In a post over at All Intensive Purposes, blogmeister T.S. talks about a woman who takes to "training" her husband like the experts train zoo animals--by positive reinforcement. In a comment I replied with such pith that I'll just copy and paste it right here:
I think it's more about the wife becoming humane than about her husband being an animal. Oddly, we seem to talk about humane treatment for non-human animals mostly. But what's humane and "civilized" often is to treat people like the animals we are. Angry dogs and angry people aren't so different. Instead of answering anger with anger--barking back or stabbing with a knife--you address the fear and suspicion with words or gestures (handshake, gift of a cracker). We really aren't foremostly rational beings. I suspect that the idea that we are is largely the fault of the Bible. "God" giving us "the word" and so on. Like having just a hammer is supposed to make every problem look like a nail, I think the apotheosis of verbiage makes every issue look intellectual--that is, conscious and rational. Har de har har.For awhile I've thought that becoming a dog person (spouse and I have two) had made me a better people person, and I've wondered how much it's like the lessons so many say they learn in caring for infants and toddlers (spouse and I have none, but our friends have many). Obviously the same training tools apply to both dogs and human infants: Reward and rebuke (or punishment) are all you have as an aspiring teacher, and reasoned discourse isn't an option. So I think therein lies the lesson for the would-be people person: How to influence others without explanations.
A common mistake or bad assumption seems to be that after little people grow smart and begin to talk and finally become "mature," explaining or offering reasons is all we have to do to make them see the light (a.k.a. "make them do what we want them to"). Although anybody who's ever had a friend or lover or an ornery boss has stockpiled exceptions to the supposed rule, still it's an upside-down or at least skewed perspective, I think, to consider them exceptions. The rule, I'm inclined to say, is that we are emotional and unconscious actors--dogs and people alike. In civilizing I think we've engineered relations so that generally explanation offers quick relief--at the department-store returns desk, in court, at NASA and military control centers, etc. I also think a result or aspect of this engineering is that we have to go about pretending everybody fundamentally is rational, including ourselves, which would be a recipe for a lot of social and scholarly ineptitude.