Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

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Marian Breland Bailey

December 2, 1920 - September 25, 2001

Marian Breland Bailey became one of the first psychologists to utilize operant conditioning commercially. As a woman in a field dominated by men, she worked closely with BF Skinner and others to become one of the most well known behaviorists. She was instrumental in spreading the word of scientific and humane training techniques to many disciplines. Her students can be found working internationally training a variety of species.

Marian graduated from high school as valedictorian of her class (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). After high school, Marian headed for college at the University of Minnesota to major in Latin and minor in Greek. Needing a science, she chose psychology as, "I thought it the least painful science" (Yin, 2000). As a straight A student, she was recommend for a special psychology class to be taught by B. F. Skinner. The class dramatically altered Marian's life. Through the class Marian was exposed to Skinner's developing system of operant conditioning. Marian was hooked and changed her major to psychology and worked as an undergraduate laboratory assistant. Marian began a long association with B. F. Skinner from this early exposure. She proof read his work for publication as well as served as a baby sitter for his children (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). It was during this time that Marian met her future husband, Keller Breland.

In 1941, Marian graduated summa cum laude (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). Later that year she married Keller and entered graduate school. Marian became Skinner's second graduate student and Keller later became Skinner's student as well (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). During this time Marian and Keller began to work with operant conditioning and began to see how it could be used in applied settings.

When World War II began, Skinner was working on ways to train pigeons to guide bombs to their targets for use by the Navy. The Brelands were invited to be assistants on the project. The effort was a success but was never installed. Marian remarked on some of the reasons for this:

"One, the judges who were looking at it -- they were all Admirals -- knew the atomic bomb was nearing completion. They also knew that when that was finished there would no longer be a need for pinpoint bombing at least in this war. Also, they looked inside to look at the guidance system. They opened the pigeon chamber and saw three pigeons pecking away. This caused them several minutes of disbelief, I'd say" (Yin, 2000).

With the success of the pigeon project, the Brelands began to develop a commercial enterprise and began training a variety of animals with the technology. In 1943, they formed their own and named it Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE). To develop this business Marian and Keller left their graduate program in 1942 prior to completion (Yin, 2000). ABE's mission was to, "train any animal to do anything within the animal's physiological and neurological capabilities" (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). The Brelands realized this goal and developed the technology beyond anyone's expectations. Through the addition of a secondary reinforcer, the Brelands realized its use in precision training (Yin, 2000). The Brelands termed this a "bridging stimulus" as it marked the desired behavior and allowed for time reinforcement to be delivered - thus a "bridge" as it is now termed in the training lingo (Bailey, n.d.). The use of a bridge is present in most animal training programs and is usually in the form of a whistle, a flashlight, or a noisemaker that makes a click sound.

Marian and Keller first intended to get into dog training, but were met with rejection and deaf ears and Marian describes:

"We knew there were so many dogs in the country and people always wanted to get them trained. So we thought this would be a cinch. We'd tell people about this new humane way of training and they'd be talking to us by the thousands. Nobody listened to us" (Yin, 2000).

The Brelands began to train animals for shows to promote commercial clients such as General Mills. The Brelands realized much success with the animal shows, as the public largely had not seen trained animals at the time. By the 1950, ABE had trained animals for use in shows and fairs across the United States. To expand their business the Brelands moved their business to Hot Springs, Arkansas. During the 1950s, the Brelands realized an impressive body of work. They developed the first coin-operated animal shows and the first to have trained dolphin and bird shows (Bailey, n.d.). Marian also pioneered and trained animals for use in commercials, the most noted was Buck Bunny, which ran an impressive twenty years (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). As part of ABE, in 1955 the Brelands opened the IQ Zoo a tourist attraction that featured the trained animals performing various skits such as playing baseball, playing musical instruments, and danced to music.

In 1961, the Brelands published the now famous Misbehavior of Organisms (1961). In this controversial account of some of the problems they had while conditioning animals, the Brelands made some provocative statements in the eyes of many behaviorists:

"After 14 years of continuous conditioning and observation of thousands of animals, it is our reluctant conclusion that the behavior of any species cannot be adequately understood, predicted, or controlled without knowledge of its instinctive patterns, evolutionary history, and ecological niche" (Breland, K. & Breland, M., 1961).

In this article, the Breland's (1961) account for some to the problems they were having with instinctive behavior interfering with the learned behavior they were conditioning. One of the most well known examples involves a raccoon that is conditioned to pick up coins and deposit them in a metal bank. While working with the raccoon they ran into the problem of the animal rubbing the coins and not wanting to release them.

The Brelands (1961) translate this occurrence, "The raccoon is demonstrating so-called 'washing behavior.' The rubbing and washing response may result, for example, in the removal of the exoskeleton of a crayfish" (Breland, K. & Breland, M., 1961).

This article served as a break through for the Brelands. Not only did it reach its intended audience of psychologists, but it also reached biologists and anthropologists as well (Yin, 2000). Controversy appeared when some behavior analysts, including Skinner, interpreted the article to mean the Brelands were leaving behind operant conditioning (Yin, 2000). The Brelands had no intentions of ever leaving the field, but wanted to note in the records of behavior analysts that instinctive behavior exists, where it once was discounted (Breland, K. & Breland, M., 1961). In 1966, as a further development of their article The Misbehavior of Organisms, the Brelands published a book, Animal Behavior (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002).

During the early part of the 1960s, Marian and Keller were hired by the Navy to teach training skills to trainers for use with dolphins (Yin, 2000). It was during this work that the Brelands met Bob Bailey, the Navy's first director of training, and began a partnership with him. Through the work with Navy the Brelands were able to study dolphin communication, acoustics and ways of training dolphins to cooperate with husbandry procedures (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). Bob Bailey went on to become a pioneer in the uses of dolphins in open ocean work. He joined Animal Behavior Enterprises as Research Director in 1965 ("Meet Marian," 2002). Keller Breland died in 1965, leaving Marian and three children to survive him. Bob Bailey became General Manager of ABE. During this time ABE had a staff numbering over 40 members, developed demonstrations with more than 150 different animal species, and consulted and trained acts and trainers for a variety of commercial ventures (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002).

Marian did not limit her instruction to just animals. In 1965, Marian contributed a chapter for the book, Teaching the Mentally Retarded (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). Prior to this the developmentally disabled were warehoused and had limited skill abilities. Marian and Keller assisted in training attendants in institutions in behavior modification that could be used on ward patients (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). These techniques allowed for patients to learn self-care skills and in some cases moved them out of the wards and into assisted living units (Yin, 2000).

In 1967, Marian made a bold move and returned to school to complete her graduate studies. She attended class part time, driving 200 miles to the University of Arkansas (Yin, 2000). In 1976 Bob Bailey and Marian were married. In combining households their family grew with Marian's three children and Bob's six children, leaving them with what Marian called, "More kids than the Brady Bunch" (Bailey, n.d.). Marian quickly got all the children involved in ABE. She paid the children to help with the animals in socializing and imprinting process (Cook-Hasley & Wiebers, 1999).

Marian completed her studies in 1978 and received her Ph.D. It took her eleven years from starting back to completion, and about thirty years from leaving her program to its end (Yin, 2000).

Marian began a new aspect to her life in 1981 when she became a professor at Henderson State University. While at Henderson, Marian was responsible for founding the Psychology Club and the Henderson chapter of the Psi Chi the national honor society for psychology (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). Marian retired from teaching in 1998 with the rank of full professor (Bailey, n.d.). In 1990, Marian and Bob closed ABE and went into a very short retirement ("Meet Marian," 2002).

In the mid-nineties, Marian found a new forum for teaching and networking. The Internet forum offered Marian a new venue to teach. A new audience was beginning to be interested in the work of Marian though it had once rejected her ideas. The field of dog training had long been using traditional training methods consisting of choke collars and physical force to teach behaviors. A new approach was suggested by former dolphin trainer, Karen Pryor in her book Don't Shoot the Dog. The book was teaching the general public an understandable version of the knowledge other animal trainers and psychologist had long known. Slowly word spread with dog trainers of these "new" methods for training. Soon dog trainers were recommending the book to their clients. Seminars and classes were appearing to aid in the teaching of the method. The internet provided a rich ground for exploration and discussion of the technology as several lists were established to discuss what was now being called clicker training, due to the use of a clicker noisemaker for a bridge. Pryor (1999) notes that:

"Several behavior analysts jumped on board the Internet and helped to solve problems and improve our understanding of the vocabulary of science. Chief among these was Marian Breland Bailey, a scientist who had been one of Skinner's first graduate students, and her husband Bob. The Baileys lavished time and teaching skills on the Internet clicker community, winning new recognition from their scientific colleagues and a new public audience" (166-167).

The Baileys were soon prompted out of retirement. With this new audience hungry for training instruction they began offering classes in training using chickens as training subjects. The Baileys have presented at universities and conferences around the country as well as from their home in Arkansas. The use chickens to train dog trainers were a novel idea to many, but Bob offers the reasoning:

"Why Train Chickens? We have found teaching with live chicken models can dramatically shorten the time it takes to teach the scientific fundamentals and the basic mechanical and timing skills needed for efficient training. With chickens, behaviors come and go swiftly, depending on the trainer's skill. Behaviors happen swiftly because chickens learn and move quickly. We compress the days required to train most animals into minutes or hours of chicken training" (Bailey, 2003).

Marian Breland Bailey died while hospitalized on September 25, 2001. Marian is survived by her husband, Bob, her children, as well as five grandchildren and two great grandchildren (Gillaspy & Bihm, 2002). The Baileys had several seminars in the works at her passing and her husband Bob now teaches in her memory (Bailey, 2003).


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