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

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #390
Behaviorism and the United Ivory Archipelago
Monday, May 31, 2010
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
103AB (CC)
Area: DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: Gary D. Novak (California State University, Stanislaus)
DAVID SLOAN WILSON (Binghamton University)
David Sloan Wilson is Distinguished Professor of Biology with a joint appointment in Anthropology at Binghamton University. He is best known for championing the theory of multilevel selection, which shows how adaptations can evolve at all levels of the biological hierarchy, with implications ranging from the origin of life to the nature of religion. He is author of nearly 200 scientific articles published in biology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy journals. His academic books include The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities (1980), Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (with Elliott Sober; 1998), Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society (2002), and the The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (co-edited with Jonathan Gottschall, 2005). His first book for a general audience, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (Delacorte, 2007), which Natalie Angier described as "a minor miracle, the near complete emulsifying of science and the real world." His next book will be published by Little, Brown and is titled Evolving the City: An Evolutionist Contemplates Changing the World—One City at a Time. In addition to his own research and writing, Dr. Wilson is director of EvoS, a campus-wide program that strives to use evolutionary theory as a common language to create a single intellectual community, spanning all human related subjects in addition to the natural world.
Abstract: The Ivory Tower is more aptly called the Ivory Archipelago—many islands of thought with little communication among them. Each field (island) within psychology has its own history and special assumptions. One island's commonplace is another's heresy. The fields of evolutionary psychology and behavior analysis provide an especially strong contrast. The ideas associated with Skinner are central to behavior analysis, but rejected by evolutionary psychology as part of the "standard social science model." There is an urgent need to achieve a more consilient theoretical framework for psychology—to turn the Ivory Archipelago into the United Ivory Archipelago. I will argue that evolutionary theory provides the consilient framework for psychology, as it does for the biological sciences, but that it must go beyond the current field of evolutionary psychology and include a healthy measure of behaviorism. The consilient theory must do justice to both elaborate genetic innateness and impressive open-ended behavioral and cultural flexibility.



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