It comes as no shock to readers of this publication that mind control exists.

Although neither mystical nor magical, the science of behavioral psychology may seem so to the uninitiated because the beneficial effects of mental shaping by means of behavioral principles can, at times, be so dramatic.

Just what does one say to those who, with eye-rolling incredulity, dismiss a proven science of the mind as “that touchy-feel stuff”?

If its numbers they want, there are, of course, studies aplenty.

Personally, I find it more effective to invite skeptics to simply observe and maybe even experiment with some simple exercises in addition and subtraction.

Naturally, it helps to first explain the foundational notion of behavioral psychology that behavior is controlled by its consequences. You will likely be met with a blank stare . Do not let that phase you. Simply press on with some examples. Keep it simple. No fancy mathematical formula Just straight-forward addition and subtraction.

Addition:
A mugger reaches for a guy’s wallet but is met with an ear splitting warning at full volume: “Do not even think about it buddy!” Maybe accompanied by a full contact karate chop.

Will the mugger persist in his career path of choice? Maybe. But probably not today. At ;east not right now. Karate chop man has momentarily changed the mugger’s mind. I’d call that an effective form of mind control.

The would-be victim influenced the outcome of the mugger’s behavior by controlling the behavior’s consequences. Two aversive events – loud warning and karate chop – were added into the behavioral equation. Each event separately qualifies as what behaviorists call “positive punishment.” Positive because the punishing event was added into the situation.

Negative punishment, of course, works slightly differently

Subtraction:
A mugger reaches for a guy’s wallet but the would be victim calmly removes the wallet from his own pocket, turns to the mugger and says, “Excuse me for just a moment,” then douses the wallet with gasoline, lights a match, and incinerates the wallet.

A bit extreme, perhaps, but we’ve all got to do our part in the fight against crimes, after all. Good thing the guy had that gas can handy.

Gain, the mugger has a good cause to re-evaluate. Only this time it’s because his behavior has been negatively punished trough removal of something desired.

Addition and subtraction work just well using rewarding events rather than punishing ones. And here, I’ll let some dolphins in on the action since they were the ones who taught me all about this new math stuff to begin with, back in the days of my former career as a civilian dolphin trainer for the U.S. Navy.

Disclaimer: No karate chops or gas can ignitions were used in the training of any marine mammal prior to or during the production of this article.

Addition:
A dolphin takes her trainer’s cue and performs a high-vaulting leap in the air and the trainer tosses several large, restaurant- quality fish into the water. Perfect for snack-time.

A gainfully employed human wows a client with an excellent presentation and lands a big deal for the company and her appreciative employer hands her a bonus check and free airline tickets to Cabo.

In both cases, a job well-done is met with a desired something added into the behavioral exchange. Positive rewards makes both hard-workers likely to repeat such efforts in the future.

Subtraction:
A dolphin who is housed in a net- bottomed enclosure is reluctant to swim through a gate to an adjoining pen but then finds that trainers are pulling the net of the current enclosure toward the surface so that the pen is becoming uncomfortably shallow. Eventually, the dolphin swims through the indicated gate to a more roomy enclosure.

A human is just sitting down to a nice dinner at home but then is interrupted by the irritating and persistent ringing of the doorbell. When he gets up to answer the door, the ringing stops.

In each scenario, the removal, or subtraction, of something unpleasant is the rewarding consequences of the willingness to behave in desired ways. Negative reward has spurred both dolphin and human in action.

So, “touchy-feel” or science of the mind? Psychology may not operate strictly by the numbers but adding and subtracting can go a along way toward changing our minds and influencing our outcomes.

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