Experimental Analysis of Hysterical Blindness

  • John Paul Brady
  • Detlev L. Lind


The viewpoint adopted for experimental purposes in this study was that the behavior of an organism is generated and maintained chiefly by its consequences on the environment. Over a wide range of conditions, a hungry rat, placed in a so-called “Skinner box,” will per­sist in pressing a bar if, as a consequence of this response, a pellet of food is delivered to it at least some of the time. This exemplifies the principle of reinforcement which is at the core of current behavior theory. Conditioning of this type is termed operant (instrumental) to distinguish it from respondent (classical Pavlovian) conditioning. The probability of a given response in relation to the conditions of rein­forcement of that response has been the subject of much study of Skin­ner (4), Ferster and Skinner (2) and others. Recently, controlled experi­ments conducted with human subjects using cubicles analogous to the “Skinner box” have demonstrated the existence of these same relation­ships in human behavior and the feasibility of analyzing human behav­ior within this methodological framework (3). However, the relation­ships between an organism’s behavior, its environmental consequences, and the disposition or probability of the organism to repeat a particular response often is obscure in so complex a psychobiological unit as man. For example, when a man behaves in a given way, the most important consequence of his activity, from the standpoint of reinforcement, may be its effect on some part of his intricate social or intrapersonal environ­ment. Further, the given behavior or its effect may be readily under­stood only in terms of its “symbolic meaning.” Nevertheless, much of man’s behavior, both normal and aberrant, can be analyzed in terms of these general principles and influenced by their systematic application (5).


Visual Stimulus Interresponse Time Angry Feeling Total Blindness Operant Conditioning Technique 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Paul Brady
  • Detlev L. Lind

There are no affiliations available

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