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Association for Behavior Analysis International

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43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Paper Session #301
Understanding Behavior Analysis: Language, Mind, and Social Psychology
Sunday, May 28, 2017
4:00 PM–5:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom F/G
Area: PCH
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Chair: Alvaro A. Clavijo Alvarez (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Words and Rules Versus Intraverbal Collocations
Domain: Theory
JOHN H. MABRY (Retired)
Abstract: Skinner’s Verbal Behavior was not given wide reception, partially because of the preemptive status of ‘grammar’. Grammar was taught first as standard of literary practices. “Grammar was not a set of facts observed but of rules to be observed, and of paradigms, i.e. of patterns, to be followed” (Jespersen, 1922). Grammatical rules were thus purely prescriptive and did not describe the common speech of the people in ancient Greece or Rome, or later. Scientific and literary writings as well still obey similar standards. Grammar ‘rules’ also became the foundation of many theoretical movements, both pre- and post Chomsky. Most notably they followed a ‘words and rule’ formula with their longevity causing them to be regarded as ‘received truths’. One of the most noticeable exceptions to the operation of rules is the presence of word combinations which seem to arise only because they are frequently heard in the environment. Most of these are covered by the title ‘collocation’. Examples are numerous in English and other speech communities. They are easily identified as intraverbal responses which for Skinner which occur from frequent ‘contiguous usage’ (Skinner, 1957, Palmer, 2016). The presence of collocations is among the most notable exceptions to a universal grammar.
Do the Words Mental States and Behavior Refer to Different Things?
Domain: Theory
ALVARO A. CLAVIJO ALVAREZ ALVAREZ (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Abstract: Most cognitive psychologists and philosophers of mind reject behavioristic theses among other reasons because they argue that the concept of behavior does not apply to what they call mental states. According to them, mental states occur within individuals and cause the observed behavior. Their concept of a mental state encompasses both conscious and unconscious phenomena. Conscious mental states include anything a person can express in first-person reports and correspond to what radical behaviorists have called private behavior. Unconscious mental states comprise phenomena people cannot put in first-person reports, such as representations and computational operations. The concepts of mental states and behavior, as radical behaviorists use the term, might refer ultimately to the same phenomena. I will argue that the philosophical notion of event, as defined by Kim, accounts finally for the phenomena that the concepts of mental states and behavior describe, which would refute cognitive psychologists and philosophers of mind objections to the radical behaviorist’s stance.
The Social Mind: Radical Behaviorism and Social Behavior
Domain: Theory
ANDRES H. GARCIA-PENAGOS (University of Tennessee)
Abstract: Most human behavior occurs, obviously, in the context of shared social and cultural practices. This deceivingly simple truism has proven difficult to accommodate both into the research practices within the experimental analysis of human behavior (EAHB) and into radical behaviorism as a philosophy of mind. Such difficulties, arguably, have led to a relative neglect of consideration of social variables both experimentally and conceptually. This paper will first review the history of conceptual and practical treatment of social phenomena within the experimental and conceptual analysis of behavior, from rule-governed behavior, to experimental analyses of cooperation and competition contingencies, to the issue of metacontingencies. Secondly, it will attempt to point out at the limitations of such analyses for the understanding of human organism-environment interaction. Finally, it will bring forth old ideas from the work of Mead, Dewey, Vygotsky, and Merleau-Ponty, to more recent developments from the fields of e4-cognition, social psychology, and behavioral ecology, to illustrate the necessity of approaching social phenomena in a more systematic way, and the advantages of doing so if behaviorism is to be taken seriously as a philosophy of mind.
Behavior Analysis in the Media: What Are They Saying About Us?
Domain: Theory
LISA M. STEDMAN-FALLS (University of Florida), Triton Ong (University of Florida)
Abstract: Behaviorism has a history of low public acceptability and misrepresentation in the media. Despite its unpopular past, behavior analysis has seen tremendous growth through the treatment of individuals with disabilities. As behavior analysts look to expand clinical services to new populations, it will be important to consider the field’s present reputation. Research has shown that media depictions, particularly those from news outlets, may influence public perceptions. Thus, the purpose of this review was to explore how behavior analysis is currently portrayed in mainstream news articles. We reviewed online news publications found through Google News searches using the terms “behaviorism,” “behavior analysis,” and “B.F. Skinner.” Our final sample of 28 articles was analyzed based on authors’ professions, sources of information, types of effects discussed, and accuracy of statements made. Although several news articles were comprised primarily of inaccurate or mixed statements, most included predominantly accurate and positive remarks about behavior analysis. We discuss the implications of the field’s current representation in mainstream news media.


Modifed by Eddie Soh