A Simple Solution for Dr. Isis

November 26, 2008

The good Dr. Isis has posted her concern that recent developmental advances exhibited by Little Isis will permanently ruin Dr. Isis’ sleep.

Little Isis is no longer contained by the four walls of his crib and Dr. Isis awoke to find his eyes but millimeters from hers… I now have images of Little Isis waking in the middle of the night and deciding to cook himself something, or have a beer, or put the dog in the toilet…This is horrible. Dr. Isis does not sleep well as it is. Now she may never sleep again.

Behavioral science has a solution.


The Ladies Home Journal published in October of 1945 featured an article from none other than St. Fred, aka, Burrhus Frederic Skinner.

When we decided to have another child, my wife and I felt that it was time to apply a little labor-saving invention and design to the problems of the nursery. We began by going over the disheartening schedule of the young mother, step by step. We asked only one question: Is this practice important for the physical and psychological health of the baby? When it was not, we marked it for elimination. Then the “gadgeteering” began.
The result was an inexpensive apparatus in which our baby daughter has now been living for eleven months. Her remarkable good health and happiness and my wife’s welcome leisure have exceeded our most optimistic predictions, and we are convinced that a new deal for both mother and baby is at hand.

Our solution is a closed compartment about as spacious as a standard crib (Figure 1). The walls are well insulated, and one side, which can be raised like a window, is a large pane of safety glass. The heating is electrical, and special precautions have been taken to insure accurate control.


Univ Akron: Archives of the History of American Psychology
Of course, a rather disturbing conception of the Air Crib arose with people confusing it with the type of operant chamber (aka, Skinner box) employed by Skinner in his laboratory work with rats and pigeons. Naturally, all sorts of bad outcomes to the Air Crib – raised daughter were assumed….none true. Additional description here and Deborah Skinner Buzan asserts “I was not a lab rat“.

The early rumours were simple, unembellished: I had gone crazy, sued my father, committed suicide. My father would come home from lecture tours to report that three people had asked him how his poor daughter was getting on. I remember family friends returning from Europe to relate that somebody they had met there had told them I had died the year before.
Slater’s sensationalist book rehashes some of the old stuff, but offers some rumours that are entirely new to me. For my first two years, she reports, my father kept me in a cramped square cage that was equipped with bells and food trays, and arranged for experiments that delivered rewards and punishments. Then there’s the story that after my father “let me out”, I became psychotic. Well, I didn’t. That I sued him in a court of law is also untrue. And, contrary to hearsay, I didn’t shoot myself in a bowling alley in Billings, Montana. I have never even been to Billings, Montana.

This is a lab rat

Getting around to the vaguely useful part of today’s post, it turns out that modern day Air Crib designs may be of great use to physically handicapped parents. They have to build their own, of course, because the Air Crib company never really took off. A pity that.
I mean even if you are pretty down with attachment parenting, if precise regulation of temperature and humidity would help some infants to sleep better–wouldn’t that be a win? I mean, you know about these Ferberizing people right? An Air Crib has to be better than that….

No Responses Yet to “A Simple Solution for Dr. Isis”

  1. That made me smile, I will now p/u my monkey and see if I can wrangle him into something like that.


  2. The Air Crib looks like a fume hood.


  3. LostMarbles Says:

    That rat is adorable, or at the least far cuddlier than the rats I got to see in my labs.


  4. This is genius and I think it might change my life. Seriously, I would do damned near anything for 8 solid hours. I am about to lose my mind.


  5. dean Says:

    I did my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Western Michigan University. During my undergrad days the psych dept. was a huge hive of behaviorists; they advertised their department by saying the only difference between it and Skinner’s was that Skinner didn’t teach at WMU.
    At the time folks in math, physics, math, biology, chemistry, students and faculty alike, viewed the department as an bad mark on WMU. The way we viewed their academic standards were horrible at the time (think about how U. Phoenix, Liberty U or Bob Jones are viewed now. I went through a roommate and girlfriend who majored with them, and even they complained about the low standards. (Yes, I know a sample of 2 a survey doesn’t make: but when i was doing statistical consulting in school and had to deal with them, the things I dealt with supported these comments).
    If their work was representative of Skinner’s (and it was widely agreed it was), his reputation deserves to be scorned and laughed at, as his above-mentiond idea (I hope presented in jest) shows.


  6. DrugMonkey Says:

    soooo….just because some faculty says it is just as good as one elsewhere that makes it so? therefore if one faculty body sucks, the rest of the departments in -ology must as well?
    and presumably “standards” are a function solely of the faculty and have nothing whatsoever to do with the undergraduate population?


  7. dean Says:

    I didn’t say any other ologies sucked – just the psych dept. and, after dealing with them in my consulting, I would say the reputation for low quality in the faculty was deserved.


  8. DrugMonkey Says:

    my point is that it is a stretch to conclude that Skinner must suck based on your experiences with people elsewhere just because they share an -ology label.


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