Welcome to my professional website. I have been most interested in interpersonal attraction, behavior analysis, instructional design, and helping students complete their educations.

Marshall Lev Dermer (circa 2010)My world view reflects that of B. F. Skinner. His most accessible book is Science and Human Behavior (S&HB).   It ambitiously uses one set of principles to address significant aspects of human and social behavior (p. 334), including events that occur beneath our skins such as dreaming and talking to ourselves ( p. 257).

Basically Skinner was interested in all the ways we can arrange the environment to ethically produce and maintain behavior.   Consider, the simple case of teaching your dog to sit.  You could say “sit,” gently push your dog’s rear down, then say “good,” and give your dog some food.  Eventually your dog will sit on command provided sitting sometimes produces food.

If asked to explain the dog’s behavior, Skinner would focus on what was done (in the environment) that produced sitting.  This would include your saying “sit,” next gently pushing your dog’s rear down, your saying “good,” and then feeding  your dog.  Actually, more environmental events ought to be specified such as your dog being food deprived and distractive stimuli being absent.

But most people have a very hard time using relations between the environment and behavior to explain behavior.  When asked to explain why the dog sat after the environment was so programed, my students would say “the dog associated food with sitting,” “the dog was hungry,” “the dog expected food” or even “the dog had learned to sit on command.”  None of these explanations disposes us to focus on the environment.

So, why care? Have you ever said, “I’ve tried everything to learn Spanish”? Or how about “I’ve tried everything to see the humanity in others”?  These are socially significant behaviors. But you can’t even approximate having “tried everything,” without having studied environmental approaches such as Skinner’s. So, I recommend studying S&HB with a guide.

Finally, many of Skinner’s assumptions about the universe conincide with those of Zen Buddhism. Zen assumes that we are aspects of an immense physical universe and that denying the interconnectedness of the various aspects is delusional. Give a listen to Alan Watts making this point and do study his work too!