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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #228
CE Offered: BACB
Epicurus and B. F. Skinner: Uncommon Resemblances and Springboards to the Future
Sunday, May 24, 2015
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Lila Cockrell Theatre (CC)
Area: TPC/CSE; Domain: Theory
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Timothy D. Hackenberg, Ph.D.
Chair: Timothy D. Hackenberg (Reed College)
Presenting Authors: : ALLEN NEURINGER (Reed College)

This talk identifies aspects of Epicurean philosophy that are related to the ideas promoted by B. F. Skinner. A Greek philosopher who lived at the time of Plato and Aristotle, Epicurus was an empiricist who maintained that lawful interactions among atoms were the bases for all things, including physical, biological, and behavioral. He also posited that atoms swerved randomly, this providing for voluntary actions and the creation of novel things. Epicurus argued against soul (in contemporary terms, mind or cognitions) being independent of body, and against superstitious beliefs, including life-after-death and godly influences on humankind. Animals shared, according to Epicurus, many of the same attributes as humans, and he posited that life existed on many worlds other than our own. Epicurus created and lived in a utopian community, the Garden, that was similar in many ways to Walden II--in its emphasis on work and simple rewards, in avoiding aversives and emphasizing positives, and in its inclusion of all members of society, rich and poor, women and men. This talk will compare Skinner and Epicurus and explore why their common views may be helpful to us as individuals, to our culture, and to our world.

Allen Neuringer obtained a B.A. from Columbia University in 1962 and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967. He has been teaching at Reed College in Portland, OR, since 1970 where he is currently MacArthur Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, and teaches one upper-division course, Functional Variability, each year. He has served on National Science Foundation graduate fellowship panels and many NSF and National Institutes of Health research study sections. Dr. Neuringer's research, which has been supported by NSF and NIH, is currently directed at operant variability (see Neuringer, A. [2004]. Reinforced Variability in Animals and People. American Psychologist, 59, 891-906; Neuringer, A. & Jensen, G. [2012] Operant Variability. In G. J. Madden (Ed.) APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis, Volume 1: Methods and Principles (pp 513-546). Washington, D.C.: APA). His most recent work describes a theory of volition based upon operant variability (see Neuringer, A. & Jensen, G. [2010] Operant Variability and Voluntary Action. Psychological Review, 117, 972-993; Neuringer, A. [2014] Operant Variability and the Evolution of Volition. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 27, 62-81). He also has published on self-experimentation, self-control, the "Protestant ethic effect," music discrimination in pigeons, percentage reinforcement, pigeon intelligence (Hick's law), and choice under concurrent reinforcement schedules.



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