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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Paper Session #127
Theoretical Issues in Behavior Analysis
Saturday, May 25, 2024
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 204 C
Area: PCH
Instruction Level: Advanced
Chair: Carmen R. Britton (The Arc of Central Alabama)
The Case of the Mad Scientist: Skinner and Pavlov
Domain: Theory
KRISTJAN GUDMUNDSSON (Reykjavik University)
Abstract: Established scientists sometimes suggest a grand application of their theory to a new and broader area, that others find extravagant, even outrageous. In the case of both I. P. Pavlov and B. F. Skinner it is clear that both established their respective theories with a groundbreaking book: Pavlov. 1927 (English translation) Conditioned Reflexes and Skinner. 1938. The Behavior of Organisms. The theory of both Pavlov and Skinner is examined, based on the first book, and then the question is raised, how each theory is followed up. Pavlov followed his book with: Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes: Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry (1941) and Skinner with both Science and Human Behavior (1953) and Verbal Behavior (1957). This paper examines Pavlov and Skinner in regard to the follow-up of the basic theory to a wider area. Without giving the verdict beforehand, it is here proposed that the accomplishment of both Pavlovian and Skinner theory is based on the possible merit of each extrapolation.
Dennett Disintegrated: A Commentary on 'Skinner Skinned,''Re-Skinned,'and 'Placed'
Domain: Theory
DYLAN COLE LAVALLEY (University of Lethbridge)
Abstract: In response to Skinner’s philosophy of psychology, Dennett initiated a relatively self-contained discussion that provides good context to several questions important to psychology as a science. Two such questions include: can a disposition or intervening variable ever be said to explain behaviour? And, what should the role of dispositions and intervening variables be in a science of behaviour? Here, I attempt to match each question with an answer, after providing a set of heuristic criteria to answer the antecedent question: what, if anything, constitutes a proper explanation for behaviour? Typical invocations of disposition and intervening variables commit the nominal fallacy, with the rare exception of those cases where a difference in disposition can be verified, in and of itself, independent of the behaviour it “explains.” These exceptions, however, are still ultimately spurious of historical causes, and do not afford the same pragmatic control over the behaviours they mediate. Predominantly, dispositions and intervening variables serve only a descriptive role in psychology, and should not be treated as an end to inquiry. While descriptions can be useful, if we are to have proper explanation for why behaviour differs—and pragmatic control over the related outcomes—we need to understand the contingencies of reinforcement involved.
Critical Theories and Behavior Analysis: Revisiting Cultural Materialism to Examine Radical Solutions to Social Issues
Domain: Theory
CARMEN R. BRITTON (The Arc of Central Alabama)
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to revive past discussions related to the utility of integrating the anthropological framework of Cultural Materialism with Behavior Analysis (Harris, 1986). This paper will discuss the importance of combining these viewpoints in order to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and practice toward social change and cultural transformation (Glenn, 1988, 2004; Glenn & Malott, 2004; Kangas, 2007; Lloyd, 1985; Malagodi & Jackson, 1989). Use of cultural materialism may help bridge existing gaps between behavior analysis and critical theories and inform practical analyses of individual and group behaviors. This is especially important considering current systemic cultural issues related to diversity (e.g., implicit biases) and sustainability (e.g., over consumption), and is in line with the aim of the 50th anniversary of ABAI to honor and celebrate past efforts in the field. This paper will revisit and expand on potential avenues for cross-disciplinary collaboration and engagement with other fields in order to collaboratively seek and promote 'radical solutions to common problems' (Harris, 1986).
Parallel Quotations: J. B. Watson and B. F. Skinner--Similarities and Inconsistencies
Domain: Theory
PER HOLTH (OsloMet -- Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: That misunderstandings and misrepresentations of behavior analysis and radical behaviorism have become a regular part of the traditional psychological literature is well documented, for example by Todd and Morris (1992) in their paper called «Case Histories in the Great Power of Steady Misrepresentation. Behavior analysts are often well aware of this fact when Skinner’s views are misrepresented.» With respect to John B. Watson, however, the same kinds of misrepresentations seem to have become widespread even among behaviorists. Through a series of parallel quotations, this presentation will go far in dispelling myths about Watson’s behaviorism as well as showing that Watson’s philosophy of behaviorism was in several ways closer to Skinner’s radical behaviorism than commonly realized. For example, the views of Watson and Skinner were very similar (1) with respect to promoting psychology as a natural science and a branch of biology, (2) on the relationship between psychology and physiology, and (3) on the world within the skin and the limitations of introspection.



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