Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning of the Children - Ch. 2 of "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley

Child Conditioning at the Hatchery

Continuing the tour of the human hatchery facility, the students are lead to the fifth floor with some of the older babies where they will receive "neo-pavlovian conditioning," again, to make their pre-determined state in life more fixed in them. 1 The students get to witness one of the sessions where 8 month old Delta babies were brought into the room where bowls of roses were laid out next to several books. While the children are playing with the books and roses there is set off a horribly loud alarm and electric shock to scare the babies. 2 Having been conditioned this way, the children will always be afraid of roses and books. They will receive a treatment of 200 sessions of shocks to reinforce the association completely. "What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder." Why would it make any sense to do this, one might ask. 3

"... you couldn't have lower-caste people wasting the Community's time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes, yet ... well, he couldn't understand about the flowers. ... Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have on grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes...". 

The the discussion turns to a subject who inadvertently helped them discover subconscious education. Since this happened in the past while children were still born and raised by parents, the word "parent" had to first be explained. But anyway, these parents had accidentally left the radio on over night for their child to hear. The next morning he was repeating things he heard on the radio. 4 "'The principle of sleep-teaching, or hypnopaedia, had been discovered.'" While it took awhile for the scientists to figure out how to implement such learning, they finally did. 5 They figured out that for this early subconscious education to work, it needed to be focus on moral education. 6 And so they stepped into a room where eighty kids were sleeping, with a soft recording being played from the wall. In their sleep they would quietly murmur. copying the recording. 7

There was a lesson that had just been played on "elementary sex," and now a lesson was being played regarding "class consciousness." This was a group of Betas and they were being taught how to be judgmental of the other classes. "'Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.'" A lesson that will be repeated "A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson.'" 8

And so we get a glimpse into the plan of the state here as the director proclaims, "'Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too - all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides - made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!' The Director almost shouted in his triumph. 'Suggestions from the State.'" 9
1 - Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. (Harper Collins Publishers. New York, 2004) Pg. 28
2 - 29
3 - 30
4 - 31
5 - 32
6 - 33
7 - 34
8 - 35
9 - 36