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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #112
CE Offered: BACB
Kantor's Contributions to the Science of Behavior - Back and Forth
Saturday, May 25, 2024
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 203 AB
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Genevieve M DeBernardis (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Mitch Fryling, Ph.D.

Over many decades, J. R. Kantor has made great contributions to the development of the science of behavior. These contributions have involved an impressive range of areas - including cultural behavior, physiological psychology, linguistics, the logic and philosophy of science, and many more. Considering the 50th anniversary of ABAI, the present symposium aims to reflect upon some of Kantor's most provocative writings, including commentaries on behaviorism and behavior analysis, the accumulation of scientific knowledge and how this facilitates and hinders progress over time, and, importantly, on the role of biology in the psychological domain. While reflecting upon these themes will comprise one part of the symposium presentations, a secondary aim is to consider how these topics relate to present day behavior science, including the philosophy of behavior science, research, and application. In summary, the symposium involves both looking back and also forward, to the future of the science of behavior.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): interbehaviorism
Target Audience:

It is assumed that audience members will have a general understanding of behavioral principles, operant conditioning, and broad behavioral philosophy.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1) Describe the difference between behaviorism and operant conditioning; 2) Discuss immense learning and it's implications for progress in scientific disciplines; 3) List two problems of biopsychology in interbehavioral perspective
Behaviorism and Behavior Analysis: Then and Now
MITCH FRYLING (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: The present presentation reviews some of Kantor's writings on behaviorism and behavior analysis. These writings address many topics, including various anti-behavioral positions. These previous anti-behavioral positions are reviewed, and their validity and significance is reconsidered in the current context of the field. Among other things, the relationship of behaviorism to behavior analysis is addressed, as some of these historical critiques and discussions pertain to operant conditioning more specifically. For example, Kantor asks "Is the condemnation of operantism a blow to behaviorism?", "Is anti-behaviorism reversionary mentalism?" and more. It is suggested that operant conditioning may be best conceptualized as a part or aspect of behaviorism, a particular methodological approach to studying learning. The possibility that some of the critiques of behaviorism are a consequence of semantic confusion is explored, and the implications of this confusion are considered. Consistent with the overarching theme of the symposium, the extent to which these historical writings pertain to present day behavior science, as well as its possible future, are considered.
The Problem of Immense Learning
GENEVIEVE M DEBERNARDIS (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Kantor proposes that as particular schools of thought develop within scientific disciplines, there is an accumulation of knowledge that often becomes increasingly specific and focused over time. While this may be considered a good thing, in the sense that knowledge is indeed progressing over time, Kantor highlights that there may also be problematic consequences of immense knowledge. Most prominently, developing highly specialized knowledge in this way may circumvent or thwart the adoption of newer ways of thinking - ways of thinking that may result in more profound progress being made in the discipline. In Kantor's words, "Extensive conventional knowledge results in the resistance to more recent developments of improved information". The present paper reviews examples of this, as described in Kantor's writings. After reflecting on these examples, largely from within the field of psychology, the implications of the circumstance of immense knowledge for behavior science are discussed. Among other things, the presentation considers the extent to which behavior science has accumulated immense knowledge in some areas, and how this may or may not be preventing progress in different ways.
Problems of Biopsychology Revisited
LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: This paper reviews Kantor’s contributions to biopsychology, as appear in his works of some 7 to 8 decades past. Addressed are Kantor’s assessment of two interrelated problems in this field, the first of which has to do with the conception of causality promoted in this context. He argues that while the brain has an inevitable place in every psychological event, neither it nor any functions localized within it cause the event of which it was itself a part. The second problem has to do with the nature of the factor isolated as the cause. Kantor argues that the relationship between the biological and psychological factors in behavioral events has been interpreted on the basis of psychophysiological dualism, wherein psychological factors are held to be caused by physiological processes having transcendental origins. The aim of this paper is to determine if these obstructions to progress in biopsychology have been overcome, in both psychology and behavior science specifically.



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