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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Paper Session #293
Issues in Reductionism: Mind, Brain, and Behavior
Monday, May 30, 2016
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Zurich E, Swissotel
Area: TPC
Chair: Andre V. Maharaj (Florida International University)

Is Mentalism Dualistic?

Domain: Theory
JOSE E. BURGOS (University of Guadalajara)

Mentalism is the thesis that the mental is subjective, internal, and plays a causal role in behavior. Radical behaviorists persist in accusing mentalism of Cartesian dualism. This criticism, however, stems from a misunderstanding of Cartesian dualism as a philosophy of mind. Strictly, Cartesian dualism is the conjunction of a substance-separation thesis (SST) and a causal-interaction thesis (CIT). SST propounds the ontological separation between immaterial and material substances. CIT propounds that both substances interact causally. The two theses are logically independent, so one can be coherently maintained without the other. In particular, one can coherently maintain CIT, and thus be Cartesian, without SST, and thus be anti-dualist. Mentalism cannot possibly commit us to dualism for two reasons. First, if internality is a spatial relation and thinking substances lack spatial extension, they cannot possibly be internal. The mental can be internal only if it is physical. Second, if the mental causation of behavior is fundamentally incompatible with SST (a standard criticism of Cartesian dualism), such causation too commits us to materialism. On these two counts, mentalism can only be materialistic. The subjectivity of the mental, the third defining feature of mentalism, is entailed by SST, but also by materialism. Hence, propounding such subjectivity does not necessarily commit us to dualism either. The answer to the title question, then, is resoundingly negative.

Considerations for the Reductionist Approach in Behavior Analysis in Light of Recent Neuroscientific Advances
Domain: Theory
Andre V. Maharaj (Florida International University), JACOB L. GEWIRTZ (Florida International University)
Abstract: Contemporary advances in the realm of neuroscientific research have provided a window into once unobservable, under-the-skin phenomena. Empirical analyses in many fields has long advocated a reductionist approach, holding that phenomena are best understood by breaking them down into their smallest constituent parts. However, rather than viewing behavior from the value position that biochemical events must be the most basic elements of the stimulus-response relationship, we assert that reductionism is only useful insofar as the level of analysis remains parsimonious. A current trend in the field is the incorporation of neurological evidence, namely brain-behavior correlates, in theoretical conceptualizations for explanations of behavior. However, the vacillation of results in work done at these levels, such as those exemplified by recent findings on the cytoarchitecture of memory processes (Chen, 2014), serves to illustrate that such analyses may be less than useful. Indeed, the functional analysis of a behavior is both necessary and sufficient to inform analytic deconstruction and prediction, and we argue that Behavior Analysis may be better served by focusing on the explanation of events at the level at which they occur.



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