The Behavioral Terminology of Operant Conditioning

Although lower animal societies remain almost exclusively at the mercy of the environment for immediate reinforcement (or lack of it), mankind's facility for taming the environment has led to the reassignment of such reinforcement to specialized institutions within the social hierarchy. This latter aspect is particularly apparent in the traditional work place, where an employee performs a service function in exchange for secondary reinforcers; e.g., money, power, prestige, etc. The human sphere of operant conditioning is accordingly seen as a two-stage process; namely, goal-seeking behavior followed by subsequent reinforcement. The individual initially acts in a procurement fashion (e.g., appetitively or avoidantly) in order to be positively rewarded or leniently spared punishment. The employee works industriously to earn the praise of his boss, or acts submissively to avoid being fired. When (X) is defined as procurement and (Y) given as reinforcement, the complete operant sequence is respectively defined as X to Y. The worker may toil for an entire month before finally being rewarded with a paycheck, based upon the memory of past pay-periods. Such past and future contexts necessarily specify lengthy lag-times, calling for symbolic language ability for keeping such absent roles formally in mind. Through this verbal innovation, mankind is freely able to communicate about motivations not immediately occurring: recalling past contexts (presupposition) or imagining future potentialities (entailment).

Conditioning as a Two-Stage Process
This brings up the basic paradox of the conditioned relationship; namely, as a two-stage sequential process, only one role can occur in the present at any given time. When procurement is actively occurring, reinforcement is a future potentiality. Similarly when reinforcement finally comes to pass, procurement is reduced to a memory status. This dual style of interaction is schematically represented in Fig. 2 (not translatable to HTML format), procurement again represented by the letter (X), while reinforcement is designated by the letter (Y). The complete scale of time is depicted by paired (oppositely facing) wedges designating past and future time frames, with the gap separating them representing the present. This dual wedge format was chosen in reference to the observation that the measure of time increases as a direct function of its distance from the present. According to part (A) of Fig. 2, when procurement (X) is immediately occurring, reinforcement (Y) is designated as a future potentiality: an interaction formally based upon the successful completion of previous past interactions; represented schematically as the X to Y (small type) notation depicted in the past-directed time wedge. In part (B), the inevitable passage of time relegates procurement (X) to a memory role, prompted by the active bestowal of reinforcement (Y) in the present. Current reinforcement now focuses upon the formerly active procurement role, formally adding a sense of closure to the completed operant sequence. This is the active template upon which all future operant sequences are based (represented by the X to Y notation depicted in the future-directed time wedge). Through this interplay of sequences (A) and (B), both procurement and reinforcement share an equal spotlight in the present (along with their alternate displacement into both past and future time frames, respectively). The completion of part (B) formally sets the stage for even further cycles in the operant sequence; for if configuration (B) is phase shifted one step further into the past, one arrives back at the identical configuration depicted in part (A). It is only through such an artificial analysis (isolated by stages through time) that the conditioned relationship can be seen to be punctuated from either the procurement or reinforcement perspectives, respectively. The active styles of procurement behavior (either appetite or aversion) initiate the operant sequence, aimed towards the future bestowal of reinforcement; e.g., rewarding or lenient treatment, respectively.
This two-stage model of operant conditioning further explains the dynamics of the distinctive groupings of ego and alter ego states. Procurement (in the appetitive mode) is colloquially equated with desire, a forward-looking emotion that solicitously aims at future approval or rewards. A similar scenario holds true in the case of avoidance types of behavior, only now colloquially labeled as the respective concept of worry. In the case of worry, the individual submissively acts in a contrite fashion, fully expecting a lenient sense of concern from his peers.
Hero worship, in turn, is alternately identified as an active style of positive reinforcement bestowed by the personal follower aiming to reward the past notable achievements of the personal authority (experienced as nostalgia). A similar case holds true for the remaining operant sequence linking guilt and blame, with the exception that leniency (rather than rewards) is now called into focus. In this instance, the personal authority guiltily acts in a submissive fashion towards his follower figure, his verbal expression of guilt representing a vulnerability maneuver of the appeasement variety.

The Metaperspective Schematic Format
This higher-order interplay of the ego and alter ego states is reminiscent of the similar concept popularized in the modern-day field of Communications Theory; namely, the metaperspective format of R. D. Laing, and also P. I. Watzlawick. In Interpersonal Perception (1966) Laing and associates researched the dynamics of interpersonal communication, charac-terizing it as the "spiral of reciprocal perspectives." In Pragmatics of Human Communication (1967) Watzlawick (et. al.), in turn, examined the informational aspects of communication: exemplified as his "hierarchy of metaperspectives." Both formulations share a common hypothesis; namely, communication between individuals is overlaid with abstract meta-messages, representing a higher order perspective upon the viewpoint held by another: schematically defined as "this is how I see you seeing me." This formal multi-level model of meta-communication in general finally allows for an independent confirmation of the entire higher-order structure of the power pyramid hierarchy, culminating in an unprecedented 10th-order level of meta-abstraction. Such an arrangement necessarily implies the more abstract repetition of both authority and follower roles in the power pyramid hierarchy. Being as the personal authority acts first in the operant sequence, he necessarily is the first to repeat, this time in the modified sense of group authority. This meta-meta-order perspective of the group authority, in turn, is countered by the meta-meta-metaperspective of the group representative. Indeed, this reciprocating style of power escalation is effectively repeated for the remaining spiritual, humanitarian, and transcendental realms of the power hierarchy; culminating in an unprecedented 10th-order level of meta-abstraction.

The Vices of Defect
The completed description of the virtues, values, and ideals serves as the basic foundation for the language matching procedure. This virtuous realm is not the total picture; for any all-encompassing system must be able to deal with the evils of the world as well as the good. For every virtue and value, there exists a corresponding vice (or antonym): i.e., love vs. hate, good vs. evil etc. Aristotle defines these opposites as the vices of defect. Just as the virtues and values were seen as higher metaperspectives within the realm of operant conditioning (appetite or aversion aimed at positive or negative reinforcement), Skinner also distinguishes a darker side of conditioning (commonly known as punishment). Punishment represents a complete reversal of the reinforcement format in that positive and negative reinforcers are withheld rather than bestowed, discouraging behaviors that are not suitably solicitous or submissive. In contrast to the desire for rewards, apathy leads to spitefulness rather than approval. Furthermore, in contrast to a worrisome anticipation of leniency, indifference leads to malice rather than concern. In turn, laziness/ treachery is substituted in place of nostalgia/ hero worship, while negligence/vindictiveness replaces guilt/blame.
These basic listings of vices group together similar to those seen for the virtuous mode; namely, the grouping of laziness-negligence-apathy-indifference is termed the ego vices, while the next higher grouping (treachery-vindictiveness-spite-malice) is termed the alter ego vices, in direct correspondence to the original groupings of ego/alter ego states. Furthermore, a series of eight even more abstract listings of vices builds in a hierarchial fashion upon this elementary foundation in the ego and alter ego vices. This alternate power pyramid hierarchy of the vices is identical in every respect to the format previously seen for the reinforcement hierarchy, each virtue or value corresponding (point for point) with a respective vice within the punishment hierarchy. Each such vice is a direct antonym of the corresponding virtue, making for precise, quartet style listings analogous to the traditional listings of virtues and values. This master, power pyramid hierarchy of the vices of defect is identical in form and function to that previously demonstrated for the virtuous mode.