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Socrates’ Questions, Pavlov’s Dogs and Skinner’s Box

Round Britain Quiz is the most British of Radio Programmes.  It features intellectuals sitting round and discussing crossword-style puzzles that require erudition, exceptionally wide knowledge (often far from ‘general’ knowledge) and an ability to spot subtle connections.  The real skill in playing the game is to sound almost pleased when you get it wrong, because you’re learning something new.  It’s sadly off the air at the moment, but I am sure it will be back.

While we are waiting …

Try your hand at this question:

‘How does a nice decision connect Socrates, Pavlov and Skinner,
and how can a Pocketbook help you get in on the act?’

For regular listeners, you might get a clue from imagining the presenter putting undue stress on the word ‘NICE’.  Now, here’s how the team might answer.  Maybe you can play along.

I think we can say something about Socrates

File:Socrates Louvre.jpgSocrates spent much of his adult life discussing anything and everything with rich young Athenians, questioning their beliefs and testing their certainties to whatever limits he could reach.  The more confident Athenians were of the truth of something, the more Socrates sought to undermine their certainty with probing questions.

Does this question have something to do with questioning the truth of things, as we perceive them?

‘You’re certainly on the right track there.  Have a go at Pavlov.’

Picture credit: Eric Gaba – Wikimedia Commons user: Sting

Pavlov; wasn’t he the Russian Scientist, with the dogs?

File:Ivan Pavlov (Nobel).pngPavlov was interested in dog spit (although dogs cannot, in fact, spit).  He wanted to investigate salivation and in doing so, he noticed that his lab dogs would start to salivate before the food was brought to them.  He then realised that it might be more fun to investigate this apparently psychic secretion (his phrase) than to investigate the saliva itself.

Does the question have something to do with how our perceptions condition us to behave in certain ways?

‘It does, so what’s the link with Skinner?’

I assume we’re talking about BF Skinner,
rather than Frank Skinner

SkinnerSkinner is the psychologist perhaps most closely identified with behaviourism (crudely: we are what we do).  Skinner invented the Operant Conditioning Chamber (known as Skinner’s Box).

This is an enclosure in which an experimental subject (usually a lab animal, but it could be a student, trying to earn their way out of debt) has the option to operate some form of mechanism (usually a choice of levers) and then receives some form of stimulus (from a portion of desirable food to an electric shock) that correlates to their choice (or not).  Psychologists use this to investigate how we become conditioned to make choices in our life.

Aha, this question is about how we interpret reality (maybe wrongly) and how this leads us to choices, which may be painful, but we become conditioned to make.

‘Well done.  What about this NICE decision?’

Picture credit: self-made (by User:Silly rabbit). Updated in the Gimp by User:Michaelrayw2.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, now recommends a treatment called CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, as the most effective clinical approach to a large number of mental disorders.  Increasing numbers of mental health professionals are becoming trained CBT practitioners.

CBT combines a focus on cognition – how we think about the world – and behaviour – the patterns of what we do.  We’re there.

‘Not quite.  For your last point,
how can a Pocketbook help you get in on the act?’

The Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Pocketbook

The principles of CBT can also be applied by non-medically trained practitioners to help people deal with a wide range of workplace behaviours to improve their performance, by challenging faulty beliefs and modifying ineffective behaviours.  Experienced coaches will want to become more familiar with the ideas of Cognitive Behavioural Coaching.

So, good news:

New out last week is the eagerly awaited Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Pocketbook, by psychologist Dorothy Spry.

It’s got some great tips and techniques, including the core CBC model, catchily named the ‘ABCDE Model’, along with some new and some cosily familiar tools for your coaching toolbox.

Some other Management Pocketbooks you may like

The Coaching Pocketbook
If you don’t already have it, you should

The Coaching and Reflecting Pocketbook
Why should teachers have the best pocketbooks to themselves?

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
We’ll explain why this goes well with CBC in a later blog

The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook
A good target for some CBC

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