Behavioral science as the art of the 21st Century philosophical similarities between B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism and postmodern science.
"Say what you like as long as it does not stop you from seeing how things are.... And when you have seen this there is plenty that you will not say"--(Wittengstein, 1953)
For many contemporary thinkers, the idea that Skinner's Radical Behaviorism and postmodernist philosophy of science are compatible would appear ridiculous, or at best superficial. After all both evolved from drastically different historical roots (Andresen, 1992) and some scientists have accused postmodern philosophers of being antiscience (i.e. Holton, 1993). For example, Lyotard's (1979) book The Postmodern Condition enjoys a special distinction for weaving together Postmodern art, with elements of the post structuralism philosophy, and a theory of postindustrial society. While the work has some clear seems, it is considered a good starting point. Lyotard attempts to define the postmodern by contrast to the modern:
"I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse...making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialects of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or creation of wealth."
Although Lyotard's statement holds for some postmodernists, much of postmodernism is not antiscience but rather the natural evolution of thinking following the discrediting of realism (Ross, 1996; Rorty, 1979, 1991). One can contrast the statement above with that of another recognized postmodernist Griffin (1988)"physics no longer disenchants our stories; physics itself provides us with a new story which can become a common, unifying story underneath our more particular stories." (p. 15ff).
As we will see central tenets of the postmodernism trend were factors that most contemporary sciences adopted in the early part of this century (long before even the word postmodernism was considered) with the notable exception of psychology and linguistics, which still seem to be dominated by realistic thinking and methodology. On the other hand, within psychology, Skinner has been wrongly described to epitomize the logical positivist movement. Some erroneously argued that Skinner was a realist, a "copy theorist indistinguishable from other behaviorists" (Paiget and Ingelder, 1969). However, this characterization fails to recognize Skinner's behaviorism as an attempt to "know what we come to know" (Baum, 1994; Lana, 1991, 1995). Far from being a copy theorist, Skinner argued that all thinking is dynamic: even the experimenter's thinking is shaped by organism/environment interaction (Skinner, 1956). In postmodernist terms, Skinner was studying the building of Moscovici's (1987) virtual worlds. Brinker and Jaynes (1988) point out this precisely differentiates Skinnerian behaviorism from other behavioral theories.
Few would disagree that B.F. Skinner has contributed much to psychological thinking of the 20th century. Historical recognition of Skinner's work is assured (Lana, 1991) with divergent fields such as anthropology (Glenn, 1988) and behavioral biology (Robinson & Woodward, 1989) readily discuss his writings. However, whether or not Skinner's ideas are fossils (Sutherland, 1990, cf. Richelle, 1995), as some have contended, will be left to history to judge.
Our analysis of Skinner's work occurs because currently, the field of psychology must place its work within contemporary views of science, developing a greater contextual awareness of its historical roots (Richelle, 1995). This will allow for greater understanding of the works instead of the usual misunderstandings that appear in introductory texts (Todd & Morris, 1992).
This paper will deconstruct the evolution of postmodern thinking. It will focus on the movement of information, ideas and technology, the points the common worker reflected on, keys to understanding the world, the view of self, the role and station of humanity. Next the evolution of theories of science will be presented. We will discuss the movement from essentialism to selectionism and the movement from certainty to uncertainty. With this background, Skinner's theory of verbal behavior will be shown to be fully compatible with the postmodernist view of language and offering a inventive way for science to better serve the community. Finally, the methodology Skinner's behaviorism will be shown to offer new promise for a contextual view of data. Thus for us, Skinner's behaviorism is to barrow Griffin's (1988) words a unifying story underneath our more particular stories.
It is important to note that postmodern approaches to psychology exist. A leading spokesman for postmodernism in psychology, Gergen (1985) identifies feminism, various multicultural perspectives, and narrative psychology as core areas of postmodern thought within psychology. To this list, Radical Behaviorism should be added (Ruiz, 1995; Freeman & Locurto, 1994). Furthermore, of the three, Radical Behaviorism deserves special attention for three reasons: (1) it is currently the only model with widespread and demonstrated effectiveness in developing technologies for both acceptance (i.e., Hayes, 1993; Christiansen, Jacobson, & Babcock, 1995; Jacobson & Christensen, 1996) and change (i.e. Martin & Pears, 1992; Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1994); (2) it has been largely misunderstood and misrepresented by its critics (see Todd & Morris, 1992); (3) it is being explored by two other branches of postmodern psychology, feminism and multicultural psychology for the production of theory (W. Hayes, 1991; Ruiz, 1995), cultural level analysis (Briggs & Pulson, 1996) and effective culture change action (Biglan, 1995). Postmodernism in Context
"Alf Evers had said to me, 'Science is the art of the twentieth century,' and I believed him." B.F. Skinner, 976 p. 291.
We resist giving a singular definition of the postmodern because with any cultural practice, postmodernism is evolving. As an evolving community, we will not attempt to impose an essentialist definition on it. Instead, we will attempt to place it in historical context, by exploring its historical antecedents: modernism and premodern thought and demonstrating shifting views.
In the premodern world, medieval times society was mostly stagnant. Ideas, technology, and understanding of the universe remained unchanged for generations. Science and technology were considered different activities (Russo & Cone, 1995). Workers weaved tales of pride, quality, and craftsmanship (Boje, 1994). In this stable environment, God was the key to understanding man and nature. In premodern times "man" went directly to God to get answers to life's questions and "self" was bicameral (Jaynes, 1990). Ruling classes were considered blessed by God to rule as part of God's divine will. "Man's" station was below God but above beast.
Reading and consciousness were both invented at about the same time, the 12th century B.C. (Jaynes, 1990). Jaynes's (1990) method was to look at old literature, like the Bible and Homer. He points out that, in the Old Testament, God and angels talked directly to people. Then, in the 12th century, God stopped talking and people had to figure things out for themselves. For an example, envision the scene where Agamemnon wanders on the beach before Troy, trying to decide what to do. He doesn't really think about the problem the way a modern person would, he just wanders around until the Goddess Athena appears and tells him what to do.
Jaynes suggests that, prior to this "discovery of consciousness", people thought the same way modern-day schizophrenics do; by hearing voices that told them what to do. In the 12th century, they discovered that those voices were their own and modern thought was born. Environmental conditions lead to the discovery of both consciousness and literacy (Jaynes, 1990). Major earthquakes followed by a famine at about that time which so totally disrupted many societies that people had to start knowing more then just how to do things, but had to know that they knew how to do them.
In the Renaissance (14th century to the 17th century), new technology emerged (e.g. the printing press) allowing ideas to become fluid. Books were no longer limited to the wealthy and could be mass-produced outside of the monasteries. Libraries began to be utilized and brought the printed word back to the common man. A new art emerged in which man became fascinated with the "realistic"--actually observed form of man. Flowing images of people covered with robes were replaced by body details. A love of classical Greece dominated. Art modeled this period. Art was to "resemble life" as closely as possible.
Experimentation of depth perception enhanced the appearance of reality in pictures. Man as the key to understanding the world replaced God. Philosopher's grappled with the concept of what could be known. Renee Descartes in his exploration of what could be known took philosophers to the basis of existence with the argument that I know that I think and even if the world does not exist something must be thinking. I think therefore I am became the theme. From this basis Descartes began the slow and long process of reassembling the world. Science emerged from philosophy assuming a realistic flavor (i.e. reality was considered "out there" to discover). Science, at this point, still had not merged with technology (Russo & Cove, 1995). Science was the study of the world to discover harmony and technology was the ability to construct things (Russo & Cove). Logical positivism, Cartesian philosophy (M. Gergen, 1995) and truth by agreement dominated science, politics, and philosophy. From the writings of John Locke (1689), an argument against the divine right of kings, viewing "man" born with "natural rights," freely surrendered to government for protection. This idea paved the way for the American Revolution. Democracy reemerged with the idea that, given consensus, society would reach a "more perfect union." Still individual rights were to be protected, thus a Republic, the United States of America was born. This new Republic saw itself as a "melting pot". Gradually, the machine with its push- pull metaphor and the study of forces replaced the notion of God and spirits. With "man's" exaltation came the search for his "essence." This essence became known as the "self" (Jaynes, 1990). This representational view dominated phenomenology and psychodynamic theory. Deikman (1973) referred to the self as a resting feeling of "I". He considered the "self" as an organizing force that "compels an individual to act." Winnicott insisted the "real" and "true self" as the generator of creativity and ideas. Masterson's (1985) viewed the "self" as the " ultimate of real expression". Erikson (1968) holds "self" as "the perception of self sameness and continuity of one's existence in space and time." Therapeutic goals focused on making the "self" cohesive. "To become oneself is man's true vacation" (Kierkegaard as cited in O'Connor, 1985, p.94). These cohesive views of self marked the modern era. In short society became kinetic with a unified "self" as its focus.
Machines came and went. Interchangeable parts came about in 1800 (Beniger, 1986) and integration of production in factories occurred about 1820 (Beniger, 1986). Even during the industrial revolution science and technology remained distinctly different fields. By the middle of the nineteenth century with the development of electrical and chemical technology science and technology began to merge (Russo & Cove, 1995). The stories of workers changed from pride, quality, and craftsmanship to those of efficiency, increased quantity and estrangement (Boje, 1994; Skinner, 1986). Many improvements in the quality of life occurred, as people fled farms to cities for jobs. In society, individuals and companies began to seek out technology. The automobile followed the steam engine. The airplane followed the automobile. The pony express was replaced by the telegraph, replaced by the telephone, replaced by email. Society again is in the process of change. Information is moving from the kinetic to the hyperkinetic. With the automobile and new roads, workers no longer needed to work close to home. Many families moved from the cities and commuted to work. World War I and II placed women in the workforce. After the First World War, society recognized that women had rights. In 1920, women gained the right to vote. Medical technology reduced the time women needed to nursemaid and even contributed to decreased children/family. Libertarian thought highlighted the focus on individual rights. Individualism became the marking point of modernism but also served as the strongest criticism against modernism. Many began to understand that while it was an employer's right to earn 80x the amount of his line workers, it came to be seen as "selfish." In art, Anderson (1988) argued "Modernism as a notion is the emptiest of cultural categories. Unlike Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Mannerism, Romantic, or Neoclassical, it designates no describable object in its own right at all; it is completely lacking in positive content."
About 20 years after Descartes's famous dicta, Giambattista Vico rose into opposition to the dualism inherent to Descartes. Descartes's philosophy formulated and systematized a new way to acquire knowledge through methods of logical and reason, replacing the traditions of religious dogma, superstition and prejudices. Vico argued that thought preceded the individual and was traceable through history, so even your thoughts were not the person's originally (Vico, (1984/1744, 1990/1709). Vico (1990/1709) opposed the argument that all knowledge could come from logic and reason. He sought the return of such philosophical underpinnings dialectical thinking, metaphor and rhetoric but most important was history. Indeed Vico claimed to create a new science of the socio-historical world and argued for the superiority of the knowledge that could be obtained from the outside as opposed to the inside.
In tradition of Vico, the point at which the "essence" of postmodernism began cannot be determined. We can trace the emergence of ideas that would influence the basis of postmodernism. Many of these ideas began at the turn of the century but can be traced back to Vico, himself in his dialectic with Descartes. It was first noticed in the art community, which struggled for many reasons (including the advent of the camera) to rid the world of the concept of the artist as a genius, capturing essential (real) detail characteristic of the world. "High art" became the point of contention and was replaced by individual meaning. Lyotard (1989) "...art does not imitate nature, it creates a world apart...in which the monstrous and formless have their rights." (p. 202). In literature, meaning of texts changed from its essential nature (its ability to capture truth) to work understood in its historical context (deconstructionist / reconstructionism). In philosophy and politics many questioned if reality was the same for all. Workers stories changed from efficiency, mass production, and alienation to fragmented special interests of societal subgroups such as multiculturalism, feminism, and ecology issues (Boje, 1994; Rakos, 1992). In some ways the shift could be seen as "The nineteenth-century vision of how to make the world a better place in which to live was called 'progress.' It was a coal-fueled ideology for a vast colonial expansion and it was crushingly discredited by World War I and the interwar era of stagnation and depression. Development is the successor to the vision of progress that accompanied the petroleum-fueled spread of industrialism in the post-World War II nationalizing. If the illusion of progress was dashed by the First World War, the 'development' illusion began to crack and fragment, on the other hand, with increased poverty, social movements and revolts, military interventions and regional wars, and on the other hand, environmental pollution and degradation" (Newbold-Adams, 1988). aphors of "self" changed from static to dynamic views, as a fundamental shift occurred: instead of viewing "self" as a content or structure, the self became an active process (Gerge n, 1995).
"The self is not something fixed inside my head. If it exists at all, my self is a process: the unending process by which I turn new experiences into language. (Bronowsky, 1973 p.65)"
"A person produces a poem and a women produces a baby, and we call the person a poet and the woman a mother. Both are essential loci in which vestiges of the past come together in certain combinations. The process is creative in the sense that the products are new." (Skinner, 1972, p.354).
"the author is never more than the instance of writing, just as I is nothing other than saying I: language knows a 'subject', not a 'person,' and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffice to make language 'hold together' suffices, that is to say, to exhaust it." (Barthes, 1977 p. 145)
Multiculturalism and feminism began "unthinking" cultural myths of the times (Bush, 1989). For example Bush (1979) cites that feminists "unthought" rape as a crime of passion reframing it as a crime of power. Another example is multiculturalists, Robert C. Johnson (1984) argued that the African American community suffers from neglect compared to the abuse of slavery during the modern era. He argued that only by consciously taking a more active role in science and innovation would African Americans reshape the course of technological development to address their needs and interest (Johnson, 1984). All recent technological advances are firmly rooted in the sciences and the budget for these advances is ever increasing due to the need for more complicated instruments and data collection methods (Russo & Cove, 1995). "Person in context" replaced "Man" as the key figure. This contextual perspective is the core of postmodern analysis and evaluation of "truth" in all arenas from the art and literary to the political to the scientific (i.e. Pepper, 1942).
In the early 1980's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPAnet) was developed and the modern Internet, which to that time had only been used by the defense department in the U.S. was beginning to attract University users and companies. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act and the integration of the telecommunication industry's previously separate technologies began a new revolution in the amount of information available to the common man. By the end of the century, libertarian thought began to receive its strongest challenge from those holding communitarian beliefs. While the libertarians argued for the rights of the individual, communitarians focused on the individual responsibility to the community. The question moved from "my right" to "how can I be a good neighbor." Thus, the communitarian approach emerged with its principles drawing on premodern thought of the importance of communities. This philosophical position contrasted with libertarianism appears to offer an interesting parallel, which cuts the old liberal-conservative debate. Even former First Lady, now Senator, Hillary Clinton, wrote on the subject in "It Takes a Village."
Trends in Science and the Philosophy of Science
"One of the most remarkable features of modern thought is the extent to which ideas about science have changed"--Woolgar, 1988 p. 9
Sciences were considered part of philosophy and no distinction was made. Most of the Greek scientists were not interested in techniques (Russo & Cove, 1995). The sciences began to emerge during the modern era. It emerged with the concept of experimentation. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) introduced the concept of experimentation and used it in his studies of acceleration. Chemistry began in France with Antoine Lavoisier's (1743-1794) discovery of the conservation of matter. While the classification of organisms started with Aristotle, modern biology started with the discovery of the existence of microbes by Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723). Auguste Comte articulated the modern concept of positivism around the 1830's. It held that the only reliable source of knowledge is that which is obtained by the direct observation of the material world. Through positivist scientific experiments, one can explain "how" gravity works but never "why" gravity exists. This model held dominant through the turn of the century; however, even as far back as 1859, science and philosophy by their own discoveries began shifting away from positivism and certainty.
The fledgling science of biology was the first to shift. The mechanistic metaphor of billiard balls and push pull mechanics was seriously challenged by a new model- evolution. Wallace (1858) and Darwin (1859) co-discovered evolution. The worldview formed by any thinking person in the Western World after 1859, when The Origin of the Species was published was quite different than any prior point in history (Mayr, 1991). When we speak of "cause" in the evolutionary sense, it is not the action reaction concept of early physics but selection by consequence over time (Dawkins, 1976; Donohoe, 1988; Mayr, 1991; Skinner, 1953, 1981). If a snap shot in time is taken it appears that effect precedes cause, for this reason this mode of causality was hard to identify because as Skinner (1981) pointed out, selection only occurs in living things and later by machines made by living things.
Initially this mode of causality troubled physicists (Mayr, 1991), who spent most of the early part of the twentieth century debating biologists over the plausibility of selection as a causal mode. One of the most highly publicized debates was over the age of the sun. Using combustion standards of the time, the sun was calculated to be only a few thousand years old. This was far short of the millions of years that Darwin was calling for in his theory. Eventually this changed with discoveries made in nuclear decay and combustion.
Difficulty with Darwin's ideas was not limited to the physicists: other biologists staunchly rejected Darwin. At the turn of the century evolution was considered dead. In fact, it was more then 75 years before Darwin was accepted in the biological community until the evolutionary synthesis of the 1930's (Baum, 1995; Bowler, 1983; Catania, 1978; Mayr, 1991). Most of this problem centered on the incompleteness of functional/contextual theories. Darwin lacked and still lacks an adequate conceptualization of the species. Second, no proximal causal mechanism was stated. In fact it was just after population genetics demonstrated a plausible account of how selection can be retained that Darwin received wide scale acceptance (Bowler, 1983; Catania, 1978, 1987; Donahoe, Burgos, & Palmer, 1994 p.18-27; Mayr, 1982).
Finally, Darwin had upset the modern view of man as being above beast. It had also completely wiped away the need to postulate a divine creator. This elimination of stature was not well received by the religious element. In the Catholic Church it was not until the Second Vatican Counsel (1975) that the idea of evolution was accepted and a contextual view of the creation story adopted. Some forms of Christianity still have not adopted the concept of evolution. One reason is that man is not considered the highest level of creature but one of many top branches. This has led some religions to sponsor teleological (i.e. Gods as final cause. Evolution is purposeful leading to more "advanced forms". Man as the top creature) accounts into evolutionary patterns. This exists despite the fact that Darwinian evolution has been shown to account for all data once thought of as teleological (Simpson, 1949; 1974; Monods, 1970). Finally, as Mayr (1991) points out, teleological explanations fail to explain things such as:
"(1) What is so wonderful about parasites that torture victims and leads to eventual death? (2) How could a "perfectly" designed plan lead to such widespread extinction, as documented by the fossil record? (3) If, as the teleologists claim, the harmony of the world is reflected by mutual adaptation of organisms to one another and to their environment, and if these adaptations must adjusted continuously to cope with the changes of the earth, and with the restructuring of the faunas owing to extinction, what final causes could there be to govern all these ad hoc changes?"
Physics was the next field to adjust. Findings suggested that Newtonian physics could not be applied to all physical phenomena. Initially this shocked the scientific community and adjustments were calculated for different contexts. These simple problems eventually lead to the stunning discoveries in quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Initially however, certain aspects of nature were no longer straight forward and calculable. Relativity emerged to argue that there are many frames of reference from which absolute motion or rest may be determined and that no one point of reference is inherently superior to any other.
In philosophy of science, Godel conceptualized mathematics (once thought of as the purest science) as a language. Like any language, math is coherent only within the system it seeks to describe. No system can stand outside itself and completely describe itself. Math can never exhaust the possibilities of its own language. Thus a system could either be complete or consistent. Thus began the emergence of the concept of scales of analysis, which culminated in Chaos theory (Gleick, 1988). Chaos theory, contrary to its name, demonstrates how deterministic systems (i.e. mathematical equations) can account for great diversity. One famous example is a demonstration that a butterfly flapping it wings in New York can produce a typhoon in Japan.
Aditionally, in the social study of science, critiques began to emerge undermining the notion of scientists proceeding in a rational, logical, objective way (e.g. Skinner, 1956). Kuhn (1962, 1970) developed his concept of the paradigm and with it swept away popular notions of absolute truth. Kuhn (1970) viewed science as a social activity with special rules of conduct. Science was viewed as clashing camps, where one view dominated over another: victor and vanquished. However, revolution is not the way science precedes. Laudan (1977) questioned Kuhn's ideas focusing on the problem solving nature of science. In Laudain's (1977) view theories are constructed to solve both empirical and conceptual problems. A theory is preferred over another when it solves more problems than the other. However, Laudan acknowledged that conceptual problems, such as, social, ethical, and theological problems are often stated by scientists as reasons switching from one orientation to another.
A more comprehensive view of how sciences progress was stated in the evolutionary model of Popper (1975). In this view science serves as adaptive behavioral learning. It adapts through two processes "instruction" and "selection" (Popper, 1975 p. 73). Scientific theories serve as "structures" that are transmitted by instruction through social tradition and imitation. If mutation occurs, than these new instructions arise from within the organism. These new structures are exposed to certain pressures, challenges, or problems. In response variation to traditional instructions are produced by methods that are "at least partly random" (p.73). Survivable instructions will be ones, which produce new depths to problems or solve and open up new problems.
Skinner (1945, 1956) turned the science of behavior analysis on itself. The rationale was that science could serve as the basis for its own epistemology. Skinner's analysis produced an awareness of the interlocking patterns between experimenter and experimental subjects. In describing his own investigations Skinner (1956) commented:
"The organism whose behavior is most extensively modified and most completely controlled in research ... is the experimenter himself (sic) ... The subjects we study reinforce us much more effectively than we reinforce them." (p.232)
This type of analysis at least on the surface appears compatible with Marxist and feminist philosophers. These philosophers criticized science as having a political agenda and technology as serving to maintain the status quo (see Harding, 1996; Kipnis, 1994; Woolgar, 1985; McCanny-Gergins, 1991) and under control of business and government funding (Kipnis, 1994; Ross, 1996). Even more to the point, social sciences demonstrated that even in the process of validating scientif ic knowledge there is a measure of arbitrary decision-making (Wittgenstein, 1953; Hanson, 1969; Rorty, 1979). The argument was clear- even what the scientist saw was shaped by the environment (Skinner, 1974 p. 256), or in Rorty's (1979) language dependent on what one "knows" about what they see. For Skinner (1945, 1953, 1974), science was the behavior of scientists subject to the same laws as any other human activity. Knower and knowledge became inseparable. The scientist does not observe the system "perched on the epicycle of Mercury" (Skinner, 1974 p. 256).
Thus, science should be a focus of study and ethnographers did in a manner that was objective and did not "go native" (Latour & Woolgar, 1986) but offering insight and critique. Or in speaking of ethnographic study of scientists, Latour and Woolgar (1986) described it as "Not only do scientists' statements create problems for historical elucidation; they also systematically conceal the nature of the activity which typically gives rise to their research reports. In other words, the facts that scientist often change the manner and content of their statements when talking to outsiders causes problems both for outsiders' reconstruction of scientific events and for an appreciation of how science is done. It is therefore necessary to retrieve some of the craft character of scientific activity through in situ observations of scientific practice." (p. 28-29)
While such ethnography will indeed help to better understand how scientists chase down particular problems for now the sciences remain divided into different worldviews. What emerged is the meta-philosophy of Pepper (1942). In 1942, Pepper described four distinct "clusters" around which theoretical systems are base. These clusters highlight a "root" metaphor and "truth criteria." These are Formism (e.g. Plato), Organicism (e.g Hegel, Piaget), Mechanism (e.g S-R learning theory; information processing theory; Freudian psychology), and Contextualism (e.g. Dawkins, Darwin, Harris, James, Skinner). Formistic theories highlight similarities and hold as a truth criteria correspondence. Organicismic theories highlight the developing organism over time in stages. Organicimic theories use the developing organism as the model for theory development. They view what occurs for the average organism in the average environment. The whole is seen as more then the sum of its parts and often teleology is accepted a priori. They view "truth" being constructed by the organism and changing with development. Mechanistic theories, holding to the logical positivist model, proceed by looking at the world as a big machine. It searches to provide complete accounts and tries to fill temporal gaps with proximal causes. Science is seen as successively approximating truth. Most of the questions in this type of theory are structurally based answering "how" questions (e.g. How does the brain store information?). It often holds to a hypodeductive model and postulates science as achieving successive approximations to truth. In contrast, contextual theories try to answer questions of "what" occurs "when" (Hineline, 1995) not of "how" even when presented with questions of how an attempt is made to answer the how question as a "what and "when" question over time. In contrast with the organismic theorists environmental links are sought not a focus on stages. Contextual theory holds to a view of a whole organism in context over time. These models utilize a pragmatic truth criterion: a theory's worth is measured by its ability to allow the scientist to successfully negotiate the world (Hayes & Hayes, 1992).
A contextual analysis of a scientific theory holds that no one type of theory is inherently better then another, but each has a set of problems that it can optimally solve (Hayes & Hayes, 1992). For example genetics has been a field that has been largely dominated by mechanistic models and has demonstrated remarkable success (Russo & Cove, 1995). Once one theory is used other questions will forever be unanswered (Lana, 1991). For example, Darwin's theory of evolution will never develop a definition of what constitutes a species. It will never answer how selection is retained. Skinner's theory of language will never answer a formal question of what is a sentence or how conditioning is retained. For both these theories a mechanistic account is needed to complete them (For Darwin that came in the form of genetics; for Skinner, who always believed it would be neurology, it will probably be connectionism from computer science). Both of the above ideas from a contextual perspective are unnecessary but from a mechanistic perspective are highly important (e.g. Chomsky, 1959). However, to answer questions like why do these finches have long beaks and those have short, or why is the child antisocial or what should a counselor do to help this client build intimate relationship, contextual theories will provide answers. (For the answers to these questions see Darwin, 1859; Snyder & Patterson, 1995; Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1994 respectively). Since as Skinner (1981) states the most consistent part of the context is dealing with other people, contextual analysis is where science and postmodern philosophy have merged.
Contextual theories use a pragmatic truth criterion. Skinner's (1974) theory postulated that a statement was "true" in as much as it helped the listener to effectively respond to the situation. Just because objective "truth" in the traditional sense is unknowable, does not mean that we cannot distinguish between two conflicting claims (Rorty, 1991). Science does this pragmatically by appeal to its goals. For Rorty (1991) these goals are prediction and control. For Skinner (1953, 1974) these goals were understanding, prediction and control. While understanding seemed to be less of a primary goal in later writings (Hackenberg, 1995), Skinner's initial concept of understanding goes beyond the engineering goals suggested by Rorty (1991) to more broad discovery oriented goals. Also understanding, defined as the number of problems a theory can address or reasonably interpret, may be a deciding factor in the flourishing or passing of a scientific approach (e.g. Lakatos & Mustgrave, 1970).
Under the pragmatic view of science, science is useful if it achieves its stated goals. Also for the information to be called scientific, exploration of the area must be conducted and formally critiqued. In this pragmatic view of science, no one study is enough to make claims plausible. This parallels feminist scholars who have argued that science presents a formal way of critiquing information and that through this critiquing process a more refined understanding of the subject matter occurs (McCanny-Gergin, 1988). An example of this would be if one uses a pre-post control study, then questions revolve around the comparability of the control, sample size and mortality. For this reason Gergen (1995) suggests that scientists try to keep their data as close to the original context as possible and limit their claims to their subject matter of study. For Skinner, the "canons of science" were ways of lessening "incidental effects" and reducing the probably that the scientist will "lie". Thus, the scientific method can reduce the probability of "lying" but in no way guarantees that "honesty" will occur. For Skinner competing contingencies were always present for any form of verbal behavior (Skinner, 1957). Indeed, this analysis leaves the scientist to be a privileged knower, for his or her contact with the subject matter, but it is not an unlimited privilege.
Shifting views of what science is and what we can "know," occurring in the first through midpoint of the 20th century, reached the masses in the 1970's about the same time as the supposed cognitive revolution in psychology. Literary scholars ranging from noble scientists to journalists documented for the lay public the breath and scope of the changes in science and the philosophies, which guided it. The shift in science can be seen as a move along the dialectic of essentialism versus selectionism, certainty and uncertainty, and a move from realism and relativism. As Chiesa (1992, 1994) pointed out, "Scientists and thinkers kept the public informed along the way with popular books such as About Behaviorism (Skinner, 1974); The Toa of Physics (Capra, 1975); The Selfish Gene (Dawkins, 1976); Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty (Kline, 1980); The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (Merchant, 1982); Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising of Culture (Capra, 1983); The Cosmic Blueprint (Davis, 1987); Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Dennett, 1995); A Brief History of Time (Hawkins, 1986); and Does God Play Dice (Stewart, 1989).
Each of the above philosophies naturalized their epistemology, developing a place for the scientist within the nature of his or her system, not an objective observer outside the system. Science had become the attempt to build the life raft while on the sea. Bound by the world in which the scientist functioned the scientist was infused with a learning history, which clouded and shaped his/her perception and understanding, while still trying to find the stable pockets of regular occurrence with the world that surrounded him or her. Thus, Moscovici's (1987) concept of "virtual worlds", contrary to Moscovici's own beliefs, has made it into most areas of science and had done so before it ever arrived as fashionable in philosophy. Also, Derrida's (1978) criticism that western science "assumes" that it can attain essential knowledgeuniversal truth- that is not situated within a set of culturally bound language practices is unsubstantiated. Through it all, science not only succeeded in surviving, but also developed more accurate models to support its goals of prediction and control (Rorty, 1991).
Skinner's Radical Behaviorism vs. Mechanistic Theory
About the same time as Logical Positivism was formally being laid to rest by physics (This formally occurred at the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics in 1927), it was being hailed by psychologists and linguists trying to establish credibility for their field. Many schools of "science" formed in the new discipline of psychology; one of them was Behaviorism. Behaviorism, far from the monolithic model that academic folklore would believe had many divisions (Todd & Morris, 1992; Ruiz, 1995). The first step in understanding the comparability between Skinner and the postmodern is to disentangle the multiple meanings that obscure the boundaries of individual models subsumed under the generic heading (Ruiz, 1995).
In psychology, the classic example of positivism is Hull's hypo-deductive model. In this model of science theories are generated, then one logically reasons out hypotheses to test and tests the hypotheses. Thus theories would meet like gladiator's doing battle on a field with one as victor, the other vanquished. Except that logical reasoning can be flawed and hypotheses considered not relevant to the theory. This remains the standard of scientific research in applied psychology and has many problems (as discussed in the preceding section).
Hull's model, the drive reduction model, represented a mechanistic (Mechanistic models are based in machine push/pull systems) account of reinforcement theory. In Hull's model, Habit Strength was considered the product of drive multiplied by learning. Hull later added several other terms to correct for observations in the lab. Skinner was critical of Hull's model (Skinner, 1944). It is here that Skinner began to move away from mechanistic accounts to relational accounts (Chiesa,, 1992; Moxley, 1992). Earlier, while still an S-R psychologist, Skinner (1935) redefined the reflex from a connection to a "systematic relationship between classes of stimuli and classes of responses." Skinner (1945) was very critical of the "truth" by agreement model adopted by other behaviorists of the time. This model often insisted that scientific knowledge must somehow be essentially public in nature. Skinner's (1988) view on science was best stated in a reply to Dodwell "So far as I am concerned, science does not establish truth or falsity; it seeks the most effective way of dealing with the subject matter." (p. 241). It is this epistemological stance that most clearly aligns radical behaviorism with the pragmatic philosophy of William James (Baum, 1994; Day, 1992; Morris, 1993). For James, all knowledge is functional in nature, and our capacities for knowledge are driven by our practical needs to adapt to our environments. For Skinner, knowledge is action, and "knowing" refers to behavioral relations in the context that facilitate adaptation (Ruiz, 1995). This clearly outlines a role for knowing as behavior and for other private events.
Indeed, private behaviors became a central tenet that needed explanation in Skinner's system; however, Skinner stayed away from giving private events causal status (mentalist) instead suggesting that private events would need further explanation as to why they occurred. In Skinner (1945) went on to clarify the difference between private (which needs to be accounted for) and mental (which science had no use for).
"There is of course, no question of whether responses to private stimuli are possible. They occur commonly enough and must be accounted for. But why do they occur, and what, if any are their distinguishing characteristics?" (p.273)
Skinner (1974) would echo his earlier comments:
"A science of behavior must consider the place of private stimuli as physical things, and in doing so it provides an alternative account of mental life. [The question he raises then is] What is inside the skin and how do we know it? [He goes on to say] The answer I believe is at the heart of Radical Behaviorism." (Pp.211-212).
The careful clarification of what Skinner is getting at in such statements as these requires a more detailed analysis. It removes the concept of correspondence as the basis of meaning (Moxley, 2003) and it dismisses the objective/subjective distinction but leaves the question of "privacy." The issues are quite complex (Day, 1969b). It often revolves around thinking as a pattern of activity (which Skinner would agree with) or thought as a construct (cognitive psychology) (Skinner, 1945). By 1953, Skinner was drawing parallels between his behaviorism and evolutionary theory. One of Skinner's first written statements in Science and Human Behavior is below:
"We have seen that in certain respects operant reinforcement resembles the natural selection of evolutionary theory. Just as genetic characteristics which arise as mutations are selected or discarded by their consequences, so novel forms of behavior are selected or discarded through reinforcement" (p.430)
Psychology had a very difficult time trying to interpret this different worldview as Skinner moved away from the rate of behavior as important and to the rate of reinforcement (environmental payoff) linked to the rate of behavior as central. However, mechanism versus selections would have its greatest clash, when Skinner tried to use his theory to explain verbal behavior.
Mechanism and Language
"If one was to select from the substantial corpus of postmodern writings a single line of argument that (a) generates broad agreement within these ranks and (b) serves as a critical divide between what we roughly distinguish between modern versus the postmodern, it would be the abandonment of the traditional commitment to representationalism. By representationalism I mean here the assumption that their is (or can be) a determinant (fixed or intrinsic) relationship between words and the world." (Gergen, 1994; p. 412).
In the field of linguistics most of the contemporary research is associated with Noam Chomsky. Chomsky continued and expanded a line of research known as transformational grammar. Chomsky plays an interesting point in the movement from modernism to postmodernism first for his review of Skinner's (1957) Verbal Behavior (Chomsky, 1959) and second for the range of his own research program. We will briefly explore the research program now and answer some of Chomsky's (1959) criticisms of Skinner later. What is Chomsky's view of transformational grammar?
Chomsky attempts to isolate crucial variables "essential to language" (Chomsky, 1980). He holds language as an abstract system, which cannot be learned through traditional learning principles. Chomsky posited three different models over the years. The first appeared in Syntactic Structures, which contained three essential components: the rewriting rules, the transformational rules, and the morphological rules. In 1965, he published a significantly different model in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. The base components of the model are (1) rewriting, rules, which as before, indicated the structure of sequences of words; and the lexicon, to which are essential features of syntactic, semantic, and phonological properties of the lexical items. The idea that emerges from this is the base grammar or deep structure. The transformational component changes this initial structure into other (surface) structures. The final model is laid out in the Minimalist Program. We will limit our comments to Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.
Chomsky argues the human nervous system contains a structure called a Language Acquisition Device (LAD), which includes an "innate" concept of human language (Chomsky, 1968). Chomsky's theory (GB- government binding Theory) is multi-layered. (1) It hypothesizes much of the structures of human language are "inborn." In this model, babies only have to learn the vocabulary and structural "patterns" of the native language- they do not learn language from scratch. While Chomsky's approach no longer dominates linguistics, it still has strong influence over other work and the last principle dominates even over Pinker's (1984) work. Often linguists support this theory with two assertions (a) babies appear to talk remarkably well from despite inadequate exposure to language 1(b) the structure of language on different levels can be lost by injury. (2) The hypothesis that adequate description of grammar requires that each sentence has at least two different structures, called deep structures and surface structures, together with rules called transformations. (3) For deep structures to emerge a specific LAD would have evolved, but it did not evolve from any methods of known Darwianian evolotion because it emerged as a whole without incremental addition.
Chomsky (1986) further postulates the independence of grammars from the rest of cognition. In arguing for a Universal Grammar, Chomsky stated "...there is little hope in accounting for our knowledge in terms of such ideas as analogy, induction, association, reliable procedures, good reasons, and justification...or in terms of 'generalized learning mechanisms'...We should, so it appears, think of knowledge of language as a certain state of the mind/brain...as a state of some distinguishable faculty of the mind- the language faulty- with specific properties, structures, and organization, one 'module' of mind" (p. 12)
This universal mechanism of grammar is expressed by Chomsky (1986) as a set of distinguishable "principles and parameters" (pp. 145-273). This universal mechanism utilizes a "small number of general principles that must suffice to derive the consequences of elaborate and language -specific rule systems" (Chomsky, 1986, p. 145). The major elements are a "binding theory, a thata theory, a case theory" (p. 145). These elements are genetically transmitted and constitute "... a fixed initial state S0 of thelanguage faculty consisting of a system of principles associated with certain parameters of variation and a markedness system with several components of its own...the state SL [a particular language] is attained by setting parameters of S0 in one of the permissible ways, yielding the core, and adding a periphery of marked exceptions on the basis of specific experience, in accordance with the markedness principle of S0" (p. 221)
The first counter statements came from Piaget's (1970)
"... Chomsky has reversed the position of the logical positivists on the question of the relationship between logic and language. According to Chomsky, logic is not derived from language, but language is based on a kernel of reason. Transformational grammars, in whose development Chomsky played a leading role, seem to me to be of great interest and to show clear similarities to the operation of intelligence that have been discussed. Chomsky goes so far as to say that the kernel of reason on which the grammar of language is constructed is innate. I think that this hypothesis is unnecessary, to say the least. In point of fact, it is very striking that language does not appear in children until the sensory-motor intelligence is more or less achieved. I agree that the structures that are available to a child at age of fourteen or sixteen months are the intellectual basis upon which language can develop, but I deny that these structures are innate. I think that we been able to see that they are the result of development ..." (p. 47)
With the gauntlet down, data derived from hundreds of studies of human intelligence demonstrated that scores obtained on standard intelligence tests are closely correlated with the size of the individual's vocabulary (Sternberg, 1985). In addition it was argued that language was absent in many severely retarded people (Wills, 1973). Gopnick and Meltzoff (1985) analyzing there data found that semantic and cognitive development are linked Finally, Bates (1976) demonstrated that social interactions and cognitive development are clearly linked. Many argued that children acquired
many aspects of culture in a rapid fashion, not just language. In these cases social interactions were seen as clearly related to the development.
In another vain, the model of deep structures was soon challenged, because of the exclusive link it postulated between semantic and deep structures. Chomsky described the linguistic problems in Language and Responsibility (1977) "Contrary to what the Standard Theory of Aspects proposed, it seemed highly probable that surface structure plays a primary role in semantic interpretation. " (p. 163). Others took a different path with the data, as Chomsky describes "But at the same time the Standard Theory was modified to accommodate the role of surface structures, others too a contrary path, relying on a different intuition: they drew the connection between semantic representation and deep structure more closely, to the point where the two became identical. That is of course generative semantics. So described, the basic position is incorrect, because the hypothesis shared with the Standard Theory is false, as I've just pointed out." (p. 152). Lakoff (1987) described nine reasons for the programs demise including "...there is a clear division between the grammar and the lexicon, with grammar providing meaningful words to plug into grammatical structures...a clear division is problematic, and there is more likely a continuum between the grammar and the lexicon." (p. 465)
Enthusiastic investigation of psycholinguists from the sixties to present has failed to demonstrate the "psychological reality" of deep structures and grammatical transformations (Richelle, 1995). By the 1970's many former Chomskians were concluding that children do not operate with the formal apparatus of Transformational Grammar (Brown, 1973; Bowerman, 1973; Braine 1976). Palmer (1986) sums it up:
"Chomsky has been able to formulate precisely his theoretical ideas because they have remained abstract, but useful theories cannot remain abstract forever. If there is no way to use them to predict, control, or describe actual events, then they are empty. (p.56)"
In short, transformational grammar has problems because the theory is abstracted away from its use in meaningful communicative context. Detailed criticisms have argued against the notion that a child's syntactic and semantics resemble adults as positied by Chomsky (1980, 1986) (see Braine, 1976; Bruner, 1979; Bowerman, 1973; Edwards, 1978; Howe, 1976; Salzinger, 1975, 1979). These authors argue that no evidence exists supporting the notion that children operate with adult like categories or rules in formulating early sentences and thus these should not be posited. Bruner (1979) wrote a necrology for the innate language acquisition device.
In Rules and Representation, Chomsky (1980) tries to determine "parts of an innate endowment that defines the human essence." To insolate againstwhat children actually do, he creates the distinction between competence and performance (Chomsky, 1972). Also, Chomsky quickly retreats into the world of the idealized speaker and listener (Lakoff, 1987). For Chomsky (1986) the relationship between words and the world is intrinsic, fixed, and determined (This is the antithesis of the postmodern approach outlined by Gergen, 1994, 1995). Language as an individual process emerges. It is seen as neither incremental nor adaptive. This view is a dramatic departure from current theories of evolution (for excellent critique of this proposition see Dennett, 1995 or Donohoe & Palmer, 1992 or Palmer, 1986). Also unlike fix action patterns, the relationship between environmental input that triggers grammatical output is arbitrary (Palmer, 1986). Palmer (1986) further goes on to state:
"Languages vary from culture to culture and within a language there is no relationship between the sound of the utterance and its grammatical structure. Clearly there is no physical property of the stimulus that suffices to identify its part of speech. Nothing about the word 'house' enables us to conclude that it is a noun, or that it might be a 'subject (pp.54-55)"
Finally, Chomsky's (1995) book Minimalist Program represents a significant departure from GB and Chomsky appears to be taking a position closer to current trends in cognitive psychology. An alternative to Chomsky's fixed and ideal account is Skinner's selectionist account.
The Behavior Analytic Theory and Parallel's to Other Theories
"... the traditional concepts of reward and punishment are about as close to operant conditioning as traditional concepts of heat, space, or matter are to contemporary scientific treatments." Skinner, 1968, p.709.
Skinner defines behavior as anything that an organism does such as thinking, feeling or acting (Skinner, 1945, 1953). For Skinner(1984) all behavior is: "the joint product of (i) contingencies of survival for natural selection and (ii) contingencies of reinforcement responsible for the repertoires of individuals, including (iii) the special contingencies maintained by an evolved social environment."
Thus, in Skinner's view, behavior is the interaction of biology and the environment over time. At the second level, operant conditioning was explained on the basis of variation and natural selection by consequences a process that Skinner terms reinforcement (Skinner, 1953, 1963, 1966, 1975, 1981, 1984; Tyron, 1993; 1995). For Skinner (1953, 1974), reinforcement is anything that completes the function from mastery to control, from tangibles to sensory enjoyment to social praise. Reinforcement is considered the ultimate shaper and maintainer of behavior. Also for Skinner (1981), operant conditioning supplemented natural selection not eliminated it. As Richelle (1995) pointed out, this is very close to Piaget's position (except Piaget was looking from the endogenous perspective):
"The environment plays a fundamental role at all levels (that is in biological evolution of species as well as in cognitive development), but as object of conquest, and not as shaping causation, which is to be looked for, again at all levels, in endogenous activities of the organism and of the subject, both of which would remain conservative and unable to innovate ... in the absence of the many problems raised by the environment or the external world, but which can react to them by trials and explorations of all sorts, from the elementary level of mutations to the higher level of scientific theory." (Piaget, 1970 cf. Richelle, 1995).
At the level of the individual Skinner's analysis of behavior in some respects parallels Marx's (1859/1970). For Marx's:
"The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual process of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness" (p.21)
In attempting to eliminate the circularity of explanation that plagued most theories, Skinner's view also mirrors a basic point adopted in Vygotsky's theory:
"... the distinction between the subject of study and the explanatory principle is probably the most important epistemological contribution made by Vygotsky in his early psychological papers. The implicit conclusion is that if consciousness is to become a subject of psychological study, some other layer of reality should be referred to in the course of the explanation ... Socially meaningful activity, then, may serve as such a layer and an explanatory schema" (Kozulin, 1990, pp. 83-84)
According to Lana (1995), Skinner's model is an axiomatic system, which is consistent in the Godelian sense and uses a noncentral concept, the behavioral repertoire to account for genetic and previous behavior environment relations to achieve completeness. This model takes place in a dynamic and fluid world (Lana, 1991). Skinner's unit of behavioral class is defined as the operant because it operates on the environment (Catania, 1978; Hayes, 1995; Skinner, 1953). As Hineline (1992) highlights, an operant can be operative at many scales of analysis. For example, it could be as simple as a muscle twitch or as complex as reciting a poem or the generation of truly random numbers (i.e. Neuringer, 1986) or "creativity" and novelty (Winston & Baker, 1985). This parallels demonstrations in the physical sciences (Hineline, 1992), where multiple scales of time and space are easily demonstrated for tightly deterministic systems and lead to great diversity (Gleick, 1987). For example, when computes analog calculations are given for simple mathematic fractal equations complex images can be created, often called Mandelbrot sets. Mandelbrot sets have an infinite number of sides. Drawing on this conceptualization of the operant, Skinner (1957) detailed his functional analysis of verbal behavior.
Defining Verbal Behavior's Units of Analysis
"Meaning for Skinner, is not a property of words or propositions. It is not even a property of behavior but 'of the conditions under which behavior occurs.' 'Technically,' Skinner writes, 'meanings are not to be found among the independent variables in a functional account, rather than as properties of the dependent variables.'" (Andresen, 1992 p. 10)
Each operant consists of a verbal or nonverbal antecedent condition, the operant behavior, a verbal or nonverbal consequence, and a motivational or setting factor (a term used to describe a history of reinforcement, deprivation, or punishment). This is the basis for Skinner's functional analysis of verbal behavior. One can immediately see parallels to gestaltist Jerome Bruner (1993):
"... children's acquisition of language requires far more assistance from interaction with care givers than Chomsky (and many others) had suspected. Language is acquired not in role of spectator but through use. Being 'exposed' to a flow of language is not nearly so important as using it in the midst of 'doing'. Learning language, to barrow from John Austin's celebrated phrase, is learning 'how to do things with words.' The child is not learning simply what to say but how, where, to whom, and under what circumstances. It is certainly a legitimate occupation for linguistics to examine only the phrase rules that characterize what a child says from week to week, but in no sense can this provide an account of conditions upon which language acquisition depends." (p.70-71).
As is commonly the problem with contextual theories, classification of events is often arbitrary with fuzzy boundaries separating classes. For example where verbal behavior begins from social behavior is a fuzzy boundary.
The Context of Verbal Behavior
Verbal behavior is relationally defined as "behavior reinforced through the mediation of others." For the postmodern movement the "representational view of language is replaced by a relational one." (Gerge n, 1994, p.414). This means that verbal behavior is inherently a social process maintained by "the verbal community" for Skinner (1957) or in Moscovici (1988) words the subgroup. This dynamic view also avoids the inherent dualism that definitions of "codes" seem to imply (Andresen, 1992). Skinner's view of the verbal community is similar to modern sociolinguistic concepts like Gumperz (1968) concept of the speech community. Both identified three key concepts of a speech community: (1) people who meet regularly (2) who have a shared mode of communication (3) and a shared mode of interpretation. The earliest speech community can be considered the family. Also, Skinner's concept of audience is similar to Bell (1984, 1991) views (see Guerin, 1997).
Here again we see parallels to Piaget's constructivism, but again the focus is reversed. According to Singer and Revenson (1979) for Piaget children's speech begins as egocentric (done for the enjoyment of the new experience) and later becomes socialized. In a Skinnerian sense this means that the primary reinforcement for early speech is sensory automatic and comes primarily under the control of the contingencies provided in a social interaction. Skinner's (1957) analysis attempts to explain Verbal Behavior by analyzing the antecedents and consequences over time, which select for particular classes of behavior. Skinners approach clearly parallel's Wittgenstein (1969) who in discussing language games stated that all children are "trained" into language "games". He further went on to say:
"I am using the word 'trained' in a way strictly analogous to that in which we talk of an animal being trained to do certain things" (p.77)
If behavior is within the repertoire then in Skinner's model, as with Darwin's model, one assumes generativity to be the norm and the environment (context) to place constraints on the selection and maintenance of behavior. In the simplest case let's look at opening a door (a nonverbal example). Each time that the door is open subtle variation may occur in the pressure applied, the place of each finger, and the positioning of the body. The only thing that identifies this class of behaviors is the function of the door opening.
An example of verbal selection is as follows. You are out playing baseball with some friends. The ball is hit to you and you say to yourself: "If I keep my eye on the ball, I'll catch it." Notice how this phrase does not "control" your behavior. You can for example say the phrase and not perform the action of looking at the ball. At some point if you say the phrase and yet you continue to miss the ball, you will eventually stop saying the phrase. Finally, if you say the phrase, commit the action (looking), and catch the ball (reinforcing looking), first the probability that you will say the phrase the next time the ball is hit to you will increase and the action itself will also increase. Eventually, the rule will no longer need to be stated, your eyes will focus on the ball once it is hit and the verbal behavior will extinguish. At this point the looking will be directly under control of environmental contingencies. It is important to note that this is a simple example for illustrative purposes. For Skinner verbal behavior was considered under multiple influences (Skinner, 1957).
One of Chomsky's (1959) critiques of Skinner (1957) was the poverty of the stimulus argument. In other words, children did not have enough opportunities to acquire language. While single trial learning is within Skinner system (Skinner, 1938), evidence exists to suggest that the frequency of presentation and the number of interaction of parent and children around new words is important to verbal acquisition (Meork, 1983, 1988; Hart & Ris ley, 1996). In addition, feedback and correction seems to play a role. In a reanalyzation of Brown's data, Moerk (1983) discovered that mothers correct and expand infant's grammatical statements approximately 50times/hour. Also Moerk (1983) discovered that children might experience every major sentence type about 100,000 times/month. Moerk (1992) argued strongly to place language learning within a skill-learning paradigm. Moerk (1992) "Eve's performance in production of past tense required more than positive feedback. In sample 9, hour 1, utterance number 3590, the missing article was supplied. In sample 10, hour 1, utterance numbers 144-145, the requirement for past-tense form was emphasized twice. In sample 12, hour 1, utterance number 36, the truth value of Eve's utterance was corrected, and in sample 12, hour 1 utterance number 91, the need for past-tense form was again emphasized." (p. 83). In addition, he goes on to state "Quantitative data may explain why corrections have been overlooked and denied in past data. Adults provided only a total of 75 corrections on Eve's failed attempts at producing the past-tense morphemes during the 16 sample hours, or approximately 5 corrections per hour. The probability of corrective responses to filial mistakes was, however, very high ad approached 100% when adults attended to the child's utterances. If the information value of confirming responses to correct trials is considered, the feedback is high ly consistent to Eve's attempts at using past tense." (p.83)
Currently, a debate exists among operant researchers as to if parents directly reinforce infant vocalization rates and shape imitation of first sounds and words (Fry, 1966) or if parent directly reinforce only some vocalizations of the infant and similarity between parents speech and infants speech becomes a conditioned reinforcer, automatically shaping closer approximations to parental speech (Mower, 1960; Risley, 1977). Both of these have proven productive lines of research.
Soon, single words combine, and by the age of three we see the emergence of the copula sentence. Chomsky (1959) seemed to be interested in the how's (what in the brain causes it) of recombination but behaviorists were interested in how to predict and control it (Warren, 1988). As Warren (1988) points out many training situations are useful in promoting generalization of words into new sentences, especially since it often does not occur. Still he remains skeptical that all possibilities have been exhausted. Predicting and controlling generalization has been a productive line of research for behaviorists in language studies (Guess, 1969; Guess, & Baer, 1973; Frisch & Schumaker, 1974;Goldstein & Mousetis, 1989). More will be said on this later under the section of "Development and Verbal Behavior."
Sentences in Skinner's system begin with the recombining of words from autoclitic frames or in the case of phonetic parts, partial frames (see Whetherby, 1978). This recombination leads to some grammatical errors, which parents correct through feedback (Moerk, 1992).
Skinner's major contribution to the study of Verbal Behavior was his recognition of the philosopher Ryle's (1949) distinction between "knowing that" and "knowing how". In Skinnerian terms, the difference between contingency shaped and rule- governed behavior. A rough distinction between the two would be learning by contact with the environment and learning by what you have been told about the environment (Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1994). As Skinner (1957, 1966a, 1974) noted many times, contingency shaped and rule-governed behavior may look alike but might have subtle differences. For example Joe has taken a job. His supervisor tells him that she does not like the place because of all of the inaccurate stories that circulate about people. She warns him not to talk to others at work too much. Joe agrees and does not talk to the others at work. Their behavior of not talking to others may look similar but Joe's supervisor may have a feeling of "correctness" that Joe's lacks. This would be because her behavior was contingency shaped by the environment itself, while Joe's is a product of the collateral contingencies (Cerutti, 1991) formed in his interaction with his supervisor.
Rule Governed Behavior and Fitness
In Skinner's account language is both incremental and adaptive (Baum, 1995). Rule- governed behavior is adaptive because it opens the speaker to short termed social contingencies which may lead to an insensitivity to immediate gains from the environment and help the listener move on to long term contingencies (Baum, 1994). It allows one person to greatly increase the aid that they render to another (Skinner, 1981). In Skinner's account one must look at rule giving and rule following. For Skinner (1957, 1966a, 1974) rule giving, like any other operant, is defined by its functions not structure. So what would reinforce rule giving?
PRAGMATISM AND RULE GOVERNED BEHAVIOR
Quine (1953, 1960) posed two serious challenges to any approach to linguistic analysis of discourse. The first was that some rules are true or false based entirely on what they mean and not on any additional contribution from the extralinguistic world. The second is that there is no such thing as meaning or that rules cannot appeal to meaning to achieve their status. Skinner's (1969) concept of rule governed behavior would meet both of these conditions. That is (1) rules can come under direct control of the environment as in the case of a rule that is a tact- for example some self generated rules talking ones self through an event and (2) no appeal needs to be made to meaning of the sentence because rule governed behavior occurs because of a history of conditioning.
Development and Verbal Behavior
"Developmental studies themselves have for the most part appeared to the social study of science, including its feminist components, to lie far off in the conceptual and political distance. They appear as a completely separate discourse, with few obvious points of contact to histories, sociologies, ethnographies, and philosophies of modern science that have been centered in science studies.... the notion of science central to many developmental accounts are largely the older, purportedly value-free, "mirror of nature" ones, not the social and cultural ones developed by the social studies of science" Harding, 1996 p.20-21.
Before we can answer the question posed at the end of last section and produce a developmental science that responds to Harding's above well founded critique, three additional pieces of information are needed from Skinner's (1957) account of verbal behavior: These are tacts, mands, and intraverbals. A tact is defined as a primary form of verbal behavior (a) whose form is controlled by an antecedent primarily nonverbal stimulus (b) whose reinforcement is contingent on a "conventional correspondence" between that stimulus and the verbal response. An example of this would be a child pointing to a dog and saying "doggie" and the mothers responding with a smile or "get the doggie".
A mand is a verbal operant whose primary control is a setting factor (things like motivational operations such as deprivation or aversive or pleasurable stimulation) and are reinforced by the behavior of the listener or specify both the behavior of the listener and the reinforcement. An example would be "Speak-up so I can hear you?" with the person speaking up and "Roll mommy the ball" with the listener complying.
Interverbal responses are occasioned by a verbal stimulus, where the relation between stimulus and response is an arbitrary one established by the verbal community. For intraverbal behavior there is no point to point correspondence between antecedent stimuli and response. Thus, interverbals are under antecedents that are other words. Some historical misrepresentations have occurred here because Skinner often referred to this process as chaining. However, for Skinner the constraints on skipping steps in the chaining process were always considered environmental constraints. Since the antecedent stimuli can come from the speaker or others and may be either vocal or written four possible combinations occur: (1) An antecedent vocal stimulus may produce an auditory response as in narrative conversation. For example, the speaker says to his friend "Awesome game" and the listener responds "Yeah, totally cool." (2) A vocal stimulus that elicits a nonvocal response. For example a lost child asked: "What is your name?" and may point to a name tag (3) A written antecedent stimulus may result in a vocal response. A flash card is displayed that reads "5 x 6 =", a child answers "30" (4) A written antecedent stimulus may produce a written response of a different form, as in making notes on the essential topics in this paper. Intraverbals behavior was troublesome for traditional semantic theory (Skinner, 1957 p.128). The only consequences that can reinforce intraverbals is verbal behavior on the part of other people (Geurin, 1992, 1994). In some respects intraverbal behavior is similar to Foucult's concept of discourse (Andresen, 1991). Thus, as amply stated by feminists such as Condor (1988) social situations have influence over what is thought and felt. The consequences are not likely to be obvious, however, as they will be intermit tent and mediated by several other people.
Skinner's conceptualization was later linked to production through Ullman's concept of the promotive (Ulman, 1985). The promotive is a tact that is under multiple control and/or a mand that commands for productive behavior (Ulman, 1985).
When presented with novel environments, tacts, mands, intraverbals and promotives recombine in ways that show higher levels of complexity. Behaviorists have posited training phenomena such as stimulus pairing (Stemmer, 1973, 1980, 1989), recombinative generalization (Esper, 1973, Whetherby, 1978), contingency co-adduction (Johnson & Layng, 1992), stimulus equivance (Sidman, 1986) and relational frames (Hayes, 1991, 1994). As with current genetic theories, which are trying to determine patterns of differential use of genes in development (Russo & Cove, 1988), behavior analysts are trying to piece out what leads to differential use of language (Johnston & Layng, 1992; Hart & Risley, 1996; Hayes, 1991, 1994). However, a growing amount of evidence is suggesting that the context in which verbal behavior is acquired is crucial to the child's intellectual development (Hart & Ris ley, 1996) and the frequency with which the child uses a word are critical to building fluency and flexibility (Johnson & Layng, 1992). Steven Hayes (1991b, 1994), drawing on the equivalence research of Murray Sidman1 (1986) proposed that what is selected in emerging equivalence classes are relations between stimuli and not individual cases or simple generalization. Tonneau (2001) took issue with the idea of emergent equivalent classes being the basis of language and presented a strong challenge. An alternative view of generalization could be provided by the work of Esper (1973) work on analogy learning, which was used by Whetherby (1978) to severe as the basis for the development of Skinner's autoclitic frames. Esper (1973) proposed through analogy children and adults learn responds to untrained shapes. As Whetherby (1978) pointed out this research could lead to insights into Skinner's (1957) autoclitic frames. This position has received some research support. For example in the area of tense (goed for gone), it appears that three successive stages occur before tense form of verbs is acquired (1) the acquisition of individual past tense form of verbs; (2) the acquisition of a past tense rule with the wrong generalization and (3) the final adult version (King, 1969). Still another method proposed by Quine (1974) attributes the generalization to the exposure of certain pairing events. This work serves as the basis for research by Stemmer (1973, 1980, 1989) in both humans and nonhumans. Continued work in these area should produce a developmental psychology well based in the "the social and cultural" (Harding, 1996 p.21)
Language and Feelings
Verbal behavior around private events such as "feelings" depends on the public practice of the verbal community (Day, 1969b; Skinner, 1957). It is obvious that what is "felt" when we speak of feelings is the body; however, problems can occur with tacting especially with private events like feelings where the verbal community does not have access to the phenomena. (Day, 1969b; Kohlenberg & Tsai, 1994; Skinner, 1957) For example, a child may say "I hate you!" to its mother and she may reply "No you don't!" If this occurs for many emotions, the child may have difficulty later on discriminating how s/he feels. Bruner (1995) had similar cautions when he stated "The acquisition of language is very context sensitive, by which is meant that it progresses far better when the child already grasps in some prelinguistic way the significance of what is being talked about in the situation in which the talking is occurring." (p.71)
Another problem in the analysis of private events is that they may be determined not by the event but by the situation in which they occur (Bem, 1967). For example, if you notice yourself binge eating and say "I must be hungry," this discriminating of one's own behavior is not a report of a private state but rather what one would state if one observed another in the same situation. This could evolve as a common process from repeated questioning when young of "Why did you do X?" Generated accounts (self discriminations) may be plausible but not accurate. It can be concluded that just as we judge others based on discriminations of their behavior, we also judge ourselves the same way.
Rule making is operant behavior. It depends on a history of reinforcement for verbal behavior under the control of regularities in behavior or environment (Baum, 1994, 1995). For example "Don't wake Joe up to ask him questions; he's a grouch," a rule in the present sense, occurred for the first time after several waking-up encounters with Joe, but the first time it occurs, it depends on a history of reinforcement for such generalizations. According to Skinner (1957, 1969) this history may go back to the child's early training in naming objects, then naming events, then talking about simple relations, and so on.
Rule following depends on the listener's history (Skinner, 1957). Certain developmental histories make rule following less probable (Snyder & Patterson, 1995). For example, the story of the boy who cried wolf illustrates from a selection perspective of how rule following can be lost. If lack of rule following occurs regularly as an overall deficit in development the results can be disastrous (Barkley, 1985). This is completely in line with Gerge n (1994) observation:
"... whatever is the case makes no requirements on our descriptions or theories, and our modes of writing and talking have no necessary consequences for action." (p412).
Skinner's (1957) original account did not focus specifically on the behavior of the listener. In the radical behavioral tradition this account was provided by Robert Zettle and Steven Hayes. They further elaborated the listeners behavior by including the concepts of pliance and tracking. Pliance simply means reaction to a mand as a mand. Tracking means reacting to a tact as a tact (Zettle & Hayes, 1982). Both control and counter control serve as pliance (For example, if I say "give me the bowl" and you say "No," this serves as an example of pliance). Problems occur in relationships when a person reacts to a mand as if it were tact. For example, Beth states "I am cold" as a mand and Joe does not get up and turn off the air conditioner but states" So you are feeling cold". Beth may respond with anger. Eventually, rule governed behavior comes under the control of long term contingencies (Baum, 1995). In short, Verbal Behavior provides an avenue for temporal extension. Listeners can respond indirectly to events in the future. For example, a speaker may suggest to a listener that "it's going to rain" and the listener may take a raincoat. Some may think that this functional view of Verbal Behavior parallels Vygotsky's (1978) view of language as a tool. We would expect to find great overlap between Skinner and Vygostsky because they were both initially trained as Pavlovians. Both assumed that language was learned through interactions with more capable members of the child's environment. Both the operant and the tool are externally oriented and leading to changes in the external world. Skinner's (1938) concept of shaping and Vygotsky's (1978) zones of proximal development suggest learning is gradual with more complex steps of an activity coming later. Both emphasized the importance of continued use, Skinner's concept of over learning (Johnston& Layng, 1992) and Vygotsky's (1978) concept of mastery. Both the operant and the tool are very broadly defined to encompass many phenomena. Both viewed the organism as "changed" by experience (for Vygotsky it was modifying the stimulus situation as part of the process of responding to it). However, in Vygotsky's model, the role of language as medational was a given assumption. For Skinner, language may or may not mediate. Also, for there appears to be a conscious level of adoption of tools implied in Vygotsky's work. This would imply a "knowing that" component that Skinner would not assume. An example of a non-aware use of language would be in the case of what is commonly referred to as a Freudian slip. A further point of agreement between Skinner and Vygosky (1978) is that for Vygotsky thinking is fundamentally a social enterprise and for Skinner thinking is a bi-product of contact with a verbal community. Finally, Vygotsky makes a distinction between internally and externally oriented tools; to Skinner these would be just different levels of the same application.
Rules In Relationships
In rule--governed behavior, consequences are at least partially determined by the extent to which the behavior matches the rule, not by natural consequences related to the rule. (Skinner, 1966a; Christensen, Jabcobson, & Babcock, 1995). For example, people learning to drive may talk themselves through driving step by step. In contrast, behavior under long termed contingencies or contingency shaped is determined not by the match of the behavior to the rule, but by the natural consequences that accrue from that behavior. Christensen and colleagues (1995) use the following example:
"... those who learn to play the piano 'by ear' do not follow the rule of music notes but are shaped from the sounds of the keys they press."
As discussed before rule governed behavior and contingency shaped behavior differ in subtle ways (Skinner, 1957, 1966a; Kohlenberge & Tsai, 1994; Christensen et al., 1995; Jacobson & Christensen, 1996). Privately, contingency shaped behavior may "feel right" or "more genuine." (Skinner, 1966a). Publicly, contingency shaped behavior may look more "authentic", than rule governed behavior. An example would be a wife having with husband sex out of desire or having sex out of a sense of duty. The behavior topographically may look similar but the wife with "desire" may feel more passion than the dutiful wife. Also, unless the woman is skillful in deception her overt behavior may betray any of the following: her decision to have sex, her lack of desire, and/or feelings of being coerced. The sexual act may seem routine, like doing a job rather than expressing desire.
Another example may occur when a woman tacts "I'm sad" and her lover's history hears responds as a mand (such as 'make me happy'). The lover may, in an effort for pliance, begin offering suggestions of solutions. This could be experienced as very punishing to the initial woman assertion of the tact. This distinction of "rule governed" behavior vs. "Contingency shaped" has lead to a wave of acceptance technologies being produced in behavior therapy (Hayes & Wilson, 1994; Jacobson & Christensen, 1996). Jacobson and Christensen (1996) have stated that this distinction has revolutionized the way that behavioral couples therapy is done. They report that some have remarked that this new form of therapy looks "spiritual" (p.258) and that this new focus has led them to reach more couples. Thus, for Skinner (1974):
"There are no meanings which are the same in the speaker and the listener. Meanings are not independent entities" (p. 95)
Skinner and Social Construction
"In contrast [to cognitivists], for the social constructionist, there is an acute sensitivity to perspectives of other peoples and times. For, as the investigator demonstrates variations in perspectives, the effect is to break the hold of the common sense realities of contemporary culture. It is to deconstruct local ontologies, and thereby free the individual from the constraints of existing convention." Gergen, 1989, p.476.
Social construction is the concern with identifying processes by which people come to describe, explain, or account for the world (Gergen, 1985, 1989; Guerin, 1992, 1994). Like Skinner, social constructionists are concerned with how we "know" what we come to "know". In the Rylianian sense, Gergen (1985, 1995) is concerned with "knowing that" not knowing how" (1). In the Skinnerian sense, Gergen (1985, 1995) is concerned with the establishment of rule-governed behavior as opposed to contingency shaped behavior. Also like Skinner, Gergen (1985, p.269) criticizes the "endogenic" theorizing of cognitive psychology for taking focus away from the processes that create our understanding of the world.
As Bernard Guerin (1992, 1994) pointed out, social constructionist operate under several basic assumptions (1) our relationship to the world lacks correspondence with what others see as the actual world; (2) terms used to describe and explain the world are active cooperative enterprises based in social relationships (words do not refer to things but refer people to things); (3) the prevalence of social construction is not related to objective or empirical knowledge; (4) social construction is based in social activities completely indistinguishable from other social life; (5) social construction needs to be studied in a new discipline. Gergen (1985) termed this new discipline the interpretive disciplines. As highlighted each of these assumptions is compatible with Skinner's system. Also it is evident from the sheer number of literary interpretations in Skinner's Verbal Behavior (so many that the publisher asked Skinner to remove many of them) that Skinner would agree with the concept of studying social text. As Lana (1995) put is "... behavior analysis is about process and social psychology is, or should be, about the social-historical content of the behavioral repertoire" (p.403).
How does Skinner's theory account for social construction? Skinner's (1957) account was conceptualized, extended, and researched by Benard Geurin (1992, 1994). Accordingly, social construction of knowledge occurs as intraverbals, as tacts with loose discriminations, and social controls exist powerful enough to narrowly determine the social behavior in a group (Guerin, 1992b). For example, a young republican who takes a position at the Environmental Protection Agency may find his views on the environment slowly changing from his original beliefs. A second example would be the classic Asch (1956) experiment where a subject is placed in a room with several confederates. The subject is shown several lines. The confederate looks at each of the lines and states that one is the longest. In actuality this choice is not correct but the other confederates all agree. The actual subject often would agree with the confederates as to which line was longest.
Understanding, prediction, and functional control for social constructions will come from experimentation on intraverbals. What controls the production of words that appear to be discriminative stimuli for intraverbals? The tact. The shift from tact to intraverbal is crucial to the maintenance of "social representation", when stimulus control shifts from the environment to other words (Geurin, 1992, 1994). Guerin's (1992b) analysis rests heavily on the tact, this is because tacts are controlled and maintained by general social consequences. These consequences are ones that in the past have led to a variety of functional consequences that control behavior. If tacting is under control of a small group of people, who reinforce particular verbal reports and ignore or even actively punish others, then the characteristics of this smaller verbal community can begin to control knowledge reported even if the functional consequences are generalized.
This shaping process can even effect what the person sees (Skinner, 1974). Skinner (1957) called these "distorted tacts". An example from Skinner's (1957) book would be:
"The distortion due to differential generalized reinforcement may be traced in the behavior of the troubadour or in the history of the art of fiction. The troubadour begins, let us say, by recounting actual heroic exploits. Certain parts of his account receive special approval because they interest or flatter his listeners. A first effect is that these parts survive in future telling. Under the same differential reinforcement he begins to stretch his report: he exaggerates the size of the battle and the heroism of the participants (hyperbole). Finally, he breaks away from stimulus control altogether, 'describing' scenes he has never observed or 'reporting' stories he has never heard. As a creative artist, his behavior is now controlled entirely by the contingencies of reinforcement (some of which, of course, he himself may supply as his own listener)." p.150
This means that tacts are always prone to bias (even in science). Also, communities may train tacts differently. In the scientific community it becomes extremely important to have tight control on the ways in which tacts (of experiments and measures) are trained to allow the least about of social distortion to enter. This is especially difficult in the social sciences, in which a fair amount of the research is justification of political agendas (see W. Hayes, 1991; Harding, 1996). In the extreme case, a verbal unit will appear to be tact but be under the control of the community's words, and therefore properly be called an intraverbal (Guerin, 1992b). Guerin (1994) has elaborated on his original position and now is studying the process by which pliance is turned to tracking as away of analyzing the breaking of "societal control" over the individual (p.236) and turning intraverbals back to tacts. What Can Be Gained from A Radical Behavioral Account?
"The traditional view misrepresents our task. It suggests that by changing an environment we first change feelings or states of mind, and that these, in turn, determine what a person does. The feeling or state of mind seems to be a necessary link in a causal chain, but the fact is that we change behavior by changing the environment, and in doing so, change what is felt. Feelings and states of mind are not causes they are byproducts." Skinner, 1972, p.423.
"Under postodern conditions, persons exist in a state of continuous construction and reconstruction; it is a world where anything goes that can be negotiated" Gergen, 1991 p.7
There are several things that Skinner's (1957) account adds to the study of social construction: (1) It provides information about the limitations of socially constructed knowledge- knowledge formed from nonsocial stimulus control and predictions of counter control from strong counter historical (personal) or factual statements (Guerin, 1992). For example, it would be extremely difficult to convince a survivor of the holocaust that it never happened or a rape victim to believe that they were not raped; (2) it can demonstrates ways that social construction can be increased or decreased (prediction and control of social construction); (3) has the potential to unite the postmodern with existential/humanistic theories by accounting for the emergence of a relatively stable--self that still had the potential for a fair amount of social construction;1 (4) as Guerin (1992, 1994) points out another more specific advantage of the behavior analytic account is that Skinner's definition of verbal behavior includes many behaviors other then speech and writing, which Moscovici (1985) also argues should be part of social representation. These include gestures, art, music, self -talk, and imagingliterally any behavior that can be mediated by others. Finally, as Guerin (1992b) points out with a behavior analytic account of social construction "new" interpretive disciplines are not required. The principles used are well based in the natural sciences, avoiding the need for the artificial distinction between nature and human society (very much argued for
by Moscovici, 1976). The seemingly relativistic nature of the postmodern is confirmed, receiving strong theoretical backing from the experimental analysis of behavior. Also, the experimental analysis of behavior may help move the postmodern from cultural relativism to what Ross (1996) termed social rationality. Finally, Skinner's natural science analysis can help extended into considerations at the cultural level of selection with focus on increased stability and satisfaction of cultural members (Glenn, 1988; Harris, 1979; Rakos, 1992).
In addition to the above, the current fractionation of psychology has become increasingly of concern (Fowler, 1990; Slife, 2000; Richardson, 2000). This approach could serve as a unifying position in psychology.
Current Status of Skinner's Verbal Behavior
Despite claims of Behaviorisms death, it now appears that the "cognitive revolution" had little effect on the behavioral community's publications, which continued to witness rapid growth during the 1970's & 1980's (Friman, Allen. Kerwin, & Larzelere, 1993; Wyatt, Hawkins, & Davis, 1986). Also, recent trends have witnessed growing dissatisfaction with the increasing fractionation of cognitive psychology by cognitivists (Loftus, 1985; Watkins, 1990) and postmodernists (Gerge n, 1989). Finally some have begun to question the political implications of cognitive psychology, especially its focus problems being intrapsychic (Lee, 1995; Prilleltensky, 1989, 1990). However, the cognitive revolution with its representational focus may have cut off activists from a powerful model of conceptualization and technology to serve the community (e.g. Cone & Hayes, 1980; Geller, Winett, & Everett, 1982; Skinner, 1971, 1986, 1987). Indeed, Skinner (1971) was concerned with many area of over consumption that are presently the hallmark of the ecology movement (e.g. Skinner, 1948, 1971; Rakos, 1992). However, representationalist's switched the focus onto issues of the "controller" or the behavioral elite. With a renewed focus on the person/context interaction, the question switches to the more productive question of which people placed in what contexts will place community service over the abuse of others. Again we see the beginnings of change. Deborah Winter's (1996) book Ecological Psychology: Healing the Split between Planet and Self has an excellent review of the behavioral literature as it applies to environmental issues. Her constructivist views are remarkably lucid and very insightful when it comes to discussing environmental issues; however, she appears not to be aware of recent work in Behavior Analysis on the role of group contingencies (Glenn, 1988) and verbal interventions (Biglan, 1995). Even with the last her book is truly integrative and an excellent read for activists.
Thus, while significant similarities exist between Skinner's behaviorism and the postmodern position, Skinner's view is described as "retrogressive" contrasting to the postmodernism, which is seen as "innovative" (see comments by Freeman & Locurto, 1994). This is largely due to the academic folklore that has been built around Behaviorism (Todd & Morris, 1992). Much of this misrepresentation came from Chomsky's (1959) polemic critique of Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Chomsky's review had very little to do with Skinner's Behaviorism (Richelle, 1976; MacCorquodale, 1970). For example, Chomsky makes almost one reference per page that Skinner developed Verbal Behavior based on rats pressing levers. Most behavior analyst will quickly point out that Verbal Behavior makes no references to rats pressing lever rather in the dedication Skinner acknowledges Verbal Behavior to be based on observations that he made of his two daughters learning language. MacCorquodale (1970) described Chomsky's review as "one-half Skinner, with the rest a mixture of odds and ends of other behaviorism and some other fancies of vague origins." MacCorquodale (1970) concludes:
"... Chomsky's review did not constitute a critical analysis of Skinner's Verbal Behavior. The theory criticized in the review was an amalgram of some rather outdated behavioristic lore including reinforcement by drive reduction, the extinction criterion for response strength, a pseudo-incompatibility of genetic and reinforcement processes, and other notions that have nothing to do with Skinners account."
Unfortunately, Skinner's book was very long and in comparison Chomsky's review was very short. Given this context most have not read Skinner's Verbal Behavior and correspondingly little research was done on the book (McPherson, Bonem, Green, & Osborne, 1984; Spradlin, 1985; Hall & Sunberg, 1987; Oah & Dickinson, 1989).
Recently, this trend has begun to change (Andersen, 1991, 1992). One of the reasons for this change was the rise in parallel distributive process models for computers. With this type of computer system new Neural Network programs have been designed. Rather then in old programs where all the information is placed into the system by the programming, these programs work on a selectionist principle with reweighing after consequence occurs. Edelman's (1987) connectionist theory is "behaviorism in computer clothing" according to Andresen (1991). Another reason for the change has been the emergence of Functional Linguistics (see Bates & MacWhinney, 1979, 1982, 1987, 1989). While still retaining a focus on "meaning", functional linguistics suggests that the language learning process relies more heavily on children's social interaction then on inborn cognitive concepts.
Many operant laboratories, who were devoted to work on schedules of reinforcement in the 50 and 60's (the basics of Skinner's theory that had to be refined and demonstrated before work on verbal behavior was to begin), switched to working on Verbal Behavior after MacCorquadale's (1970) reply. In the applied field, Slaone, & MacAulay (1968) published a work on operant procedures for language intervention. In 1982 an entire journal was devoted to Skinner's functional analysis of verbal behavior "The Analysis of Verbal Behavior." In language intervention behavior analysis has emerged as the dominant model (Goldstein & Hockenberger, 1991). Finally work on Verbal Behavior appears to be providing more information then operant researchers can complete and recently Mark Sundberg published an article giving away 301 research topics and dissertations that need to be done on Verbal Behavior (see Sundberg, 1991). It has been projected to that VB research will dominate behavior analytic research to the point where most working in the field will be unable to keep up with the information (Eshleman, 1991).
Still radical behaviorism has difficulty being adopted by mainstream psychologists. This might in part be because radical behaviorism has a "distinct dialect" (Hineline, 1980). The directionality of talk for radical behaviorists contrasts from the dominant verbal community. The dominant community tends to describe events from person to behavior or some dispositional aspect of a person to behavior, while radical behaviorism discusses interactions from environment to behavior (Hineline, 1992). This may come across as disrespectful or confusing to the dominant verbal community and may lead to selection against radical behavioral interpretation. Hineline (1980) uses the following example:
"The child learns to catch someone's eye when needing assistance or attention"
Is translated into the radical behavioral dialect as
"Eye contact becomes both a reinforcer and a discriminative event setting the occasion on which the child's behavior is likely to be reinforced by another person" (Hineline, 1980).
This verbal difference may also represent a form of ontogenic teleology. As Darwin removed God from the center stage, so Skinner has removed the rationally autonomous man. Here again we see parallels to Gergen. Gerge n (1987) also has difficulty with the idea of the human as originating "source" of influence of his or her behavior (p.21). Gergen (1982) writes "the individual may be 'programmed' to process information in an infinity of ways. Such programming is clearly susceptible to exogenous influences." (P.56). This position maybe selected against by current societal standards. Indeed, there was quite a controversy over such topics in the seventies when Skinner published Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Gergen's (1982) position has some data to support it: the meta-ethic of a "rationally autonomous" person adopted by much of psychotherapy (e.g. Englehardt, 1982). Recently, postmodernism has begun to champion movement away from the myth of "rational autonomy". It is a movement toward the recognition of cultural influences in achieving "completeness" (Cushman, 1990). As Cushman (1990) typifies:
"Culture 'completes humans'.... Culture is not indigenous clothing that covers the universal human; it infuses individuals, fundamentally shaping and forming them and how they conceive of themselves and the world, how they see others, how they conceive of themselves and the world, how they see other, how they engage in structures of mutual obligation, and how they make choices in the everyday world (p.601)."
The movement away from representationalism is simultaneously postmodern and Skinnerian. It holds much promise for the science of human behavior and the study of social text. Further, feminists have been looking for away that feminist studies can communicate with technological studies (Harding, 1996). In the area of behavioral technology, behavior analysis can provide that bridge by not limiting cognitive diversity and by having a similar focus on developmental issues and social interaction (Ruiz, 1995). Finally in the area of studying of human behavior, behavior analytics designs challenge standard research protocols and offer an interesting alternative.
If one assumes that all behavior is truly random and no patterns of acting can be described then a science of behavior would be impossible and one would be reduced to describing elements that make up the system. Indeed the latter is what humanism has done. To take it a step further if one is to assume that neither regular patterns occur or no characteristics are describable then no science is possible; however, if patterns of regularity do occur then a science can be formulated but it would need to be individualized and process driven. Luckily in the field of mathematics proofs are demonstrating that the universe is not probabilistic but that this is a product of discontinuous perception (Davis & Hersh, 1981). Like feminist scholars (Condor, 1986; McCanny-Gergen, 1988) radical behaviorists are critical of traditional group designs used in psychology. Behavior analysis (the science of the radical behavioral philosophy) recognizes that some variables by their very nature take long periods of time before effects on behavior can be observed (Sidman, 1960). Behavior analysis has developed a powerful methodology for analyzing such phenomena (Sidman, 1960).
Behavior analytic research designs depend in part on the type of incoming data and the type of question to be answered (Poling, Methot, & LaSage, 1995; Sidman, 1960). In application, behavior analysis is a movement away from group designs toward within subject research. In this type of research the subject serves as his or her own control (Sidman, 1960; Poling, Methot, & LeSage, 1995). In this research paradigm, one intensively studies a small number of subjects for extended periods of time (Sidman, 1960). This allows for richer description and holds the datum closer to the context from which it was derived. Even if it is essential to answering the research question for a between subject design often a within subject design can be combined to increase information about process (Poling, Methot, & LaSage, 1995). Instead of pre-post measure data is continuous. Serial replication is the norm, starting with similar and gradually moving toward less similar subjects. This type of experimental design highlights the variance of a subject rather then trying to lump all subjects together and searching for essential truths. By these accounts no one study alone is plausible. Finally, Poling and colleagues (1995) conclude their book with:
"As a rule, be cautious about drawing broad conclusions based on single studies, no matter how the studies are conducted or analyzed." (p.179)
Contrary to the idea that postmodernism would lead to an erosion of a scientific psychology, it may witness the growth of radical behaviorism as a philosophy and behavior analysis as a scientific pursuit. Skinner would be pleased to find the movement away from structuralism/ representationalism. His life work was always opposed to building hypothetical constructs at some other level of analysis that if measured at all were measured indirectly (Skinner, 1950). I think that the greatest irony of the matter is that when Gergen (1994) called for an "interpretive" science, he never dreamed of getting a Skinnerian science. Yet he did question "As a critical phase runs its course, can we anticipate a return to some form of behaviorism (Gergen, 1997 p. 28). We believe the answer is yes.
(1) This view is changing due to work of the linguist Moerk, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1990 and the enormous longitudinal database presented by Wolfe & Ris ley, 1996.
(1) An equivalence class is an ordering of stimulus relations that develops such that each stimuli may serve as a discriminative stimulus, thus all can be substituted for each other and evoke the same functional response.
(1) This distinction may separate the postmodernist from the humanists/existentialists. The former are concerned with rule-governed and the latter are concerned with contingency shaped behavior such as what some would term the unconscious. If this dividing line proves to be of interest than Radical Behaviorism might serve as a rejoinder between the two. A good starting point would be Day, 1969a.
(1) This is important for even if as Capri (1975) put it "the idea of a constant 'self' undergoing successive experiences is an illusion" that illusion must be accounted for. This is especially true since this matter is of great concern to humanists (e.g. Brewster Smith, 1994).
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Joseph Cautilli, M.Ed., M.Ed. Beth Rosenwasser, M.Ed. Don Hantula, Ph.D. Abstract
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|Author:||Cautilli, Joseph; Rosenwasser, Beth; Hantula, Don|
|Publication:||The Behavior Analyst Today|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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