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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Paper Session #355
International Paper Session - Philosophical Issues Regarding Behavior Analytic Concepts
Monday, May 26, 2008
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Area: TPC
Chair: Jose E. Burgos (University of Guadalajara)
Why Operants Cannot be Individuals.
Domain: Theory
JOSE E. BURGOS (University of Guadalajara)
Abstract: Operants are conceived as individuals on the assumption that operants change. However, exactly what does it mean that operants “change”? No obvious answer presents itself. An individual can change in that at least one of its parts can change. A chameleon can change in that the color of its skin can change. This assertion implies that there is something, the chameleon, which persists in time, despite the change in skin color. Because skin color is accidental to the chameleon, there are not two different chameleons here, just one and the same chameleon with different skin colors at different moments. In the case of operants, all of their possible parts (whether responses, three-term contingencies, actions, response sequences, etc.) are events and events cannot change. Once an event has occurred, it cannot occur again differently. Successive events, of course, can have different properties, such as, for instance, different durations or magnitudes. However, what changes here are second-order properties (duration, magnitude), not the events themselves. Operants, then, do not change, for which they cannot be individuals.
Sets and Individuals are not as Different as you Think.
Domain: Theory
JOSE E. BURGOS (University of Guadalajara)
Abstract: Contrary to conventional wisdom in the species- and operants-as-individuals theses, parthood, spatiotemporal restrictedness, and cohesiveness are not exclusive of individuals. Sets too can have parts, and be spatiotemporally restricted and internally cohesive. As shown by David Lewis in his Parts of classes (1991), proper subsets behave logically like parts. In contrast to members, proper subsets of another proper subset are themselves proper subsets, just as parts of another part are themselves parts. Also, a set can be divided exhaustively into proper subsets in many ways (up to 2n – 1 ways for finite sets of order n), just as a whole can be divided into parts in many ways. Spatiotemporal restrictedness can be achieved by having pairs of the form ((s, t), b) be members of subsets, where (s, t) is a point in spacetime and b is a behavioral event. For internal cohesiveness, one can invoke any empirically suitable causal relation as a proper-subset criterion. For example, a stimulus ((s1, t1), b1) and a response ((s2, t2), b2) could be said to be proper subsets of a larger subset thus {{((s1, t1), b1)}, {((s2, t2), b2)}}, based on the observation that the stimulus is sufficient for the response.
Response Strength as a Behavior-Analytic Construct.
Domain: Theory
RAQUEL ALO (West Virginia University), Kennon A. Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: The goal of this review is to critically evaluate the concept of “response strength” as a behavior-analytic concept, more generally, and, more specifically, as used by Skinner in his book Verbal Behavior (1957) and by Nevin in his behavior momentum analysis. It is suggested that the concept of “response strength” qualifies as a hypothetical construct entailing “strength” as an epiphenomenal cause for behavior, based on Skinner’s (1957) use of it, and as an intervening variable that summarizes the relation between a set of independent and dependent empirical variables, based on Nevin’s analysis. The suitability of the use of the concept by these two authors is discussed from a behavior-analytical perspective, leading to the conclusion that Skinner’s use of “response strength” can be taken to imply a dualist explanation that is not consistent with the tenants of radical behaviorism. By contrast, the use of the same concept by Nevin promotes what many consider the two main goals of behavior analysis – namely, prediction and control of behavior.



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