Skinner's babies

Becky
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Burrhus Frederic Skinner never quite escaped the lingering plaque from misinformation unleashed with the invention of his "Baby Tender" (aka "Heir Conditioner" or "Aircrib"). It all started with a 1945 article in Ladies' Home Journal showing his infant daughter, Deborah, encased in a chamber that was a kind of crib nouveau--part incubator, part my-first-loft; it was heated and humidified, with an enclosed upper portion that could open and double as a changing table. In Skinner's own words:

Toward the end of the Second World War, we decided to have a second child. My wife remarked that she did not mind bearing children but that the first 2 years were hard to take. I suggested that we mechanize the care of a baby. There is nothing natural about a crib. Wrapping a baby in several layers of cloth -- undershirt, nightie, sheets, and blankets, with a mattress underneath -- is an inefficient way of maintaining a proper temperature, and it greatly restricts the child's movements. I built, instead, an enclosed space in which the baby, wearing only a diaper, could lie on a tightly stretched woven plastic sheet, the surface of which feels rather like linen and through which warm air rises, moved by convection or a fan, depending on the outside temperature.

Here is an account of a man who was raised in an Aircrib--his grandparents were professors at Harvard with Skinner--and recreated one for his own child. When Psychology Today went sniffing, they interviewed 50 of the surmised 300 Aircrib babes and found them sane: "Positive results across the board. All of the children had normal health, and their parents praised the crib for its safety, warmth, and convenience. As for Deborah, she grew up normally, married a professor, and is now a successful artist in England." Despite rumors of psychosis and worse. Children of the Aircrib unite!

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July 17, 2007 - 10:27am
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