Behavioral Psychology

The Afterlife From The Behavioral Point Of View

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From the behavioral point of view heaven is a positive reinforcement and hell is a negative reinforcement. It’s not like the controllers try to make any bones about it. They call heaven the eternal reward and hell the eternal punishment. Rewards and punishments are the engines that drive positive and negative reinforcements. Something that is positively reinforcing always has a reward embedded within it and something that is negatively reinforcing always has a punishment embedded within it. In other words, a positive reinforcement is something the organism wants and a negative reinforcement is something the organism wants to avoid.

Controllers use reinforcements to elicit certain behaviors from their subjects, and again the religious controllers don’t try to hide the fact that they’re attempting to elicit certain behaviors at all. They set out very specific rules for living that if followed guarantee eternal bliss and if transgressed guarantee eternal torment.

Now, under ideal training conditions, a reinforcement occurs at or around the time of the behavior being reinforced. When this occurs, the order of magnitude of the reinforcement can be pretty insignificant. Something as small as a piece of candy can work as a positive reinforcement and something as small as a frown can work as a negative reinforcement, for example. The fact that the reinforcements of heaven and hell are so far removed from the behaviors they are trying to bring under control explains why their orders of magnitude are so large. Heaven is eternal and made wonderful beyond all comprehension while hell is eternal and made horrible beyond all comprehension. The orders of magnitude of reinforcements, positive and negative, have to increase to be effective when they don’t occur at or around the time of a behavior. The farther out they are the larger they need to be.

Obviously the prospect of heaven or hell has been a highly effective means of control for centuries. The real trick the controllers played was to transfer the responsibility for this control onto an authority beyond questioning or reproach, onto a deity, while still reaping the many rewards (monetary, psychological, emotional, spiritual, etc.) derived from the consequences of those behaviors being reinforced, behaviors that only could have occurred under the contingencies of reinforcement that they themselves were responsible for setting up and maintaining.