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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Paper Session #450
Philosophy of Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 26, 2014
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
W175b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: TPC
Chair: Jay Moore (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Four Enemies of Modern Behavioral Analysis and Science
Domain: Theory
MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)
Abstract: Behavioral analysis and science require clear epistemology in order to maintain clarity. There are three forms of knowledge, 1) analytic (math, logic), 2) experiential and 3) empirical. Science consists of 1 and 3 and art and religion consist of 2. The first and biggest enemy is confusing experience with empirical data and quantitative theory. This includes the belief in freewill, God and spirituality. These have no possible scientific basis for these because they are based on non-possibly observable “events”. The second are other beliefs that interfere with behavioral science including that people are rational, and logical. This opposes everything we have learned in behavior analysis. The third enemy is traditionalism in all its forms. Traditionalism reflects low behavioral stage of problem solving, for instance the notion that there is no progress which requires hypothetical reasoning, but rather truth is absolute unchanging facts based on authority. The fourth enemy is to think that there are no biological differences among people, in how they may develop, and how good they are in making decisions. This makes inordinate demands on people who lead to insensitivity to the needs of others. When experience is confused with empirical evidence, false beliefs and misunderstandings occur.

The Relation Between Mentalism and Methodological Hehaviorism

Domain: Theory
JAY MOORE (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

As ordinarily understood, the thesis of methodological behaviorism is that psychologists shouldn't talk directly about unobservables in their theories and explanations. Rather, psychologists should talk directly only about publicly observable experimental operations and the resulting relations between stimuli and responses. In contrast, the thesis of mentalism is that unobservables cause behavior, and psychologists should talk directly about the causal role of these unobservable mental phenomena in their theories and explanations. This presentation argues that despite appearances to the contrary, the two positions are closely related, and that they cause certain explanatory problems. For example, an appeal to operational definitions in terms of publicly observable data is often used to argue that an explanation speaks directly only about publicly observable phenomena. However, any hypothetical constructs in the explanation are often merely surrogates or proxies that allow researchers and theorists to speak indirectly of mental causes. The presentation then argues that the radical behaviorist conceptions of verbal behavior and private behavioral events affords a resolution of those problems.




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