Basic Research


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The basic research section offers resources related primarily to experiments relevant to the behavior of individuals. Related methodological and theoretical resources are also provided in this section.

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Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 1-2 (2009). INTRODUCTION TO SPECIAL SECTION: COVERT BEHAVIOR AND PRIVATE EVENTS IN RADICAL BEHAVIORISM
This special section gathers five target papers on the issue of covert behavior and private events in radical behaviorism, plus one commentary of the papers.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 3-19 (2009). THE ROLE OF PRIVATE EVENTS IN THE INTERPRETATION OF COMPLEX BEHAVIOR, David Palmer.
Like most other sciences, behavior analysis adopts an assumption of uniformity, namely that principles discovered under controlled conditions apply outside the laboratory as well. Since the boundary between public and private depends on the vantage point of the observer, observability is not an inherent property of behavior. From this perspective, private events are assumed to enter into the same orderly relations as public behavior, and the distinction between public and private events is merely a practical one. Private events play no role in the experimental analysis of behavior, but they permit us to make sense of many commonplace phenomena where controlled observation is impossible but unsystematic data are available. Such interpretive exercises serve both to guide research and to displace occult explanations.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 21-37 (2009). WHY THE RADICAL BEHAVIORIST CONCEPTION OF PRIVATE EVENTS IS INTERESTING, RELEVANT, AND IMPORTANT, Jay Moore.
For radical behaviorists, talk about "private events" could be about any of four things: (a) private behavioral events, (b) physiology, (c) dispositions, or (d) explanatory fictions. Talk about private events as behavioral engages the influence of feelings, sensations, and covert operant behavior. Analyses based on private behavioral events allow radical behaviorists to understand how those events contribute to contingencies controlling subsequent operant behavior, whether verbal or nonverbal. Talk about private events in physiological terms risks confounding explanatory categories. Although physiology necessarily participates in behavioral events, physiological events are not the same type as behavioral events, public or private. Rather, an organism's physiology is a material cause. To portray physiology as an autonomous, initiating cause, as traditional psychology often does, creates a variety of explanatory problems. Talk about private events as dispositions does not reflect anything literally private. Rat
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 39-57 (2009). OVERCOMING THE PSEUDO-PROBLEM OF PRIVATE EVENTS IN THE ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR, Linda J. Hayes and Mitch J. Fryling.
Radical behaviorism is distinguished from other varieties of behaviorism in part by its willingness to include private events among its subjects of analysis. This paper reviews the public-private dichotomy as described by Skinner, and concludes that this dichotomy is based upon faulty assumptions. An alternative conceptualization of events of the private class is proposed, whereby such events are viewed as neither private nor biological in nature. It is argued that while these events are complex and subtle, as interaction of responding and stimulating taking place in the same field of interaction as public events, they are accessible to external observers. The nature of their observation is described, and implications for behavior analysis as a scientific system are provided.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 59-85 (2009). AGAINST PARSIMONIOUS BEHAVIORISM, Jose E. Burgos.
This paper is a rejection of parsimonious behaviorism (PB). PB was proposed by Stemmer (2003) to avoid certain problems with radical behaviorism's (RB) appeal to covert behavior to account for mental phenomena. According to Stemmer, covert behavior was not clearly defined and its existence was not supported by empirical evidence. However, overt behavior is not as undefined, nor its existence as empirically unsupported as Stemmer claimed. Nor does PB avoid the problems, as it does not encourage us to seek a definition or empirical evidence that supports this existence. Moreover, Stemmer did not define the entities he accepted as existent (physiological traces), nor did he cite empirical evidence that supported their existence or his proposed interpretation of mental phenomena. Also, his claim that PB is more parsimonious than RB rests on a fallacious acceptance of the existence of physiological traces and a misinterpretation of the explanatory role of physiological events in RB. Finally, Quine's repudiation th
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 87-104 (2009). INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF SELF-INSTRUCTION, Gordon R. Foxall and Jorge M. Oliveira-Castro.
Discrepancies between animal and human responding on standard schedules of reinforcement have been explained by reference to the human capacity for language and consequent formulation of self-instructions. As a result, schedule responding has been causally attributed to private events. However, the operations that individuals are assumed to carry out in the formulation of self-instructions cannot be described other than intentionally and this raises important issues of explanation for an extensional behavioral science. It is argued that radical behaviorism is ultimately dependent upon intentional explanation; moreover, the ascription of causality to the intentional terms on which radical behaviorism is dependent leads to the necessity of incorporating cognitive explanation into operant psychology. Extensions of radical behaviorist explanation beyond accounts of contingency-shaped behavior cannot avoid the use of intentional terms.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 105-117 (2009). PRIVATE EVENTS, Max Hocutt.
What are "private events" and what is their significance? The term is B. F. Skinner's, but the idea is much older. Before J. B. Watson challenged their methods and their metaphysics, virtually all psychologists assumed that the only way to discover a person's supposedly private states of mind was to ask her about them. Not a believer in minds, Skinner nevertheless agreed that sensations, feelings, and certain unspecified forms of "covert behavior" cannot be observed by others, because they take place inside the body underneath the skin. Then he added that these inner events are of interest only to the physiologist; the concern of the behavior analyst is how intact organisms interact with their environment, not how their inward parts interact with each other. That compromise enabled Skinner to pursue behavior analysis in disregard of neurophysiology, which there was at the time no good way to study anyhow. But Skinner's talk of ineluctably private events was ill considered and ill conceived. There is no
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 119-125 (2009). WHY DISPOSITIONS WON'T GO AWAY, Garth J.O. Fletcher and Patrick S.G. Kerr.
This commentary discusses the major claims and arguments presented by Field and Hineline (2008) against the general use of dispositional causal explanations in science and psychology and in favor of an alternative account that applies to cases in which causes and behavioral effects are separated over time. We conclude that their central claims and arguments are weak or implausible, and that the dispositional explanatory strategy emerges unscathed.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 127-133 (2009). PRAGMATICS AND PLURALISM IN EXPLAINING HUMAN ACTION, Kenneth J Gergen.
I am in agreement with Field and Hineline's excellent essay (2008) concerning the limitations of cause-effect explanation and the derivative problems with person-centered accounts of human action. However, their account is simultaneously limited by its constrained view of the aims of psychological theory. If we take a more pragmatic stance toward the function of theory, we also find theoretical explanations may be used effectively both to sustain and to transform society. They may also be employed in the service of social justice and to enrich the potentials for research and practice. To illustrate the enrichment function, I sketch out a form of confluence theory. In all these endeavors, one finds means of accounting for cross-time trajectories.
Behavior and Philosophy, 37, 135-140 (2009). DISPOSITIONING AND THE SCIENCES OF COMPLEXITY, Stephanie C. Petrusz and Michael T. Turvey.
Field and Hineline use the term dispositioning to refer to the tendency to privilege spatially and temporally local entities in psychological explanation. In our commentary we offer reasons for agreeing with their claim that dispositioning is overly prevalent and should be avoided. Drawing on lessons from the sciences of complexity and the ecological approach to perception and action, we suggest some directions for a new approach to explanation in psychology and in science generally.

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