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CHAPTER 30

Lies My Psychology Professors Taught Me


[New] technologies are conditioning a growing segment of the society to regard all deviance as sickness and to accept increasingly narrow standards of acceptable behavior as scientifically normative ... Together the new programs and technologies are part of a burgeoning establishment involving welfare institutions, universities, hospitals, the drug industry, government at all levels, and organized psychiatry (itself in large part a creation of government) ... The ideal, in the view of the behaviorists, is the paranoid's dream, a method so smooth that no one will know his behavior is being manipulated and against which no resistance is therefore possible ... There is no longer a set of impositions which he can regard as unjust or capricious and against which he can dream of rebelling. To entertain such dreams would be madness. Gradually, even the ability to imagine alternatives begins to fade. This is, after all, not only the best of all possible worlds; it is the only one.
Peter Schrag Mind Control, Pantheon, 1978

I have a degree in psychology from UCLA. I don't know exactly where it is, though I'm sure it's safely filed away somewhere. It's not really worth much though. I don't mean that it doesn't have much value in the job market, though that is surely the case. No, it isn't worth much because it was awarded to me on the supposition that I had gained a substantial level of knowledge about the field of psychology, which in hindsight was clearly a faulty premise.

It's not that I didn't try to learn. I actually did a very good job of regurgitating back the information that was presented to me, even graduating with honors. No, the problem was that - despite the exalted reputation of the UCLA psychology department - none of my professors seemed to be particularly interested in teaching me what psychology is really about.

I have a much better understanding now, though I had to fill in many of the gaps in my education on my own. Doing so, by the way, took considerably less time than the four years I spent being spoon-fed pseudo-knowledge at college. Society doesn't place any value on the acquisition of such knowledge however, so I don't have any kind of degree for my post-college education. Nevertheless, I thought I'd pass along some of the information that I wasn't formally taught, for whatever it's worth.

One thing I was taught was that John Watson is a much revered figure in the field of psychology, considered the father of 'behaviorism.' Watson, who began his career in 1908 as a professor of psychology and the director of the psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, was perhaps most notable for venturing into the field of infant study in 1918 - at the time a largely unexplored area of research.

Watson conditioned a fear response in an infant identified only as 'Little Albert,' afterwards triumphantly declaring that "men are built, not born." Ten years later, Watson penned what was at the time considered the bible of child-rearing, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, assuming the mantle that would later be worn by Dr. Spock.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of elements of this story that seem to have been omitted from my textbooks, one of which is that Little Albert was not just some random infant; he was, in fact, the illegitimate son of the good doctor himself. And how did the reigning expert on childcare fare as a father? Not too well, it seems: Albert Watson was so traumatized by his upbringing at the hands of his father that he committed suicide shortly after reaching adulthood.

Watson had long since left his position at Johns Hopkins amidst a nasty divorce from his first wife, presumably precipitated by her displeasure with the revelation that Watson's experiments had included impregnating his nurse and torturing their resultant offspring. In 1921, Watson headed for Madison Avenue where he put the behavior modification expertise he had acquired by traumatizing infants to work on a society-wide level, ushering in the era of modern propaganda (oops, I meant to say advertising). Along the way, he would find U.S. intelligence services to be an excellent source of funding, as would all the characters in this sordid tale.

Following closely in the footsteps of Dr. Watson was B.F. Skinner, the other revered figure in the behaviorist school of psychology. Skinner - who had received a defense grant during World War II to study the training of pigeons for use as part of an early missile guidance system (I don't just make this shit up) - invented what he termed the 'Air Crib' in 1945, which was essentially a sensory deprivation chamber built specifically for infants.
Like Watson, he used his own child as a human guinea pig, raising her in the thermostatically controlled, sound-proof isolation chamber for the first two years of her life, cut off from human contact. Skinner ultimately followed a bit too closely in the footsteps of his mentor; Debby Skinner, like Albert Watson, committed suicide in her twenties.

In 1948, Skinner joined the faculty of Harvard, putting him in the company of such luminaries as Dr. Martin Orne, the head of the Office of Naval Research’s Committee on Hypnosis and later a prominent member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Skinner and Orne - as well as numerous others at Harvard, including Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert - received heavy funding from both the CIA and the U.S. Army.

In 1971, Skinner published an unabashedly fascistic diatribe entitled Beyond Freedom and Dignity, advocating a dystopian society in which freedom and dignity were outmoded concepts. It earned him a cover story in Time magazine and the honor of having his work named the most important book of the year by the New York Times.

Also on board at Harvard at the time was Dr. Henry Murray, overseeing the work of Leary's Psychedelic Drug Research Program and various other CIA-funded projects. So deified was this man during my years at UCLA that an entire undergraduate course focused almost exclusively on his supposedly brilliant work. Yet during that course, no mention was ever made of the fact that Murray was a fully owned asset of the intelligence community. Recruited during World War II by none other than Wild Bill Donovan, Murray was put to work running the Personality Assessments section of the OSS.

Murray's best known contribution to the field of personality assessment - the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) - was in fact developed as a tool of the U.S. military/intelligence complex. After the war, Murray was one of the key players in the CIA's MK-ULTRA projects, studying various methods of achieving control of the human mind. One of his best research subjects during his days at Harvard was a young undergraduate by the name of Theodore Kaczynski.

Perhaps even more revered than Murray was Dr. Louis Jolyon West, the head of the UCLA Psychiatry Department and the director of the prestigious UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. Dr. West was another prominent participant in the MK-ULTRA program who would eventually wind up on the board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. His work with the military/intelligence community began at least as far back as 1958, when he conducted studies funded by the U.S. Air Force in surviving torture as a prisoner-of-war.

If you're wondering how it is possible to study the conditioning of soldiers to survive torture without inflicting that very same torture in the process, the answer is simple: it isn't. A few years later, West achieved a moment of fame when he injected a beloved elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo with a massive 300,00 microgram dose of LSD to observe how it would react; Tusko's reaction was to promptly drop dead.

In 1964, West was called upon to evaluate the 'mental state' of a man by the name of Jack Ruby, at the time being held pending trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. West quickly determined that Ruby was delusional, based on his obviously absurd belief that there was some sort of fascist conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy. Dr. Jolly, as he was known to colleagues, ordered Ruby drugged with 'happy pills.' Ruby subsequently died of cancer, which he maintained he had been deliberately infected with. Having finished up that assignment, the doctor soon after found himself a crash-pad in the Haight where he could 'observe' the acid subculture in its native environment by drugging unwitting 'subjects.'

West is probably most notorious for proposing in 1972 to then California Governor Ronald Reagan the creation of a Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence, to be built on a remote abandoned missile test site in the Santa Monica Mountains. Among his earliest recruits were Leonard Rubenstein, formerly a top aide to Dr. David Ewen Cameron, as well as two South American doctors who had also worked for Cameron - one to run the shock room and the other to run the psychosurgery suite.

At the time, the two were employed at 'detention centers' in Paraguay and Chile, which is a nice way of saying that they were working at torture/interrogation centers run by Nazi exile communities (many of these detention centers - including the notorious Colonia Dignidad in Chile - still exist to this day).

Also recruited by West was Dr. Frank Ervin, one of a trio of Harvard psychosurgeons who had not long before proposed lobotomy as the solution to urban 'rioting'. The center was to work in conjunction with California law enforcement and had secured large grants from the U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health. These two organizations had forged a close alliance in 1970 with the encouragement of the Nixon Administration, with both of them heavily involved in funding MK-ULTRA projects. There were to be psychologists, physicians and sociologists on board - mostly recruited from among West's disciples at the Neuropsychiatric Institute - as well as lawyers, police officers, probation officers and clergymen.
The goal of the center was to identify 'predelinquents' and treat them before their 'deviance' and supposed propensity for violence could be manifest. The team believed that predelinquents could be identified on the basis of several factors: socioeconomic status (poor), age (young), ethnicity (black), and sex (males). Treatments under consideration included electroshock, chemical castration, experimental drug therapy, and psychosurgery -- better known as lobotomy (the 'surgical' destruction of the frontal lobes of the brain).

Lobotomy was, curiously enough, developed in fascist Portugal in 1935 by Dr. Egaz Moniz as a tool of social control. It was introduced to America the following year by James Watts and Walter Freeman, the latter of whom would later boast of having personally performed over 4,000 lobotomies in the United States, for all of the following 'conditions': apprehension, anxiety, depression, compulsions, obsessions, drug addiction, and sexual deviance.

By the post-war years, lobotomy was big business, warmly embraced by the Veteran's Administration and heartily recommended for vets suffering from combat-related 'disorders.' Moniz's procedure did not prove too popular with his patients however. In 1939 he was shot and partially paralyzed by a former patient. Sixteen years later, another former patient finished the job, beating Nobel laureate Moniz to death.

Electro-shock therapy was likewise an import from fascist Europe, developed by Ugo Cerletti in Italy in 1938. Appropriately enough, this 'medical advance' was based on Cerletti's observation of cattle being jolted into submission as they were being led to slaughter. Another form of shock therapy - insulin shock - was introduced by Sakel in fascist Austria just a few years earlier.
One name that never came up in my years at UCLA was that of the aforementioned Dr. David Ewen Cameron. Considering that Cameron is probably the most honored North American psychiatrist of the last half-century, this appears in retrospect a rather remarkable omission. During his career, Cameron founded the Canadian Mental Health Association and served as chairman of the Canadian Scientific Planning Committee, president of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the first president of the World Association of Psychiatrists. He was also the psychiatrist most thoroughly co-opted by U.S. intelligence services in all of North America.

His intelligence career began at least as early as 1941, when he was sent by Allen Dulles to England on behalf of the OSS to 'ascertain the state of mind' of Rudolph Hess, Hitler's right-hand man who had supposedly 'defected' to the UK. Cameron was during this time a member of the Military Mobilization Committee of the American Psychiatric Association, in which capacity he also worked closely with Dulles.

By 1943, Cameron had founded the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal with a generous grant from (where else?) the Rockefeller Foundation. The institute continued to receive lavish support from the Rockefellers for at least the next decade, as well as the generous support of the CIA through various funding conduits.

In 1946, Cameron helped craft the Nuremberg Code on medical research, setting ethical guidelines for human research that were perhaps nowhere more flagrantly ignored than at his own Institute. Cameron's MK-ULTRA operation conducted what were undoubtedly among the most appalling of the CIA-funded mind control experiments (those that are well documented, anyway), utilizing what he euphemistically termed 'depatterning' and 'psychic driving.'

During the depatterning phase, the objective was to completely obliterate the existing personality. This was done by restraining the victims (oops, I meant patients) for weeks on end and subjecting them to massive doses of drugs and repeated electroshock treatments. Cameron preferred the Page-Russell electroshock technique - controversial even among the shock docs of the time - which employed six consecutive shocks rather than just one big jolt. This wasn't quite enough for Cameron though, so he cranked up the power to as much as twenty times the normal strength, and administered the 'treatment' two or three times a day. Concurrently given three times a day were drug cocktails containing every combination of incapacitating and mind-altering drug imaginable.

Following some two months of this medical torture, patients were then subjected to psychic driving, during which they were again incapacitated by drugs - including curare, a paralyzing agent which can be lethal - while taped messages were played continuously through speakers placed in pillows or in helmets the unfortunate victims were forced to wear. This also went on for weeks on end, with the subjects remaining drug-addled throughout the process. Cameron experimented with other techniques as well, including psychosurgery and the extensive use of LSD; one woman was kept locked in a small box for thirty-five consecutive days.

In 1960, Cameron was asked by Allen Dulles to evaluate the mental state of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers upon his return from the Soviet Union. So impressed was Dulles with Cameron’s assessment of Powers that he next had him draft a psychological profile of Patrice Lumumba - the first Prime Minister of the newly independent Congo - to determine what the most efficient means of assassinating him might be.
Premier spymaster William Buckley took the agency’s file on Lumumba to Montreal for Cameron's review; by January of the following year, Lumumba was dead, his body dissolved in acid after enduring a month of barbaric torture. As for Buckley, he would later be present at both the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul and the successful assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, whose security forces he had personally trained.

Working with Cameron on his experiments - some of which are believed by some researchers to have been terminal - were Leonard Rubenstein, an Englishman and former member of the British Army’s Royal Signal Corp, and Jan Zielinski, a Polish-born engineer who knew only limited English and rarely spoke. These two built a 'grid room' and an isolation chamber in the basement of Allan Memorial and were given unlimited access to patients, despite the fact that neither had any formal medical training or qualifications. Also on board was Dr. Hassam Azima - rumored to be a blood relative of the U.S.-installed Shah of Iran - and Dr. Wilder Penfield, a prominent neurologist.

Penfield was one of the pioneers in the field of electromagnetic control of the brain in the 1960's. Most prominent in this area of research was Dr. Jose M.R. Delgado, who made the front page of the New York Times when one of his remote-controlled brain implants stopped a charging bull dead in its tracks. Delgado - who brought his ideas here from fascist Spain and was heavily funded by the CIA - was an open advocate of a psychologically controlled totalitarian society. Probably nowhere can the true nature of psychology be better discerned than from the words of this Dr. Strangelove.

In his Orwellian titled book, Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society, Delgado wrote that "the integration of neurophysiological and psychological principles [would lead] to a more intelligent education, starting from the moment of birth and continuing throughout life, with the preconceived plan of escaping from the blind forces of chance and of influencing cerebral mechanisms and mental structure in order to create a future man with greater personal freedom and originality, a member of a psychocivilized society, happier, less destructive, and better balanced than present man."

He supported the mass drugging of America with "tranquilizers, energizers, and other psychoactive drugs," which he claimed were "highly beneficial both for patients and for relatively normal persons who need pharmacological help to cope with the pressures of civilized life." Lobotomy was proposed as the answer to crime: "the possibility of surgical rehabilitation of criminals has been considered by several scientists as more humane, more promising, and less damaging for the individual than his incarceration for life."

Delgado also made the rather remarkable observation that: "In some old plantations slaves behaved very well, worked hard, were submissive to their masters, and were probably happier than some of the free blacks in modern ghettos." Ahh, the good old days. Delgado next noted that: "In several dictatorial countries the general population is skillful, productive, well behaved, and perhaps as happy as those in more democratic societies."

Five years after penning his manifesto, Delgado appeared before the U.S. Congress and proclaimed: "We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated ... The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective ... Man does not have the right to develop his own mind." Such talk earned Delgado funding from the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Aero-Medical Research Laboratory, and the Public Health Foundation of Boston.

********************
What has been covered here barely scratches the surface of the lies and omissions that characterized my education in the field of psychology. There is considerably more that could be said on the subject. I could mention, for instance, that two of the most widely referenced psychological studies - Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison experiment and Stanley Milgram's obedience studies - were funded by, and performed at the request of, U.S. military and intelligence services.

I could also mention that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - created in 1946 by the congressional National Mental Health Act - was borne of the combined efforts of Robert H. Felix (head of the military's Division of Mental Hygiene during World War II), General Lewis Hershey (director of the Selective Service System), and the chief psychiatrists of the Army and the Navy. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the bible of modern psychiatry - was also an invention of the military/intelligence complex, developed during World War II by Brigadier General William Menninger to codify 'deviant' behavior, and later institutionalized by the APA.

And of course I would be remiss were I not to note that the twin pillars of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, were both fascist sympathizers. In 1933 - the year that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party ascended to power - Germany’s influential Journal of Psychotherapy published an article by Dr. M.H. Goering, a cousin of Hermann Goering, urging psychotherapists to make "a serious scientific study of Adolf Hitler’s fundamental work Mein Kampf, and to recognize it as a basic work." The editor of the journal openly calling for the Nazification of psychotherapy was Dr. Carl Gustav Jung.

Sigmund Freud had close ties to the Reich as well, particularly to a man named George Viereck - the illegitimate grandson of the Kaiser who had ties to SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and was perhaps the most avid supporter of Nazism in America. Viereck ran an extensive pro-Hitler propaganda operation that included having a U.S. Senator on his payroll - Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota - whose hastily scheduled flight out of Washington following the revelation of his connection to Viereck conveniently crashed on August 31, 1940, as such flights are prone to do.

In 1926, Viereck interviewed Freud - whom he had known for many years - on the subject of anti-Semitism, and in 1930 published that interview in a collection entitled Glimpses of the Great. Freud would later state that: "I can highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone." And since wherever Nazis congregate, U.S. intelligence is never far away, it's not surprising that Freud had impressive connections to the 'Old Boys' network as well. Particularly close was William Bullit, who spent several months working with Freud in Vienna and personally escorted the doctor out of the country.

What then is this thing we call 'psychology'? Put in the simplest possible terms, it is just another appendage of the national security infrastructure designed to attain social control and enforce conformity to the fascist state. It in fact is nearly indistinguishable from the American criminal justice/penal system. There is at least one major difference though - the psychiatrist is allowed to serve as prosecutor, judge and jury in seeking the involuntary confinement of 'deviants' in mental institutions that are indiscernible in form and function from America's rapidly growing prison complex.

The harsh reality is that psychology has little to do with bettering the human condition and alleviating suffering, and everything to do with lending legitimacy to the corporate capitalist state and justifying as individual failings the ever increasing levels of suffering inflicted by the state onto society. As Frederick Winslow Taylor - the exalted father of 'scientific management,' an early euphemism for the deskilling of labor and the reduction of the American labor force to interchangeable, easily exploited automatons - so succinctly stated many decades ago: "in the past the man had been first; in the future the system must be first."

Not long ago, my teenage daughter asked me why it was that so many people she has met in her life suffer from low self-esteem. Why indeed? The answer, it turns out, is quite simple: we are all victims of one of the big lies of American society - the one that says that if we educate ourselves, work hard, and apply our talents, there is absolutely nothing we cannot achieve.

We are taught from birth that anyone in this great country can rise up to the highest strata of society if they so choose, that if we have the drive and ability, nothing can hold us back. George W. bush articulated this very message from the campaign trail recently when he said: "One of the wonderful things about America is, it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from. If you work hard, dream big, the notion of owning your own business applies to everybody."

Conversely, if we should fail we have no one but ourselves to blame, for we must not be smart enough, talented enough, or educated enough - or we just didn't try hard enough. The brutal reality though is that in the real world, the sons of the rich and powerful will assume their fathers' seats in the boardrooms of America regardless of their qualifications (George, Jr. being a prime example), while the most talented of kids from America's 'inner cities' will live and die without ever seeing the world beyond the confines of their neighborhoods.

That is the reality for the majority of Americans. And yet we are encouraged, in fact required, to set goals for ourselves that are impossible to attain, to buy into the Big Lie. When we inevitably fail to achieve these goals, which the social structure has deliberately put out of our reach, we are required to blame only ourselves. The system has not failed you, you have failed because you are a fucking loser. You're too fucking lazy to succeed. You're too fucking stupid to succeed. So stop looking for scapegoats and accept the fact that you determine your own fate.

That is what the system would have you believe. And it is, in the final analysis, the psychologist's primary job to reinforce that message. That is why it is that the nation that heralds itself as the truest form of 'democracy' is home to more psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychic friends than any nation in the world. Not coincidentally, that same nation is also home to the world's largest penal system. That, apparently, is the price we pay for 'freedom' in this country, a peculiar kind of freedom that does not include the right to engage in any sort of 'deviant' behavior.

Freedom of that type, it seems, could conceivably pose a threat to the powers that be, lest too many people begin to question the 'right' of the wealthy and powerful to maintain their positions at the top of the food chain at the expense of the psychologically enslaved masses whose labors serve to fatten their investment portfolios. Better that we remain, in the words of George Orwell, in a state of "controlled insanity" -- for nothing could pose a greater threat to the system than a sane population fighting for survival in an insane world.
I Was Not A Lab Rat
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/200 ... ucation.uk

A new book has rekindled old rumours that renowned psychologist BF Skinner used his baby daughter in his experiments. Stop this rubbish about me and my dad, says Deborah Skinner Buzan
* Deborah Skinner Buzan
* The Guardian, Friday 12 March 2004

[Image: skinnerchildbig.jpg]
'Heir conditioner' ... Deborah Skinner as a child

By the time I had finished reading the Observer this week, I was shaking. There was a review of Lauren Slater's new book about my father, BF Skinner. According to Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century, my father, who was a psychologist based at Harvard from the 1950s to the 90s, "used his infant daughter, Deborah, to prove his theories by putting her for a few hours a day in a laboratory box . . . in which all her needs were controlled and shaped". But it's not true. My father did nothing of the sort.

I have heard the lies before, but seeing them in black and white in a respected Sunday newspaper felt as if somebody had punched me hard in the stomach. Admittedly, the facts of my unusual upbringing sound dodgy: esteemed psychologist BF Skinner, who puts rats and pigeons in experimental boxes to study their behaviour, also puts his baby daughter in a box. This is good fodder for any newspaper. There was a prominent Harvard psychologist whose daughter was psychotic and had to be institutionalised; but it wasn't my father.

The early rumours were simple, unembellished: I had gone crazy, sued my father, committed suicide. My father would come home from lecture tours to report that three people had asked him how his poor daughter was getting on. I remember family friends returning from Europe to relate that somebody they had met there had told them I had died the year before. The tale, I later learned, did the rounds of psychology classes across America. One shy schoolmate told me years later that she had shocked her college psychology professor, who was retelling the rumour about me, by banging her fist on her desk, standing up and shouting, "She's not crazy!"

Slater's sensationalist book rehashes some of the old stuff, but offers some rumours that are entirely new to me. For my first two years, she reports, my father kept me in a cramped square cage that was equipped with bells and food trays, and arranged for experiments that delivered rewards and punishments. Then there's the story that after my father "let me out", I became psychotic. Well, I didn't. That I sued him in a court of law is also untrue. And, contrary to hearsay, I didn't shoot myself in a bowling alley in Billings, Montana. I have never even been to Billings, Montana.

My early childhood, it's true, was certainly unusual - but I was far from unloved. I was a much cuddled baby. Call it what you will, the "aircrib" ,"baby box", "heir conditioner" (not my father's term) was a wonderful alternative to the cage-like cot. My father's intentions were simple, and based on removing what he and my mother saw as the worst aspects of a baby's typical sleeping arrangements: clothes, sheets and blankets. These not only have to be washed, but they restrict arm and leg movement and are a highly imperfect method of keeping a baby comfortable. My mother was happy. She had to give me fewer baths and of course had fewer clothes and blankets to wash, so allowing her more time to enjoy her baby.

I was very happy, too, though I must report at this stage that I remember nothing of those first two and a half years. I am told that I never once objected to being put back inside. I had a clear view through the glass front and, instead of being semi-swaddled and covered with blankets, I luxuriated semi-naked in warm, humidified air. The air was filtered but not germ-free, and when the glass front was lowered into place, the noise from me and from my parents and sister was dampened, not silenced.

I loved my father dearly. He was fantastically devoted and affectionate. But perhaps the stories about me would never have started if he had done a better job with his public image. He believed that, although our genes determine who we are, it is mostly our environment that shapes our personality. A Time Magazine cover story ran the headline "BF Skinner says we can't afford freedom". All he had said was that controls are an everyday reality - traffic lights and a police force, for instance - and that we need to organise our social structures in ways that create more positive controls and fewer aversive ones. As is clear from his utopian novel, Walden Two, the furthest thing from his mind was a totalitarian or fascist state.

His careless descriptions of the aircrib might have contributed to the public's common misconception as well. He was too much the scientist and too little the self-publicist - especially hazardous when you are already a controversial figure. He used the word "apparatus" to describe the aircrib, the same word he used to refer to his experimental "Skinner" boxes for rats and pigeons.

The effect on me? Who knows? I was a remarkably healthy child, and after the first few months of life only cried when injured or inoculated. I didn't have a cold until I was six. I've enjoyed good health since then, too, though that may be my genes. Frankly, I'm surprised the contraption never took off. A few aircribs were built during the late 50s and 60s, and somebody also produced plans for DIY versions, but the traditional cot was always going to be a smaller and cheaper option. My sister used one for her two daughters, as did hundreds of other couples, mostly with some connection to psychology.

My father's opponents must have been gratified to hear - and maybe keen to pass on - the tales about his child-rearing contraption and crazy daughter. Friends who heard an abridged chapter of Slater's book on Radio 4, or read the reviews, have been phoning to ask if I had really sued my father or had a psychotic episode. I wonder how many friends or colleagues have been afraid to ask, and how many now think about me in a different light.

Why shouldn't the reviews give the rumours as facts, since that's what the book did itself? The plain reality is that Lauren Slater never bothered to check the truth of them (although she claims to have tried to track me down). Instead, she chose to do me and my family a disservice and, at the same time, to debase the intellectual history of psychology.

In his Observer review, Tim Adams at least suspected something was amiss with Slater's research. He realised she could have contacted me to confirm or verify what she suspected, but plainly hadn't. His conclusion? I had gone into hiding. Well, here I am, telling it like it is. I'm not crazy or dead, but I'm very angry.

·Opening Skinner's Box; Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century, by Lauren Slater, Bloomsbury, £16.99.
http://robothink.blogspot.com/2005/09/l ... orism.html
J.B. Watson's children
Watson subjected his own children to a harsh upbringing regime - scheduled feeding and no physical affection. His first marriage to Mary Ickes produced a daughter, Mary (a.k.a. Polly), and a son John. Polly made multiple suicide attempts later in life and 'Little John' became a rootless person who often sponged off his father. Little John was plagued by stomach trouble and intolerable headaches throughout his life. He died in his early 50s from bleeding ulcers.

After a scandalous affair with a graduate student young enough to be his daughter, Rosalie Rayner, Watson's wife Mary divorced him and he was fired from Johns Hopkins University. Soon after, he married Rosalie and they had two sons - Billy and Jimmy. In adulthood Billy rebelled against his father's behaviorism and established a successful career as a Freudian psychiatrist. Nevertheless, he too attempted suicide. His first attempt was stopped by younger brother Jimmy. He killed himself at his second attempt. Jimmy suffered chronic stomach problems for years (a legacy of scheduled feeding during infancy?), but managed to do well in life after intensive analysis. An article about J.B. Watson on the website of Clayton State University refers to the suicide:

"Sadly, although B.F. Skinner got to brag that his "baby in a box" grew up healthy and happy, Watson's application of science to child-rearing lacks that testimonial validity: William, the older of his and Rosalie's two sons, committed suicide at age 40, just four years after John Watson's death."

In 1930, when the boys were still young, Rosalie Rayner Watson wrote an article for Parents Magazine titled "I Am the Mother of a Behaviorist's Sons," in which she expressed the wish that her sons would grow up to appreciate poetry and the drama of life. She said: "In some respects I bow to the great wisdom in the science of behaviorism, and in others I am rebellious. ... I like being merry and gay and having the giggles. The behaviorists think giggling is a sign of maladjustment." She died five years later from pneumonia. There's an article about John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner in Johns Hopkins Magazine, published by the university where he was professor of psychology: It's All in the Upbringing. John Broadus Watson became a recluse towards the end of his life. He burned all of his papers prior to his death in 1958.
Mariette Hartley - Breaking the Silence
That's not the end of the family saga. Watson's daughter Mary had a daughter in turn, Mary Loretta Hartley (a.k.a. Marietta or Mariette), who later achieved success as the actress Mariette Hartley (www.mariettehartley.com). She is probably best known for her TV commercials for Polaroid in which she played the role of James Garner's wife. However, the circumstances of her childhood were dire. Her rage-filled, silence-prone mother was a secret drinker who repeatedly tried to commit suicide, first one way and then another. Her father, a retired advertising executive, took his own life at the age of 67 after a long period of depression. Mariette was eating breakfast with her mother when they heard the gunshot. These circumstances led Mariette herself into alcoholism and thoughts of suicide until her career hit bottom. She managed to pull through and rebuild her life with help from a friend and mentor. Later on, she wrote a memoir of her experiences, "Breaking the Silence" (Putnam Group, 1990). She has this to say about her grandfather's childrearing principles:

"Grandfather's theories infected my mother's life, my life, and the lives of millions. How do you break a legacy? How do you keep from passing a debilitating inheritance down, generation to generation, like a genetic flaw?"

J.B. Watson was the author of a bestselling child rearing manual: "The Psychological Care of Infant and Child." After her recovery, Marietta Hartley became honorary director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and a public speaker and campaigner. She has received humanitarian awards from numerous organizations including, in her home state of California, the California Family Studies Center, the L.A. County Psychological Association and the University of California Brain Imaging Center at Irvine.

Mariette Hartley scripted and performed a solo stage show based on her autobiography. In "If You Get to Bethlehem, You've Gone Too Far," which premiered in January 2006, she portrayed the main characters who shaped her life.

There are lecture notes about John Broadus Watson on the website of Sonoma State University in California which begin with extracts from Mariette Hartley's "Breaking the Silence".
John B. Watson's background
John B. Watson's childhood is documented in K.W. Buckley's biography of his life and work, Mechanical Man. He was raised by a pious mother who hoped that he would become a Southern Baptist preacher. She chose the surname of the most famous Baptist minister of the period, Broadus, as his middle name. In 1894, he enrolled at Furman University, which at the time was a Southern Baptist Academy and Theological Institute. However, a philosophy professor at Furman became his mentor and inspired his interest in psychology, still a branch of the philosophical tradition.

In his later career Watson became a champion of the 'scientific method' in psychology. Yet despite the trappings of science, it appears Watson's advice on child-rearing in "The Psychological Care of Infant and Child" was mostly a recapitulation of the Southern Baptist attitude to children.

B.F. Skinner's daughters
Image: Air Crib.Perhaps it is because of the atrocious consequences of J.B. Watson's child-rearing methods on his own children that an urban myth attached itself to the fate of B.F. Skinner's second daughter, Deborah. His first daughter, Julie, became an educational psychologist (see www.juliesvargas.com). The myth that Deborah had committed suicide arose because of an invention Skinner used as an alternative to a conventional cot -- the 'babytender'. He called it the Air Crib, but it has also been referred to as the 'heir conditioner'. It was something like a large version of a hospital incubator with a plexiglass panel which could be pulled up to seal in the warmth. It provided his daughter, Deborah, with a place to sleep and remain comfortable through the severe Minnesota winters without having to be wrapped in numerous layers of clothing and blankets. Unfortunately, when Skinner wrote an article about the 'baby tender' for the Ladies' Home Journal in 1945, the article was given the title "Baby in a Box." Many people jumped to the conclusion it was a variation of the 'Skinner box' he used for animal experiments. The truth is more benign. Deborah is a successful artist and painter. You can read her account of the story in this 2004 article in The Guardian newspaper. It is her response to Lauren Slater's book "Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century."

You can see a large photo of a commercial version of Burrhus Frederic Skinner's "AirCrib" in the Apparatus Collection at the University of Akron's Archives of the History of American Psychology. Most of them were purchased for children of psychologists.