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.

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  • TPC: Theoretical, Philosophical, and Conceptual Issues

2012 Theory and Philosophy Conference

Program by Continuing Education Events: Saturday, November 3, 2012


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Invited Symposium #2
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Consciousness and Private Events
Saturday, November 3, 2012
8:30 AM–11:00 AM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Service Delivery
Discussant: Michael J. Dougher (University of New Mexico)
CE Instructor: Michael J. Dougher, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Consciousness and Private Events

 
Methodological Behaviorism and Private Behavioral Events as a Radical Behaviorist Views Them
JAY MOORE (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)
Abstract: Methodological behaviorism is the name for a prescriptive orientation to psychological science. The principal feature of methodological behaviorism concerns verbal processes and the meaning of "psychological" terms and concepts. According to this feature, the only psychological terms that psychologists should deploy in their theories and explanations are those that are based on observable stimuli and behavior. Throughout the years, the phrase "based on" has been interpreted in at least three different ways. One interpretation required psychologists to remain formally silent on causal mental terms. A second allowed psychologists to appeal indirectly to causal mental terms, but required that they logically connect the terms to observables through exhaustive operational definitions. A third allowed psychologists to appeal indirectly to causal mental terms, but required that they logically connect the terms to observables through partial operational definitions. We conclude that methodological behaviorism is more closely tied to mentalism than to the radical behaviorism of B. F. Skinner.
Jay Moore received his master's degree from Western Michigan University in 1969, where his adviser was Dr. David Lyon. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1975, where his adviser was Dr. Edmund Fantino. Dr. Moore is on the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he has been since 1977. His principal professional interests are in the experimental analysis of behavior and the theoretical-philosophical-conceptual analysis of behavior. He is the author of Conceptual Foundations of Radical Behaviorism. Dr. Moore has been a member of ABAI since 1977 and has served as editor of The Behavior Analyst, coordinator for ABAI's Accreditation and Professional Standards Board, and on the ABAI Executive Council—including a term as president.
 
Consciousness and Behavior
HOWARD RACHLIN (Stony Brook University)
Abstract: Historically, consciousness has been viewed as a spiritual occurrence within the body. Modern philosophers and psychologists who reject the spiritual view (behaviorists among them) nevertheless follow spiritual theories by identifying consciousness with intrinsically private events inside the body—usually covert behavior such as talking to yourself (subvocal speech) and picturing objects and events to yourself. This view has many logical and empirical problems. Dr. Rachlin will present another behavioral view. He will argue that consciousness consists of overt, intrinsically observable behavioral patterns extended in time—behavior of the organism as a whole. In the words of one modern philosopher, "consciousness is more like a dance than digestion." This concept of consciousness avoids the pitfalls of other theories. Although it disagrees with common introspection, introspection as a method of ascertaining psychological truth (or the meaning of psychological terms) is typically, and correctly, rejected by behaviorists.
Howard Rachlin obtained a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University in 1965. He is currently a research professor and an emeritus distinguished professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has published more than 100 articles, written six books including Behavior and Mind and The Science of Self-Control, and edited two other books. He has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). He is on the editorial boards of six journals. Since he received his Ph.D. his research (on choice, self-control, social cooperation, and experimental economics) has been continuously supported by grants from NIH and NSF including an NIH MERIT award. Among other honors, he has been elected a fellow at the American Psychological Society and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. He has been the recipient of a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship (1975–76) and an Award for the Impact of Science on Application from SABA (2005). He was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1988–89) and an invited speaker at the Nobel Symposium on Behavioral and Experimental Economics in Stockholm, Sweden (2001).
 
 
Invited Symposium #3
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics
Saturday, November 3, 2012
12:30 PM–3:00 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
CE Instructor: Maria R. Ruiz, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics

 

Hume's Words of Wisdom

JOHN E. R. STADDON (Duke University)
Abstract:

David Hume argued, Dr. Staddon believes irrefutably, that "ought" cannot be derived from "is." That is, no set of facts, no amount of scientific knowledge, is by itself sufficient to urge us to action. Yet, generations of well-meaning scientists-more and more as the years go by and secular influences grow in the West-seem to have forgotten Hume's words of wisdom. All motivated action depends ultimately on belief or beliefs that cannot be proved by the methods of science.

John Staddon is the James B. Duke professor of psychology and professor of biology and neurobiology emeritus at Duke University. He has served as faculty secretary and ex-officio member of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council since 2002. He has obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University, conducted research at the MIT Systems Lab, and taught at the University of Toronto. He also has done research at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the University of São Paulo at Riberão Preto, the University of Mexico, the Ruhr Universität, Universität Konstanz, the University of Western Australia, and is an honorary visiting professor at the University of York in the United Kingdom. He is a fellow of several scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and has a "docteur honoris causa" from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals and the history and philosophy of psychology and biology. Dr. Staddon is a past editor of the journals Behavioural Processes and Behavior & Philosophy. His laboratory has studied the simulated detection of landmines, optimality analysis and behavior, mechanisms of choice behavior, and interval timing in animals. His recent theoretical work includes papers on operant conditioning, memory, timing, and psychobiological aspects of ethical philosophy. He has written and lectured on public-policy issues such as education and evolution, traffic control, smoking, and the effects of social and biological processes on financial markets. He is the author of more than 200 research papers and five books, including The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society, Adaptive Dynamics: The Theoretical Analysis of Behavior, and Adaptive Behavior and Learning. He has a new book, The Malign Hand of the Markets, scheduled for publication in May 2012.
 
A Behavioral Analysis of Morality and Value
MAX HOCUTT (University of Alabama)
Abstract: Morality has long been conceived as a set of divinely instituted, otherworldly rules meant not to describe or explain behavior, but to guide it toward an absolute good. The philosophical formulation of this theory by Plato was later grafted onto Christian thought by Augustine and Aquinas. The equally ancient theory of the Greek sophist Protagoras—that the good is relative to personal preferences and morality to manmade social customs—was forgotten until revived in the 18th and 19th centuries by such empiricists such as David Hume and J. S. Mill. Then it was dismissed again by G. E. Moore in the 20th century as "naturalistic fallacy"—conflation of what is with what ought to be. However, those who took this dismissive attitude themselves made the reverse mistake of conflating what ideally ought to be with what actually is. In other words, they mistook ideals for actualities. As Skinner said in Beyond Freedom and Dignity, sorting things out requires behaviorist parsing of "the good" (the personally reinforcing) and "duty" (the socially reinforced).
Max Hocutt, formerly editor of Behavior and Philosophy, is the author of three books and a hundred or so scholarly articles. A native of Alabama, he was born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa and attended public schools in Mobile. He has bachelor's (1957) and master's (1958) degrees from Tulane University and a Ph.D. (1960) from Yale University, all in philosophy. He worked in the classroom for 41 years, five at the University of South Florida where he taught human behavior and 36 at the University of Alabama where—for 13 years—he chaired the Department of Philosophy. One of two philosophers (the other is Willard Van Orman Quine) mentioned in B. F. Skinner's autobiography, Hocutt spent the first half of his academic career focusing on psychology and the second on moral philosophy. After retiring from teaching in 2001, he added political philosophy to the large variety of topics on which he writes and speaks. He still resides in Tuscaloosa.
 
 
Invited Symposium #4
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Logical and Scientific Verbal Behavior: What's Happened to Skinner's "Empirical Epistemology"?
Saturday, November 3, 2012
3:30 PM–6:00 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Timothy D. Hackenberg (Reed College)
CE Instructor: Timothy D. Hackenberg, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Logical and Scientific Verbal Behavior: What's Happened to Skinner's "Empirical Epistemology"?

 

A Functional Analysis of Psychological Terms Redux

HENRY D. SCHLINGER (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract:

In his seminal paper, "An Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms," B. F. Skinner (1945) offered the revolutionary suggestion that rather than endlessly debating the meanings of psychological terms, psychologists should analyze the variables controlling their occurrence. Skinner's suggestion reflected the essence of his 1957 book, Verbal Behavior, wherein he argued that the behaviors of which language is composed (i.e., speaking and listening) are caused by variables found in the social environment (which he called the verbal community), and that analyzing those variables would lead to understanding the behaviors. Although Skinner formally introduced his radical approach to language in 1945, it has yet to be fully realized. The result is that psychologists, including behavior analysts, still debate the definitions of terms. In the present paper, Dr. Schlinger will review Skinner's functional approach to language and describe ways in which behavior analysts have already applied it to such traditional psychological terms as memory, cognition, intelligence, perception, imagining, and consciousness. He will conclude by encouraging psychologists as well as behavior analysts to apply a functional analytic approach to their own verbal behavior.

Henry D. "Hank" Schlinger Jr. received his Ph.D. in psychology (applied behavior analysis) from Western Michigan University with Jack Michael. He then completed a 2-year National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology with Alan Poling. He was a full tenured professor of psychology at Western New England University in Springfield, MA, before moving to Los Angeles in 1998. He is now an associate professor of psychology and director of the MS program in applied behavior analysis in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Schlinger has published 60 scientific articles and commentaries in more than 20 journals. He also has authored or co-authored three books, Psychology: A Behavioral Overview, A Behavior-Analytic View of Child Development (which was translated into Japanese), and Introduction to Scientific Psychology. He is a past editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, current editor of The Behavior Analyst, and on the editorial boards of several other journals. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He lives with his wife, a writer and editor, and their 2-year-old son in the quiet, serene hills of Burbank, CA, just a stone's throw from Disney Hall.
 

A Behavioral Interpretation of Knowledge

DAVID C. PALMER (Smith College)
Abstract:

Nature has stumbled on the power of permutations in several domains, such as the composition of molecules, the codifying of genes, and the synthesis of proteins. Human behavior is distinctive in that verbal behavior facilitates "directed permutations" of elementary behavioral units analogous to the stringing together of amino acids under the control of RNA codons. The tacting of behavioral atoms following reinforcement, in the presence of an audience with a suitable atomic repertoire, permits the rapid transmission of adaptive behavior throughout a verbal community, and short-circuits the alternative process of shaping. In contrast, problem solving entails the marshaling of supplementary stimuli to generate novel permutations in behavior, only some of which might be captured by contingencies of reinforcement. When reinforced, behavior becomes the source of directed permutations. Such variation, in the first instance, is always blind, but it can become directed variation, as when "strategies" are explicitly inculcated. Knowledge, then, always arises from chance variation, possibly during long periods of time and highly uncertain of success, but once successful becomes rapidly transmitted as directed permutations of behavior. However, in the latter case, we ordinarily speak of "knowledge" only when control of the behavior has transferred to other variables.

Dave Palmer discovered B. F. Skinner by reading Walden Two while on a cave-exploring trip to North Carolina because he thought it must have had something to do with his hero, Henry David Thoreau. He spent the next decade on a soap box preaching about Walden Two and reading the rest of the Skinner canon. Eventually, he realized he was no Frazier, and he applied to graduate school in behavior analysis studying under John Donahoe. He was happy in grad school and would be there still if the University of Massachusetts had not threatened to change the locks. He spent the past 21 years as the token behaviorist at Smith College in Northampton, MA. During that time, he co-authored, with Donahoe, Learning and Complex Behavior. He continues to puzzle about the interpretation of memory, problem-solving, and—particularly—verbal behavior. He once referred to himself—in a jocular vein—as a goose-stepping Skinnerian, but he found that the label fit and now wears it without apology.
 

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