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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Tutorial #62
CE Offered: BACB
William J. McIlvane (University of Massachusetts Medical School) will be presenting on Murray Sidman's behalf. Errorless Learning and Programmed Instruction: The Myth of the Learning Curve
Saturday, May 29, 2010
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Ballroom A (CC)
Area: TPC/EDC; Domain: Theory
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Janet Ellis, Ph.D.BCBA-D
Chair: Per Holth (Akershus University College)
Presenting Authors: : MURRAY SIDMAN ((Retired))
Abstract: Teaching a pupil all the prerequisites for a task will produce errorless learning. If errors do occur, they can be eliminated by identifying and teaching the missing prerequisites. The discovery of errorless learning, although a major contribution to our understanding of behavior, has received remarkably little attention from behavior theorists, philosophers, and both basic and applied researchers. Learning need not be a trial-and-error process for the pupil, although it may be for the teacher. Errorless learning indicates that the learning process is all-or-none; the learning curve becomes discontinuous, with any continuity residing in the teaching process. The reality of errorless learning shifts the responsibility for learning from the pupil to the teacher; the proper study of learning becomes the study of teaching. For example, because mental retardation is defined by learning failures (i.e., by excessive errors), the fact of errorless learning calls into question both the definition of retardation and the teaching methods that have given rise to that definition.
Murray Sidman completed his Ph.D at Columbia University in 1952. His principal advisors, Fred S. Keller and W. N. Schoenfeld, had strong assists from Ralph Hefferline, Clarence Graham, and a small group of fellow graduate students. After that, he spent nine years in the exciting and productive interdisciplinary environment of the Neuropsychiatry Division at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He then joined the Neurology Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital for another nine years. Dr. Sidman's human and nonhuman behavioral research laboratories moved eventually to the E. K. Shriver Center and Northeastern University, where he remained as professor of psychology until he retired from academe, continuing his research at the New England Center for Children. Although retired from there in 2001, Dr. Sidman continues research and writing. One outcome of his lifetime of research is his conviction that extending experimental results out of the laboratory not only adds an intrinsically valuable dimension to basic research, but is essential to its survival in a world of increasing competition for ever more limited resources.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh