ROBERT S. GABLE
Here are a few details. Not many. In my view, personal history or “stories” are much less important than a focus on the possibilities of the present. Or maybe it’s because, looking back, I realize how much more I could have accomplished “had I known then what I know now.” (A common but useless lament.)
Ed.D. (counseling psychology), Harvard University, 1964; Ph.D. (experimental psychology), Brandeis University, 1964; J.D. (law), Jackson State University, 1976.
I spent a year (1957-1958) studying at the University of Natal and traveling in South Africa. One of the best and most rewarding years of my life.
I taught for 30 years at Claremont Graduate University. I have no idea why I was so fortunate to land at such a good place. My courses in psychology were primarily behaviorally-oriented (following what I still think is the very relevant and empirically verifiable paradigm of operant conditioning, originated by B.F. Skinner). I now have an appointment as Professor of Psychology (Emeritus).
In 1998 I moved to Berkeley, CA, at the urging of my son who lives in Berkeley and who so much enriched my life.
Buddhism and Behaviorism
When I graduated from college (a small church school in Ohio), the Danforth Foundation generously paid for a year of study of Christian theology at Yale Divinity School. Nothing there inspired me. In the years following, I had little interest in religion or spirituality until I observed the effects of Buddhist practice on the health and psychological well-being of my son, Francisco Morillo Gable. I saw how his diligent meditation helped him deal with serious chronic pain (from a bicycle accident and back surgery). And when I spotted his enthusiasm for reading four 400-page translations of ancient discourses, I knew something in the Buddhist tradition was worthy of attention.
Subsequently, Francisco and I have had many enjoyable hours of sharing our thoughts and experiences. I have noticed a few complimentarities between psychological behaviorism and Theravada Buddhism. For example, both disciplines emphasize rigorous empiricism, and neither discipline believes in an intrinsic “self” which can act as an independent agent. From my perspective, I view “mindfulness” as the practice of paying careful attention to variations in external conditions and the subsequent effect those variations have on an individual’s perception (especially of pain and suffering).
References to some of my papers, research grants, and a couple books are embedded in pages of this site where they seem substantively relevant.
Miscellaneous items follow. Peruse at your own risk.
At left, is a sample piece of functional sculpture (“Telephone Totem”) that I created back before LEDs were widely used in electronic devices. Mechanical relays would activate “nixie tubes” (cold cathodes and wire mesh inside a glass tube filled with neon) that lighted in order to indicate the telephone number just dialed. The “sculpture” worked on a normal telephone line.
My twin brother, Kirk, created a number of different pieces of functional sculpture or art works in the 1960s, one of which sold through the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. It was called “Smashed Radio” (See below.) A hammer was glued into a transistor radio. The radio still functioned normally. The current Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is at http://www.hammacher.com.
A few years ago, I cooked-up a different piece of so-called sculpture. It was called “Boiled Radio” because the radio was immersed in a non-conductive fluid. My assistant, Evan, and I worked diligently in my studio to get a commercially viable version. It never happened. Here’s Evan at the beginning of the project trying to do the impossible.
If it doesn’t work, I am preparing myself for the sad impact on the world. ▼
The illustration is from a long-defunct fundamentalist Christian magazine, The Plain Truth, (Pasadena, CA), Feb/Mr., 1955, Vol XX, No 2, p.3.
Photos of Robert Gable
Before editing with Photoshop
What follows are semi-thoughts waiting to be integrated somewhere on my site.
An old joke about alcohol prohibitionists claims that they are so dogmatically opposed to the use of alcohol that they won’t allow Scotch tape in the house. That’s the way my parents were, back in Canton, Ohio. I recall an elderly woman who played bridge with my parents; she confessed to them that she was secretly glad to see beer delivery trucks because it was evidence that Jesus Christ was soon to return.
For better or worse, Jesus has not returned. The smart money is now betting on an apocalypse of global-warming abetted by overpopulation. (Global population growth is reported to be about 220,000 humans per day.) But overpopulation and global warming is just the new face of an old dilemma: Namely, how to minimize the long-term costs of short-term gratification. Evidence of individual mismanagement is abundant– obesity, gambling, excessive debt, drug addiction, school truancy, smoking, road rage. A more insidious but wide-spread example of high-cost, short-term gratification is the use of punishment to control another person’s behavior.
“Punishment,” the application of an unpleasant or hurtful stimulus, takes many forms, from slapping a child to waging war. The individual who administers the punishment typically gets immediate gratification. For example, the punished child might stop, at least temporarily, the unwanted behavior. Punishment is always administered to increase the pleasure of the punisher. Unfortunately, there are two problems with using punishment: First, the improved behavior is only temporary. Second, the punished individual is more likely to avoid the punisher than to change his or her behavior. Take, for example, the situation where we spot a police car behind us on the freeway. We slow down in order to avoid a speeding ticket. As soon as the police car passes us, we speed up again. If punishment really worked, ex-convicts would be angels.
Punishment will not stop people from consuming fatty foods, producing too many children, polluting the environment, or developing deadly weapons that make them feel secure. The good news is that the social and physical environment of humans can be rearranged to promote a healthier and convivial way of life.
In general, see work of former Harvard professor, B. F. Skinner.