.

While many would like to believe it results from internal dialogue, creative thinking is simply the result of external variables affecting an individual—the individual does not know what behavior is controlled.  Artistic expressions or “free writing” embody creative thinking, as the individual does not know the behavior under control.  Furthermore, it is important to note that: “The present analysis should lead to an improvement in educational practices. If our account of thinking is essentially correct, there is no reason why we cannot teach a man how to think”.  (Skinner, 1953, p. 256)  Through the process of creative thinking, knowing that it is possible to break down creative thinking through recognition of external variables aids in understanding how to teach a man/woman how to think properly.  This knowledge should be empowering rather than dismal or disheartening.

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*Please know I don’t reinforce inappropriate behavior, though. 😉