Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Paper Session #123
Discriminative Stimuli and B. F. Skinner
Sunday, May 29, 2016
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Alpine, Swissotel
Area: TPC
Chair: Kristjan Gudmundsson (Reykjavik University)
Sdeltap: The Missing Discriminative Stimulus
Domain: Theory
CATALINA REY (Florida Institute of Technology), Joshua K. Pritchard (Florida Institute of Technology), Byron J. Wine (Florida Institute of Technology), Jose A. Martinez-Diaz (Florida Institute of Technology and ABA Tech)
Abstract: As the natural science of behavior evolves, the use of accurate terminology is critical to maintain its conceptual and terminological integrity. New terms have been added to describe the functions of various stimuli as our understanding of stimulus control has grown. However, some researchers have noted that our understanding of stimulus control surrounding punishment effects has somewhat stalled. We believe the current terminology for discriminative stimulus control in relation to punishment could be enhanced by a new term. In this paper, we aim to provide symmetry and balance to the discussion of the functions of stimuli involved in discriminative control while still recognizing the inherent complexity of the interaction between reinforcement and punishment contingencies. Currently, behavior analysts discuss stimulus control with the following terms: discriminative stimulus for reinforcement (SD), discriminative stimulus for extinction (S∆), and discriminative stimulus for punishment (SDp).

Dr. Skinner and Mr. Hyde

Domain: Theory
KRISTJAN GUDMUNDSSON (Reykjavik University)

B. F. Skinner has a two-faced reputation. On the one hand we see various developments and applications that are directly based on his theories, but on the other hand Skinner is both badly misunderstood and harshly criticized, especially when he extends his basic theory to a wider field. In this paper this two-faced reputation is demonstrated and explained, distinguishing between a bottom-up and a top-down approach to science. A bottom-up theory (as opposed to a top-down one that is typically based on common-sense mentalist terms) is a theory that begins with a simple experimental design, applies basic well-defined terms and is applicable to a restricted area. The crucial question is how to extrapolate to a wider area. This is where the major criticism comes in, Chomsky's review, mentalism, cognitivism, neuroscience and other areas seem to assume that a Skinnerian approach has faltered, is not applicable, totally wrong, even "dead." Although much of is based on misinterpretation, I maintain that Skinner himself is partly to blame as well as radical behaviorists in general. A good example is Chomsky's famous criticism, for although it is not even a review of Skinner's book, and may be - and has been - answered in some detail, still his basic criticism stands unanswered. Skinner himself made no attempt to answer, and although various answers have been made, Skinner's basic relation to the rest of psychology is double-edged, hence the title of the paper. I maintain that E. G. Boring, Skinner's main professor at Harvard has the same criticism as Chomsky and that Skinner did not respond directly to him either. He did so however in developing his theory, but that development - his slow break from Pavlovian S-R theory - is not well documented in the literature. Skinner himself did not seem to appreciate the significance of this change, as can well be seen in his first book, where he himself calls the operant a reflex - something that he would never do again. Therein lies the crux of the matter of the two-faced character of his theories.




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