Correspondence relations play a key role in everyday verbal functioning. Describing a weekend outing, classifying a musical piece, categorizing a type of insect, and interpreting a behavioral episode all involve correspondence between a verbal response and some aspect of the world. Such correspondence relations lie at the heart of Skinners analysis of the tact, defined as a verbal response evoked by some event or property of some event, maintained by generalized reinforcement (e.g., social approval). The degree to which a tact truly or accurately reflects some event depends on its correspondence with the contingencies, and can range from high (when contingencies permit precise tacting) to low (when contingencies arranged for tacting are weak or detective, or when special interests of the speaker intrude). Accuracy and truth are therefore products of contingencies arranged by verbal communities which place a premium on correspondence. This is of more than idle theoretical interest. Correspondence relations bear on distinctions between facts and opinions, and more generally, to differences between scientific and pseudoscientific claims. In this presentation, I will discuss some general areas of research relevant to distorted tacts, the conditions under which people are especially prone to their disruptive influences, and how such relations can be studied with traditional behavioral methods. Some implications for scientific accuracy, and for distinguishing science from pseudoscience, will also be considered.
|Dr. Timothy D. Hackenberg received a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine in 1982 and a doctorate in Psychology from Temple University in 1987, under the supervision of Philip Hineline. He held a post-doctoral research position at the University of Minnesota with Travis Thompson from 1988-90. He joined the faculty in the Behavior Analysis program at the University of Florida in 1990, where he is currently a Professor of Psychology. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, of the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior, as Associate Editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, as President of Division 25 of the American Psychological Association, and is currently serving as the Experimental Representative to the ABA Council. His major research interests are in the area of choice and conditioned reinforcement in humans and other animals. In work funded by the NSF and the NIH, he and his students have developed procedures for comparing adaptive choice in different species, showing that species differences are frequently a product of procedural differences. Reducing or eliminating procedural differences brings cross-species continuities into sharper focus. He is blessed with a talented cadre of graduate students, and has the good fortune to teach courses he cares about, including Theoretical Foundations of Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior, and Interpretive Systems.