RENO, NEVADA- October 25st- Brain2Bot’s founder and CEO, Dr. Gunnar Newquist, is making a dramatic claim in an article published this week. Newquist’s article brings into question the very foundation of famed psychologist BF Skinner’s reinforcement process, which has formed the basis for psychological learning theories for decades. Newquist boldly titled it “Is Positive Reinforcement Pseudoscience?”
“People have just assumed that reinforcement has been experimentally demonstrated because Skinner’s explanation was so intuitive,” he said. “But it hasn’t.”
In his article, Newquist casts doubt on Skinner’s method, who proposed positive reinforcement as a major process of learning. Newquist cites that Ivan Pavlov had already proceeded it with a superior experimental method that demonstrates that learning occurs by simple pairing.
Newquist explains that Skinner’s work wasn’t subject to control group testing that is required to substantiate any scientific claim. “Medicine without a placebo control is not medicine,” Newquist writes. “It is pseudoscience.” Without a control group, Skinner’s method isn’t science either.
Newquist further explains that there is another parallel between reinforcement and pseudoscience: it is untestable.
“The worst part about reinforcement is that it isn’t a falsifiable explanation,” he said. “There is no clear-cut way to tell if it is wrong because it is entirely circular logic. As such, reinforcement bears exactly zero explanatory power. With Skinner’s reinforcement, neuroscience is falling into the same trap that snake oil, homeopathy, and other pseudoscience falls into.”
This paradigm shift in our understanding of how learning occurs has far reaching implications—not just for neuroscience, but for a host of applications that rely on neuroscience. And for Newquist, his artificial intelligence platform
“My goal is for neuroscience to drop reinforcement from the jargon altogether. For someone like me, reinforcement theory is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.
“As captivating as reinforcement has been for the last 80 years, it has been hindering our progress in understanding ourselves.”