Before asking ourselves what the deeper mental mechanisms are of brainwashing, false confession, and conversion into a collaborator, let us try to see things from the standpoint of the totalitarian potentates. What is their aim? What terms do they use to describe the behavior of their prisoners? What do they want from the Schwables and the Midszentys?
The totalitarian jailers don’t speak of hypnosis or suggestion; they even deny the fact of imposed confession. They think about human behavior and human government in a much more mechanical way. In order to understand them we have to give more attention to their adoration of simplified Pavlovian concepts.
The Salivating Dog
In the latter part of the nineteenth century the Russian Nobel price winner Ivan Petrovich Pavlov conducted his famous experiments with a bell and a dog. He knew that salivation is associated with eating, and that if a dog was hungry, its mouth would water each time it saw food. Pavlov took advantage of this useful inborn reflex, which serves the digestive process, to develop in his experimental animal the salivating response in answer to a stimulus which would not ordinarily create it. Each time Pavlov fed the dog, he rang a bell, and at each feeding the dog’s mouth watered. Then after many repetitions of the combined food bell stimulus, Pavlov rang the bell but did not feed the dog. The animal reacted to the bell alone just as it had previously reacted to the sight of food its mouth watered. Thus the scientist had found out that the dog could be induced to salivate involuntarily in response to an arbitrary signal. It had been “conditioned” to respond to the ringing of the bell as if that sound were the smell and taste of food.
From this and other experiments, Pavlov developed his theory of the conditioned reflex, which explains learning and training as the building up of a mosaic of conditioned reflexes, each one based on the establishment of an association between different stimuli. The greater the number of learned complex resposnes also called patterns the greater the number of conditioned reflexes developed. Because man, of all the animals, has the greatest capacity for learning, he is the animal with the greatest capacity for such complicated conditioning.
Pavlov’s experiments were of great value in the study of animal and human behavior, and in the study of the development of neurotic symptoms. However, this knowledge of some of the mechanisms of the human mind can be used as we have seen already, like any other knowledge, either for good or for evil. And unfortunately, the totalitarians have used their knowledge of how the mind works for their own purposes. They have applied some of the Pavlovian findings, in a subtle and complicated way and sometimes in a grotesque way, to try to produce the reflex of mental and political conditioning and of submission in the human guinea pigs under their control.
Even though the Nazis employed these methods before the Second World War, they can be said to have reached their full flower in Soviet Russia. Through a continued repetition of indoctrination, bell ringing and feeding, the Soviet man is expected to become a conditioned reflex machine, reacting according to a prearranged pattern, as did the laboratory dogs. At least, such a simplfied concept is roaming around in the minds of some of the Soviet leaders and scientists (Dobrogaev).
In accordance with one of Stalin’s directives, Moscow maintains a special “Pavlovian Front” (Dobrogaev) and a “Scientific Council on Problems of Physiological Theory of the Academician I. P. Pavlov” (London). These institutions, part of the Academy of Science, are dedicated to the political application of the Pavlovian theory. They are under orders to emphasize the purely mechanical aspects of Pavlov’s findings. Such a theoretical view can reduce all human emotions to a simple, mechanistic system of conditioned reflexes. Both organizations are control agencies dealing in research problems, and the scientists who work on them explore the ways in which man can theoretically be conditioned and trained as animals are. Since Pavlovian theory is proclaimed by the obdurate totalitarian theoreticians as the gospel of animal and human behavior, we have to grapple with the facts they adduce to prove their point, and with their methods and theoretical explanations.
What the Pavlovian council tries to achieve is the result of an oversimplification of psychology. Their political task is to condition and mold man’s mind so that its comprehension is confined to a narrow totalitarian concept of the world. It is the idea that such a limitation of thinking to Lenin Marxist theoretical thinking must be possible for two reasons: first, if one repeats often enough its simplification, and second, if one withholds any other form of interpretation of reality.
This concept is based on the naive belief that one can permanently suppress any critical function and verification in human thinking. Yet, through taming and conditioning of people, during which period errors and deviations must continually be corrected, unwittingly a critical sense is built up. True, at the same time the danger of using this critical sense is brought home to the students. They know the dangers of any dissent, but even this promotes the development of a secondary and more refined critical sense. In the end, human rebellion and dissent cannot be suppressed; they await only one breath of freedom in order to awake once more. The idea that there exist other ways to truth than those he sees close at hand lives somewhere in everybody. One can narrow his pathways of research and expression, but a man’s belief in adventurous new roads elsewhere is ever present in the back of his mind.
The inquisitive human mind is never satisfied with a simple recital of facts. As soon as it observes a set of data, it jumps into the area of theory and offers explanations, but the way a man sees a set of facts, and the way he juggles them to build them into a theory is largely determined by his own biases and prejudices.
Let me be the first to confess that I am affected by my own subjectivities. Even the words we use are loaded with implications and suggestions. The word “reflex,” for example, so important in Pavlovian theory, is a perfect instance of this. It was first used by the seventeenth century philosopher Descartes, in whose philosophical system a parallel was made between the actions of the human body and those of a machine. For example, in the Caresian view, the automatic reaction of the body to certain painful stimuli (e.g., withdrawing the hand after it has come into contact with fire) is compared with the automatic physical reflection of light from a mirror. The nervous system, according to Descartes, reflects its response just as the mirror does. Such a simple explanation of behavior, and the very words used to describe it, immediately denies the whole organism taking part in that response.
Yet man is not only a mirror, but a thinking mirror. According to the old mechanical view, actions are associated only with the part of the body which performs them, and they have no relationship whatsoever to the purposeful behavior of the organism as a whole. But man is not a machine composed of independently functioning parts. He is a whole. His mind and body interact; he acts on the outside world and the outside world acts on him. The innate reflexes, of which this hand withdrawal is one example, are part of a whole system of adaptive responses which serve to help the individual, as an entity, to adjust to changed circumstances. They can be described as the result of an inborn adaptation tendency. The only real difference between the innate reflexes and the conditioned reflexes is that the former supposedly have developed in the entire race over the millions of years of the evolutionary process, while the latter are developed during the life span of the individual as a result of the gradual automatization of acquired responses.
If you analyze any one of the complicated actions you may perform during the course of a single day (driving an automobile, for example), you will see that it occurs outside your conscious management. And yet, before the process could be automatized, the actions, purposefully directed toward the satisfaction of some goal, had to be consciously learned and managed. You were not born with the innate reflex of jamming on the brake to stop a car quickly in an emergency. You had to learn to do it, and in the process of learning and driving, this response became automatic. If, after you have learned to drive, you see a child running across the path of your car, you put the brake on immediately, by reflex, without thinking.
The Conditioning of Man
Pavlov’s research on the machinery of the mind taught us how all the animals including man learn adjustment to existing limitations through linking the signs and signals of life to body reactions. The mind creates a relationship between repeated simultaneous occurrences, and the body reacts to the connections the mind forms. Thus the bell, rung each time the dog was fed, became a signal to the anmial to prepare for digestion, and the animal began to salivate.
Recent experiments conducted by Dr. Gregory Razran of Queens College show how men may develop these same kinds of responses. Dr. Razran treated a group of twenty college students to a series of free luncheons at which music was played or pictures shown. After the final luncheon, these twenty students were brought together with another group who had not been luncheon guests. At this meeting, as at the luncheons, music was played and pictures shown, and all the students were asked to tell what the music and pictures made them think of. The music and the pictures generally reminded the first group of something related to eating, but had no such associations for the second group. There was obviously a temporary connection in the minds of the luncheon guests between the music and the pictures on the one hand and eating on the other.
The Chinese did their mass conditioning in an even simpler way. After having taught the prisoners for days to write down all possible nonsense and political lies in an atmosphere of utter confusion and stress they were ripe to sign collectively the lie of having taken part in germ warfare (Winokur).
All conditioned reflexes are involuntary temporary adjustments to pressures which create an apparent connection between stimuli which may be in fact totally unrelated. For this reason, the conditioned reflex is not necessarily permanently imprinted on the individual, but can gradually disappear. If, after the dog’s conditioned reflex to the bell has been developed, the bell is rung over and over again and no food is presented to the animal, the salivating reflex disappears. Doubtless Dr. Razran’s students will not always think of food when they hear music.
We could describe the conditioned reflex another way: it is a selected response of the mind body unit to a given stimulus. The ways in which the stimulus and the response are connected vary considerably they may have been associated in time, in place, or by coincidence, or by a common aim and thus they may form a special conditioned complex in our mental and physical attitude. Some of these complex responses, or patterns are more autonomous than others, and will act like the innate patterns. Some are flexible and are continually changing. Analysis of some of the psychosomatic diseases, for example, shows us how our inner emotional attitudes can intensify or even change a conditional response. Stomach ulcers are considred an example of such a psychosomatic disease. The mother who puts her child on a too rigid feeding schedule may change the child’s favorable response to hunger into a stubborn reaction against feeding.
For our purpose we have to be aware that conditioning takes place throughout all our lives in the most subtle and in the most obvious ways. We discover that the molding of our personalities may occur in a thousandfold ways through such matters as these: the meal training given in early childhood; the harshness or the musical tone of the words spoken to us; the sense of haste in our surroundings; the steadiness of family habits or the chaos of neurotic parents; the noises of our machines; the reservedness of our friends; the discipline of our schools and the competitiveness of our clubs. We are even conditioned by such things as the frailty of our toys and the cosiness of our houses, the steadiness of traditions or the chaos of a revolution. The artist and the engineer, the teacher and the friend, the uncle or aunt they all give shape to our behavior.
solation and Other Factors in Conditioning
Pavlov made another significant discovery: the conditioned reflex could be developed most easily in a quiet laboratory with a minimum of disturbing stimuli. Every trainer of animals knows this from his own experience; isolation and the patient repetition of stimuli are required to tame wild animals. Pavlov formulated his findings into a general rule in which the speed of learning is positively correlated with quiet and isolation. The totalitarians have followed this rule. They know that they can condition their political victims most quickly if they are kept in islation. In the totalitarian technique of thought control, the same isolation applied to the individual is applied also to groups of people. This is the reason the civilian populations of the totalitarian countries are not permitted to travel freely and are kept away from mental and political contamination. It is the reason, to, for the solitary confinement cell and the prison camp.
Another of Pavlov’s findings was that some animals learn more quickly if they were rewarded (by affection, by food, by stroking) each time they showed the right response, while others learned more quickly when the penalty for not learning was a painful stimulus. In human terms, the latter animals could be described as learning in order to avoid punishment. These different reactions in animals may perhaps be related to an earlier conditioning by the parents, and they find their counterparts among human beings. In some people the strategy of reward and flattery is a stimulus to learning, while pain evokes all their resistance and rebellion; in others retribution and punishment for failure can be a means of training them into the desired pattern. Before he can do his job effectively, the brainwasher has to find out to which category his victim belongs. There are people more amenable to brainwashing than others. Part of the response may be innate or related to earlier conditioning to conformity.
Pavlov also distinguished between the weaker type of involuntary learning, in which the learned response was lost as soon as some disturbance occurred, and the stronger type, in which training was retained through all kinds of changed conditions. As a matter of fact, Pavlov described more types of learning than this, but for our purposes it is only important to know that there are some types of people who lose their conditioned learning easily, while others, the so called “stronger” types, retain it. This, by the way, is another example of how our choice of words reflects our bias. The descriptions “strong” and “weak” depend completely on the aim of the experimenter. For the totalitarian, the “weak” P.O.W. is the man who subbornly refuses to accept the new conditioning. His “weakness” may be, in fact, a resistance, the result of a previous strong conditioning to loyalty to anti totalitarian principles. We never know how strongly conditioning and initial learning are impressed on the personality. Rigid dogmatic behavior has its roots in early conditioning and so may submissiveness based on ignorance rather than knowledge.
Pavlov showed, too, how internal and external factors interact in the conditioning process. If, for example, a new laboratory assistant was brought in to work with the animals, all of their newly acquired patterns could easily be inhibited because of the animals’ emotional reactions to the newcomer. Pavlov explained this as a disruptive reaction caused by the animals’ investigatory reflexes, which led them to sniff around the stranger. Current psychology tends to interpret it as the result of the changed emotional rapport between the animal and its trainers. We can easily expand the implications of this more modern view into the field of human relations. It points up the fact that there are some persons who can create such immediate rapport with others that the latter will soon give up many old habits and ways of life to conform with new demands. There are inquisitors and investigators whose personalities so deeply affect their victims that the victims speedily yield their secrets and accept entirely new ways of thinking.
We can see the same thing in psychotherapy, where the development of an emotional rapport between doctor and patient is the most important factor leading to cure. In some cases rapport can be established immediately, in others rapport cannot be built up at all, in most cases it develops gradually during the course of the therapy. It is not difficult for a psychologist to test a man’s “softness” and willingness to be conditioned, and as a matter of fact the Pavlovians have developed simple questionnaires through which they can easily determine a given individual’s instability and adaptability to suggestion and brainwashing.
Pavlov found that all conditioning, no matter how strong it had been, became inhibited through boredom or through the repetition of too weak signals. The bell could no longer arouse salivation in the experimental dogs if it was repeated too often or its tone was too soft. A process of unlearning took place. The result of such internal inhibition of conditioning and the loss of conditioned reflex action is sleep. The inhibition spreads over the entire activity of the brain cortex; the organism falls into a hypnotic state. This explanation of the process of inhibition was one of the first acceptable theories of sleep. An interesting psychological question is whether too much official conditioning causes boredom and inhibition, and whether that is the reason why the Stakhanovite movement in Russia was necessary to counteract the loss of productivity of the people.
We can make a comparison with what happened to our prisoners of war in Korea. Under the daily signal of dulling routine questions for every word can act as a Pavlovian signal their minds went into a state of inhibition and diminished alertness. This made it possible for them to give up temporarily their former democratic conditioning and training. When they had unlearned and suppressed the democratic way, their inquisitors could start teaching them the totalitarian philosohpy. First the old patterns have to be broken down in order to build up new conditioned reflexes. We can imagine that boredom and repetition arouse the need to give in and to yield to the provoking words of the enemy. Later I shall come back to the system of negative stimuli used in conditioning for brainwashing.
Mass Conditioning Through Speech
According to official Pavlovian psychology, human speech is also a conditioned reflex activity. Pavlov distinguished between stimuli of the first order, which condition men and animals directly, and stimuli of the second order, with weaker and more complicated conditioning qualities. In this so called second signal system, verbal cues replace the original physical sound stimuli. Pavlov himself did not give much attention to this second signal system. It was especially after Stalin’s publication in 1950 on the significance of linguistics for mass indoctrination (as quoted by Dobrogaev) that the Russian psychologists began to do work in this area. In his letter, Stalin followed Engel’s theory that language is the characteristic human bit of adaptive equipment. That tone and sound in speech have a conditioning quality is something we can verify from our own experience in listening to or in giving commands, or in dealing with our pets. Even the symbolic and semantic meaning of words can acquire a conditioning quality. The word “traitor,” for example, provokes direct feelings and reactions in the minds of those who hear it spoken, even if this discriminatory label is being applied dishonestly.
Through an elaborate study on speech reflexes written by one of the leading Russian psychologists, Dobrogaev, we get a fairly good insight into the ways in which speech patterns and word signals are used in the service of mass conditioning, by means of propaganda and indoctrination. The basic problems for the man tamer are rather simple: Can man resist a government bent on conditioning him? What can the individual do to protect his mental integrity against the power of a forceful collectivity? Is it possible to do away with every vestige of inner resistance?
Pavlov had already explained that man’s relation to the external world, and to his fellow men, is dominated by secondary stimuli, the speech symbols. Man learns to think in words and in the speech figures given him, and these gradually condition his entire outlook on life and on the world. As Dobrogaev says, “Language is the means of man’s adaptation to his environment.” We could rephrase that statement in this way: man’s need for communication with his fellow men interferes with his relation to the outside world, because language and speech itself the verbal tools we use are variable and not objective. Dobrogaev continues: “Speech manifestations represent conditioned reflex functions of the human brain.” In a simpler way we may say: he who dictates and formulates the words and phrases we use, he who is master of the press and radio, is master of the mind.
In the Pavlovian strategy, terrorizing force can finally be replaced by a new organization of the means of communication. Ready made opinions can be distributed day by day through press, radio, and so on, again and again, till they reach the nerve cell and implant a fixed pattern of thought in the brain. Consequently, guided public opinion is the result, according to Pavlovian theoreticians, of good propaganda technique, and the polls a verification of the temporary successful action of the Pavlovian machinations on the mind. Yet, the polls may only count what people pretend to think and believe, because it is dangerous for them to do otherwise.
Such is the Pavlovian device: repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity of communicating dissent and opposition. This is the simple formula for political conditioning of the masses. This is also the actual ideal of some of our public relation machines, who thus hope to manipulate the public into buying a special soap or voting for a special party.
The Pavlovian strategy in public relations has people conditioned more and more to ask themselves, “What do other people think?” As a result, a common delusion is created: people are incited to think what other people think, and thus public opinion may mushroom out into a mass prejudice.
Expressed in psychoanalytic terms, through daily propagandistic noise backed up by forceful verbal cues, people can more and more be forced to identify with the powerful noisemaker. Big Brother’s voice resounds in all the little brothers.
News from Red China, as reported by neutral Indian journalists [See the “New York Times”, November 27, 1954] tells us that the Chinese leaders are using this vocal conditioning of the public to strengthen their regime. Throughout the country, radios and loud speakers are broadcasting the official “truths.” The sugary voices take possession of people, the cultural tyranny traps their ears with loud speakers, telling them what they may and may not do. This microphone regimentation was foreseen by the French philosopher La Rochefoucauld, who, in the eighteenth century, said: “A man is like a rabbit, you catch him by the ears.”
During the Second World War the Nazis showed that they too were very much aware of this conditioning power of the word. I saw their strategy at work in Holland. The radio constantly spread political suggestions and propaganda, and people were obliged to listen because the simple act of turning off one’s radio was in itself suspicious. I remember one day during the occupation when I was taking a bicycle trp with some friends. We stopped off to rest at a cafe that, we later realized, was a true Nazi nest. When the radio, which had been on ever since we arrived, announced a speech by Hitler, everyone stood up in awe, and it was a must to take in the verbal conditioning by the Fuhrer. My friends and I had to stand up too, and were forced to listen to that raucous voice crackling in our ears and to summon all our resistance against that long, boring, repetitive attack on our eardrums and minds.
Throughout the occupation, the Nazis printed tons of propaganda, Big Lies, and distortions. They even went so far as to paint their slogans on the stoops of the houses and in the streets. Every week newly fabricated stereotypes ogled at us as if to convince us of the spelndor of the Third Reich. But the Nazis did not know the correct Pavlovian strategy. By satisfying their own need to discuss and to vary their arguments in order to make them seem more logical, they only increased the resistance of the Dutch people. This resistance was additionally fortified by the London radio, on which the Dutch could hear the sane voice of their own legal government. Had the Nazis not argued and justified so much, and had they been able to prevent all written, printed, or spoken communication, the long period of boredom would have inhibited our democratic conditioning, and we might well have been more seduced by the Nazi oversimplifications and slogans.
Political conditioning should not be confused with training or persuasion or even indoctrination. It is more than that. It is tampering. It is taking possession of both the simplest and the most complicated nervous patterns of man. It is the battle for the possession of the nerve cells. It is coercion and enforced conversion. Instead of conditioning man to an unbiased facing of reality, the seducer conditions him to catchwords, verbal stereotypes, slogans, formulas, symbols. Pavlovian strategy in the totalitarian sense means imprinting prescribed reflexes on a mind that has been broken down. The totalitarian wants first the required response from the nerve cells, then control of the individual, and finally control of the masses. The system starts with verbal conditioning and training by combining the required stereotypes with negative or positive stimuli: pain, or reward. In the P.O.W. camps in Korea where there was individual and mass brainwashing, the negative and positive conditioning stimuli were usually hunger and food. The moment the soldier conformed to the party line his food ration was improved: say yes, and I’ll give you a piece of candy!
The whole gamut of negative stimuli, as we saw them in the Schwable case, consists of physical pressure, moral pressure, fatigue, hunger, boring repetition, confusion by seemingly logical syllogisms. Many victims of totalitarianism have told me in interviews that the most upsetting experience they faced in the concentration camps was the feeling of loss of logic, the state of confusion into which they had been brought the state in which nothing had any validity. They had arrived at the Pavlovian state of inhibition, which psychiatrists call mental disintegration or depersonalization. It seemed as if they had unlearned all their former responses and had not yet adopted new ones. But in reality they simply did not know what was what.
The Pavlovian theory translated into a political method, as a way of leveling the mind (the Nazis called it “Gleichschaltung”) is the stock in trade of totalitarian countries. Some psychiatric points are of interest because we see that Pavlovian training can be used successfully only when special mental conditions prevail. In order to tame people into the desired pattern, victims must be brought to a point where they have lost their alert consciousness and mental awareness. Freedom of discussion and free intellectual exchange hinder conditioning. Feelings of terror, feelings of fear and hopelessness, of being alone, of standing with one’s back to the wall, must be instilled.
The treatment of American prisoners of war in the Korean P.O.W. camps followed just such a pattern. They were compelled to listen to lectures and other forms of daily word barrage. The very fact that they did not understand the lectures and were bored by the long sessions inhibited their democratic training, and conditioned them to swallow passively the bitter doctrinal diet, for the prisoners were subjectd not only to a political training program, but also to an involuntary taming program. To some degree the Communist propaganda lectures were directed toward retraining the prisoners’ minds. This training our soldiers could reject, but the endless repetitions and the constant sloganizing, together with the physical hardships and deprivations the prisoners suffered, caused an UNCONSCIOUS TAMING and conditioning, against which only previously built up inner strength and awareness could help.
There is still another reason why our soldiers were sometimes trapped by the Communist conditioning. Experiments with animals and experiences with human beings have taught us that threat, tension, and anxiety, in general, may accelerate the establishment of conditioned responses, particularly when those responses tend to diminish fear and panic (Spence and Farber). The emergency of prison camp life and mental torture provide ideal circumstances for such conditioning. The responses can develop even when the victim is completely unaware that he is being influenced. Thus, many of our soldiers developed automatic responses of which they remained completely unconscious (Segal). But this is only one side of the coin, for experience has also shown that people who know what to expect under conditions of mental pressure can develop a so called perceptual defense, which protects them from being influenced. This means that the more familiar people are with the concepts of thought control and menticide, the more they understand the nature of the propaganda barrage directed against them, the more inner resistance they can put up, even though inevitably some of the inquisitor’s suggestions will leak through the barrier of conscious mental defense.
Our understanding of the conditioning process leads us also to an understanding of some of the paradoxical reactions found among victims of concentration camps and other prisoners. Often those with a rigid, simple belief were better able to withstand the continual barrage against their minds than were the flexible, sophisticated ones, full of doubt and inner conflicts. The simple man with deep rooted, freely absorbed religious faith could exert a much greater inner resistance than could the complex, questioning intellectualist. The refined intellectual is much more handicapped by the internal pros and cons.
In totalitarian countries, where belief in Pavlovian strategy has assumed grotesque proportions, the self thinking, subjective man has disappeared. There is an utter rejection of any attempt at persuasion or discussion. Individual self expression is taboo. Private affection is taboo.
Peaceful exchange of free thoughts in free conversation will disturb the conditioned reflexes and is therefore taboo. No longer are there any brains, only conditioned patterns and educated muscles. In such a taming system neurotic compulsion is looked upon as a positive asset instead of something pathological. The mental automaton becomes the ideal of education.
Yet the Soviet theoreticians themselves are often unaware of this, and many of them do not realize the dire consequences of subjecting man to a completely mechanistic conditioning. They themselves are often just as frightened as we are by the picture of the perfectly functioning human robot. This is what one of their psychologists says: “The entire reactionary nature of this approach to man is completely clear. Man is an automaton who can be caused to act as one wills! This is the ideal of capitalism! Behold the dream of capitalism the world over a working class without consciousness, which cannot think for itself, whose actions can be trained according to the whim of the exploiter! This is the reason why it is in America, the bulwark of present day capitalism, that the theory of man as a robot has been so vigorously developed and so stubbornly held to.” (Bauer)
Western psychology and psychiatry, although acknowledging its debt to Pavlov as a great pioneer who made important contributions to our understanding of behavior, takes a much less mechanical view of man than do the Soviet Pavlovians. It is apparent to us that their simple explanation of training ignores and rejects the concept of purposeful adaptation and the question of the goals to which this training is directed. Western experimental psychologists tend to see the conditioned reflex as developing fully only in the service of gratifying basic instinctual needs or of avoiding pain, that is, only when the whole organism is concerned in the activity. In that complicated process of response to the world, conscious, and especially unconscious, drives and motivations play a role.
All training, of which the conditioned response is only one example, is an automatization of actions which were originally consciously learned and thought over. The ideal of Western democratic psychology is to train men into independence and maturity by enlisting their conscious aid, awareness, and volition in the learning process. The ideal of the totalitarian psychology, on the other hand, is to tame men, to make them willing tools in the hands of their leaders. Like training, taming has the purpose of making actions automatic; unlike training, it does not require the conscious participation of the learner. Both training and taming are energy and timesaving devices, and in both the mystery of the psyche is hidden in the purposefulness of the responses. The automatization of functions in man saves him expenditure of energy but can make him weaker when encountering new unexpected challenges.
Cultural routinization and habit formation by local rules and myths make of everybody a partial automaton. National and racial prejudices are acted out unwittingly. Group hatred often bursts out almost automatically when triggered by slogans and catchwords. In a totalitarian world, this narrow disciplinarian conditioning is done more “perfectly” and more “ad absurdum.”
The Urge to Be Conditioned
One suggestion this chapter is not intended to convey is that Pavlovian conditioning as such is something wrong. This kind of conditioning occurs everywhere where people are together in common interaction. The speaker influences the listener, but the listener also the speaker. Through the process of conditioning people often learn to like and to do what they are allowed to like and do. The more isolated the group, the stricter the conditioning that takes place in those belonging to the group. In some groups one finds people more capable than others of conveying suggestion and bringing about conditioning. Gradually one can discern the stronger ones, the better adjusted ones, the more experienced ones, and those noisier ones, whose ability to condition others is strongest. Every group, every club, every society has its leading Pavlovian Bell. This kind of person imprints his inner bell ringing on others. He can even develop a system of monolithic bell ringing: no other influential bell is allowed to compete with him.
Another subtler question belongs to these problems. Why is there in us so great an urge to be conditioned, the urge to learn, to imitate, to conform, and to follow the pattern of family and group? This urge to be conditioned, to submit to the communal pattern and the family pattern must be related to man’s dependency on parents and fellow men. Animals are not so dependent on one another. In the whole animal kingdom man is one of the most helpless and naked beings. But among the animals man has, relatively, the longest youth and time for learning.
Puzzlement and doubt, which inevitably arise in the training process, are the beginnings of mental freedom. Of course, the initial puzzlement and doubt is not enough. Behind that there has to be faith in our democratic freedoms and the will to fight for it. I hope to come back to this central problem of faith in moral freedom as differentiated from conditioned loyalty and servitude in the last chapter. Puzzlement and doubt are, however, already crimes in the totalitarian state. The mind that is open for qustions is open for dissent. In the totalitarian regime the doubting, inquisitive, and imaginative mind has to be suppressed. The totalitarian slave is only allowed to memorize, to salivate when the bell rings.
It is not my task here to elaborate on the subject of the biased use of Pavlovian rules by totalitarians, but without doubt part of the interpretation of any psychology is determined by the ways we think about our fellow human beings and man’s place in nature. If our ideal is to make conditioned zombies out of people, the current misuse of Pavlovianism will serve our purpose. But once we become even vaguely aware that in the totalitarian picture of man the characteristic human note is missing, and when see that in such a scheme man sacrifices his instinctual desires, his pleasures, his aims, his goals, his creativity, his instinct for freedom, his paradoxicality, we immediately turn against this political perversion of science. Such use of Pavlovian technique is aimed only at developing the automaton in man, not his free alert mind that is aware of moral goals and aims in life.
Even in laboratory animals we have found that affective goal directedness can spoil the Pavlovian experiment. When, during a bell food training session, the dog’s beloved master entered the room, the animal lost all its previous conditioning and began to bark excitedly. Here is a simple example of an age old truth: love and laughter break through all rigid conditioning. The rigid automaton cannot exist without spontaneous self expression. Apparently, the fact that the dog’s spontaneous affection for his master could ruin all the mechanical calculations and manipulations never occurred to Pavlov’s totalitarian students.