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•   Definition
•   Brief history
•   Determinism
•   Pragmatism
•   Anti-Mentalism
       What is behaviorism?
• Central idea: A science of behavior is
• How about Psychology?
  – Many reject Psychology as a science at all
  – Others consider its subject matter to be
    something other than behavior
• Behaviorists call the science of behavior –
  Behavior Analysis
        What is behaviorism
• There is a debate to whether Behavior
  Analysis is part of Psychology, the same
  as Psychology or separate from
  Psychology (Behaviorology)
• Professional Organizations and journals
  define the discipline
• Behaviorism is the set of ideas about this
  science – not the science itself
         What is behaviorism
• Behaviorism offers an alternative view that
  runs against traditional thinking about
• Why?
  – Because traditional thinking is unscientific
        Rise of Behaviorism
• Last half of 19th century, Psychology was
  defined as the “science of the mind”
• Introspection was the method adopted
• Some Psychologists found this method to
  be unreliable (1800-1900)
  – Donders (reaction times), Fechner (noticeable
    difference), Ebbinghaus (learning and
    memory), Pavlov (reflex)
        Rise of Behaviorism
• Development of comparative psychology
  based on continuity of species
• Lots of studies done with mazes and lots
  of inferences about animals’ state of mind
• John Watson considered these inferences
  to be worst than introspection in terms of
        Rise of Behaviorism
• 1913 – “Psychology as a behaviorist views
  it” by J.B. Watson
  “absurd to construct the conscious content
  of the animal whose behavior we have
  been studying” (p.159)
• Psychology was defined as the study of
   Methodological Behaviorism
• Watson’s version
  – No reference to mind or conciousness
  – No introspection
  – Only observable behavior
• Important legacy
  – That we can have an objective science of behavior
  – Behavior can be dealt with scientifically = rule out
    mysterious factors
  – Just like Darwin challenge the notion of God, Watson
    challenged the notion of Free Will (mind)
• Behavior is orderly, can be explained, predicted
  and controlled
• Traditionally, responsibility is given to the
  individual rather than genes and environment
  – Notion that people have the freedom to choose their
  – Free will implies a third element controlling behavior
• Free will is an experience and not a causal
• Libertarian free will (from Judeo-Christian
  theology) conflicts with behaviorism
• According to Baum (1989) “free will is
  simply a name for ignorance of the
  determinants of behavior. The more we
  know of the reasons behind a person’s
  actions, the less likely we are to attribute
  them to free will.”
• Ex., stealing cars
• Realism: Things I see are really there –
  real world is external and experiences are
• We can discover/explain how this world
• We, however, only have contact with what
  our senses tell us – we use sense data to
  infer about the world.
• Science should not emphasize discovering
  the truth, but making sense of our
  experiences –
  – Rain falls not because of a mysterious god…
• What does knowledge allow us to do?
  What is the practical implication of certain
  notions? Ex, is there a real world out
• An idea is truer than another if it allow us
  to better understand, predict and control
  our experience
• No theory is an absolute transcript of
  reality (James)
• The theory’s usefulness is the key
• Methodological behaviorists are realists –
  the objective sense data gathered and
  agreed upon reflects the “real” world
• While radical (modern) behaviorists are
  – Describe behavior in a useful economical way
    – we use invented terms that helps us make
    sense of our experiences. Describe functional
    relationships present in our universe.
• A type of dualism that leads to circular
• Influenced by Renee Descartes
• Public X Private events
  – Thoughts, feelings, sensations??
• For a radical behaviorist, this distinction is
• New technologies are turning public what
  used to be private (MRI)
• Behavior is a natural event - must be
  located in time and space
• Mind is not a natural event, some
  processes consisting of what is typically
  referred to as the mind may be natural
• Dangerous because it invokes explanatory
• Mental causes obstruct inquiry
  – “the devil made me do it”
• Mental causes are not
• inference about a cause based on the
  effect (eat vegetables <-> vegetarian)
• Behavior analysis excludes terms such as
  mind, intelligence, reason and belief as
  explanations for behavior
         Radical Behaviorism
• However, Skinner includes the study of private
  events as well as covert behavior in a science of
• Thinking and feeling are behaviors just like
• Natural events that whose functional relations
  with the environment can be explain
• The fact that they cannot be observed by two
  separate observers is not a problem since the
  “truth” of a phenomenon is not achieved by
  agreement but by usefulness.
• Bacon (1561-1626)
  – Experimentation rather than comtemplation
  – New Atlantis
• Darwin (1809-1882)
  – Selectionism
• Sechenov (1829-1905)
  – All aspects of the mind were reflexes
• Mach (1836-1916)
  – Economy in science
  – Practical concern
  – Explanation as description of functional
  – Theories are dangerous
• Thorndike (1875-1949)
  – Not clear
• Pavlov (1849-1936)
  – Rigor of experimental control
  – Attempt to conceptualize behavior of whole
• Watson (1878-1958)
  – Skinner read about Watson through Russell’s
• Russell (1872-1970)
  – Materialism/behaviorism
• Loeb (1859-1924)
  – Study the behavior of invertebrates
  – Rejected inferences of mental functions for
    kineses and taxes
  – Was Crozier’s teacher
• Skinner (1904-1990)
  – Behavior of Organisms in 1938
  – Walden Two in 1948
• Fred Keller and Nat Schoenfeld
  – Principles of Psychology (1950)
• Skinner
  – Science and Human Behavior in 1953
    • Basic concepts, application to individual, groups,
      controlling agencies and design of a culture
  – Schedules of Reinforcement in 1957
    • Methods developed
  – Verbal Behavior in 1957
•   JEAB – 1958
•   Books between 58-68
•   JABA -1968
•   ABA - 1974
• Behavior analysts are:
  – Determinists
  – Pragmatists
  – Monists or anti-mentalists
• As a science, behavior analysis aims at
  understanding functional relations
  between environmental variables and
  behavior, so we can better predict and
  control human actions
                PSYC 281
• In this class you will learn about the
  process of scientific discovery
  – Read about attempts to identify functional
    relations and ways of explaining them.
• This knowledge serves as the basis for
  creating behavior modification techniques,
  (currently referred to as ABA).

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