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Marian Breland Bailey

Marian Breland Bailey, born Marian Ruth Kruse (December 2, 1920 – September 25, 2001) and nicknamed "Mouse", was an American psychologist, an applied behavior analyst who played a major role in developing empirically validated and humane animal training methods and in promoting their widespread implementation. She and her first husband, Keller Breland (1915–1965), studied at the University of Minnesota under behaviorist B. F. Skinner and became "the first applied animal psychologists."

Marian Kruse

Born to Christian and Harriet (Prime) Kruse, Marian Ruth Kruse grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. German-born Christian worked for an automotive supply store, and Harriet was a registered nurse. Marian's father and then others called her "Maus" ("mouse"), a common German nickname for little girls. After graduating from Washburn High School as her senior class's valedictorian, Marian Kruse went to the University of Minnesota to major in Latin and minor in Greek. Although financial times were difficult as her family had lost everything during the banking collapse of the Great Depression, a full scholarship and a Works Progress Administration award for writers supported her undergraduate education. Before long, she also became a research assistant for B. F. (Fred) Skinner.

To meet a science requirement, Marian took psychology because, as she later explained, "I thought it the least painful science. As a straight A student, she was recommended for a highly selective psychology class taught by Skinner (the first of what Skinner later called "pro-seminars"), under whom she studied along with George Collier, W. K. Estes, Norman Guttman, Kenneth MacCorquodale, Paul Everett Meehl, and others bound for later fame in their field. With its emphasis on Skinner's new operant training techniques, the course inspired Marian to major in psychology with a minor in child psychology and to study operant conditioning.

Marian worked as Skinner's teaching and laboratory assistant when he published his pivotal work The Behavior of Organisms in 1938. She trained rats for Skinner, typed lecture notes for him, proofread his classic text The Behavior of Organisms, and even babysat his children. Skinner gave her the final galley proof of The Behavior of Organisms, which she considered a prized possession. While still an undergraduate student, Marian met her future husband Keller Breland, who came to call her "Mouse" without knowing that family called her "Maus". Marian and others soon decided that her name was Mouse.

In 1940, Marian joined Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. She graduated with her bachelor of arts degree summa cum laude in 1941, the only member of her graduating class with an A average.

Marian Breland

After Marian earned her bachelor's degree, she married Keller Breland on August 1, 1941. Together, they had three children: Bradley (1946), Frances (1948), and Elizabeth (1952).

Marian became the second graduate student to work under the renowned Skinner. Her husband soon came to work with Skinner as well. While graduate students, they collaborated with Skinner on military research during World War II. Their work involved training pigeons for use by the Navy, teaching the birds to guide bombs in a procedure the military ultimately never implemented. Although many sources incorrectly refer to the work as Project Pigeon or the Pigeon Project, Marian assured colleagues that its name had actually been Pigeon in a Pelican, with pelican referring to the missile each pigeon was to guide.

Having foreseen the commercial applications of operant training, the Brelands left the University of Minnesota without completing their doctorates in order to found Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE) on a farm in Minnesota. Skinner tried to dissuade the Brelands from abandoning their graduate education for an untested commercial endeavor. Classmate Paul Meehl bet US$10 they would fail. Meehl's 1961 check for $10 would later hang framed on Marian's office wall.

First training animals commercially for farm feed advertisements for General Mills, the couple went on to train "more animals and different species of animals than any other animal trainers" of their time, including animals of land (e.g., cats, cattle, chickens, dogs, goats, pigs, rabbits, raccoons, rats, sheep), air (e.g., ducks, parrots, ravens), and sea (e.g., dolphins and whales). At their busiest, they trained "more than 1,000 animals at a given time". In training animals for recreational facilities such as Marineland of Florida, Parrot Jungle, Sea World, and Six Flags, they created the very first dolphin and bird shows, a form of program now considered traditional entertainment fare. Most major theme parks' animal programs can be traced back to the Brelands' pioneering work. The Brelands also established the first coin-operated animal shows. The Buck Bunny commercial featured their trained rabbits for a Coast Federal Savings television ad that ran for twenty years and which still holds the record for longest running TV commercial advertisement. They trained animals for many other venues including circuses, movies, museums, stores, and zoos.

Unlike previous animal trainers who had historically concentrated on the use of punishment when teaching animals, the Brelands followed Skinner's emphasis on the use of positive reinforcement to train animals instead by focusing on how best to administer rewards. Although other students of Skinner's later entered commercial animal training as well, the Brelands' techniques dominated the field because they found ways to simplify the training of complex behaviors. The Brelands did not just train the animals. They also trained other animal trainers, establishing in 1947 "the first school and instruction manual for teaching animal trainers the applied technology of behavior analysis." Marlin Perkins of Wild Kingdom and Walt Disney numbered among those who came to learn from them.

Marian led ABE's government research, some of which remains classified to this day. Known projects included the development of an avian ambush detection system. In 1950, the Brelands relocated ABE to a farm near Hot Springs, Arkansas, and in 1955 opened the I.Q. Zoo in Hot Springs as both a training facility and a showcase of trained animals. "Popular acts included chickens that walked tightropes, dispensed souvenirs and fortune cards, danced to music from jukeboxes, played baseball and ran the bases; rabbits that kissed their (plastic) girlfriends, rode fire trucks and sounded sirens, and rolled wheels of fortune; ducks that played pianos and drums; and raccoons that played basketball."

The Brelands were also "the first to introduce the public to the applied technology of behavior analysis via numerous personal appearances at fairs, exhibitions, and theme parks across the country" and they appeared on well known television shows such as The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Wild Kingdom, and You Asked For It. Publications including Colliers, Life, Popular Mechanics, Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Time, and even The Wall Street Journal featured them and their work. Although Keller was often the public face of ABE with some ads referring to "Keller Breland's I.Q. Zoo," the Brelands collaborated equally in ABE's endeavors.

The Brelands stirred controversy among behaviorists with their 1961 article, "The misbehavior of organisms — the title of which involved a play on words referring to Skinner's classic 1938 work The Behavior of Organisms. Marian and Keller outlined training difficulties in which instinctual or instinctive drift might occur as tendencies biologically inherent in a species intrude into behaviors a trainer is attempting to teach an animal. The article is recognized as a milestone in the history of psychology.

In 1963, Marian designed and implemented a program to improve techniques for working with profoundly mentally retarded individuals at a human development center in Alexandria, Louisiana, teaching ward attendants humane practices that became the standard for institutions of this kind. The 1965 training manual Teaching the Mentally Retarded, which she and others prepared, remained in use for decades.

On June 16, 1965, Keller died of a heart attack. In their 1966 textbook, Marian described him as the “dreamer” and herself as the “engineer”. She continued writing, researching, and training animals. Marian wrote on the value of positive reinforcement in teaching developmentally challenged individuals.

Marian Bailey

In 1976, Marian married Robert E. (Bob) Bailey, who had been the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program's first Director of Training before becoming ABE's General Manager and with whom Marian had founded the facility Animal Wonderful in 1972. Among their many activities, the Baileys worked with the Canine Companions for Independence nonprofit organization which trains dogs to assist disabled individuals. Together, the Baileys trained animals from over 140 species.

Her graduate studies having been interrupted when she and Keller left to found ABE, Marian eventually earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Arkansas in 1978, and then served as a professor of psychology at Henderson State University from 1981 until her retirement in 1998. During these years, the Baileys produced educational films on topics such as the history of behaviorism. Their film work included The History of Behavioral Analysis Biographies, the ABE documentary Patient Like the Chipmunks, and An Apple for the Student: How Behavioral Psychology Can Change the American Classroom.

Marian continued writing about the "misbehavior" of animals during operant conditioning for publications like American Psychologist. The Baileys were chief among the behaviorists who began using the Internet for instruction, problem solving, and promotion of their science.

The Bailey & Bailey Operant Conditioning Workshops began in 1996, provided training to animal trainers, psychologists, students, and many others from throughout the world. The program of study involved four increasingly advanced levels of the "physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding" workshops. In 1998, the University of Arkansas inducted Marian into the university's Fulbright College Alumni Academy as a member of their first group of Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.

On September 25, 2001, Marian died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Remembering Mouse

After Marian's death, numerous professionals in the field recognized her passing with obituaries and biographies. Drs. Art Gillaspy and Elson Bihm of the University of Central Arkansas wrote an obituary for the American Psychologist, the official journal of the American Psychological Association. Eye on Psi Chi, a publication of the Psi Chi honor society in psychology, printed a biography by Dr. Todd Wiebers of Henderson State University as Marian had been a member of the honor society for over sixty years. The year after her death, the Arkansas Historical Quarterly featured a retrospective on Marian, who had been a figure in the state of Arkansas for decades. Her husband Bob provided a biographical tribute for the Division 25 Recorder, the official publication of the American Psychological Association's Division 25 for Behavior Analysis. Other obituaries and biographies have appeared online.

In her name, Henderson State University presents the Marian Breland Bailey Endowed Scholarship in Psychology to select psychology undergraduates. Memorial contributions in Marian's memory go to this scholarship and to the Arkansas Kidney Foundation.

Marian's husband Bob continues to teach seminars they developed and continues the Bailey & Bailey Operant Conditioning Workshops which they began together.

The Archives of the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio, and the Smithsonian Math and Science Museum in Washington, D.C., now house collections of Marian's documents and items. The National Science Foundation awarded Dr. Elson Bihm of the University of Central Arkansas a grant to help preserve historical documents related to ABE and the I.Q. Zoo.


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