Printer Friendly

Motivation Behavior Analysis A Critique.

Most philosophies in psychology attempt to deal with the concept of motivation. Historically, behavior analysts have had relatively little to say about the topic, however, opting to focus primarily on three-tem contingencies of reinforcement. Because of several key scholarly works on the topic (e.g., see Klan and Morris 2001; Michael 1982, 1993), behavior analysts now regularly consider the concept of motivation. We critique the concept of motivation, and in particular the concept of establishing operations in behavior analysis, from a radical monistic perspective, largely derived from interbehavioral thinking. In doing so, we discover logical problems with the concept of establishing operations and propose an alternative. It is important to note that we do not pursue such an analysis to prove one way of thinking to be more or less right or wrong than another (Hayes 1993). We will begin by describing our radical monistic perspective, including its relationship to interbehaviorism and interbehavioral psychology, before considering the topic of motivation more specifically.

Radical Monism

The term monism often refers to oneness, the idea that there is only one, one whole, rather than various parts (Monism 2007). In this article we embrace a monistic position in the sense that we assume that there is only one stuff of which all is made--that there is only one type of event. As for what sort of stuff it is, in reference to the historical dichotomy of matter and spirit, it is neither of these. It is rather an event, an action, or, more precisely, an interaction--a field of interaction (also see Kantor 1958; Smith 2006). Our perspective is a logical extension and elaboration upon interbehavioral thinking, especially the interbehavioral field orientation and the interbehavioral distinction between constructs and events. We will first elaborate upon radical monism, followed by interbehaviorism.

Our position is monistic in another sense as well. Not only does it assume one type of event but, in fact, only one event--one indivisible event occurring in this moment (Hayes 1992). It assumes no other time or space (Hayes 1997a). This should not be taken to mean that there have been no other moments, as the concept of the psychological present has sometimes been misinterpreted. There have been other moments, but when they occurred, they too were "this moment." In other words, when the past was, it was the present. There are no other moments now--only this moment and all that has been is, if it is, in this moment. This moment, in other words, has always been ongoing. It has no beginning and no end. Given this, there is no time in which this moment has begun, and no time in which it will end. Rather, time is seen as a construct, and not an event, and therefore certainly not a defining feature of events, such as this moment. In our experience, however, this concept can be difficult to grasp. Specifically, it is difficult to talk about time and to dismiss time in the same breath. Hayes (1992) explained this more succinctly:
  From the standpoint of the events themselves,
  the past interactions of a given individual
  exist in the current interactions of the
  individual. Current interactions constitute
  an end point in the evolution of interactions
  with the environment, which have continuously
  evolved over the lifetime of the individual
  organism. In other words, past interactions
  exist as current interactions. They have no
  other existence. The past is the present. (p. 143)

The position is a radical monism in that all dichotomies are eschewed. As already discussed, this includes the "here and there" dichotomy of space and the "then and now" of time (Hayes 1997a). Beyond these are two dichotomies of some significance to ordinary science, namely, "cause-effect" and "form-function" (Hayes 1993). Obviously, the uses to which the understandings expressed in these dichotomies are put are neither necessary nor even meaningful in a universe comprising one event. Further, radical monism attempts to more closely examine the subject matter as it is, with as little influence as possible from existing constructs. The subject matter is then articulated as a single event, continuously ongoing in the present moment, wherein space and time may be seen to be illusory, causality is superfluous, and reality is gratuitous. Plainly, from the perspective of the event, there is only the event, and nothing else. (1)

It might seem at this point that radical monism has nothing to contribute (or at least no way of contributing to an understanding of our "place" in this world and our well-being in it), but this is not so. The aim of radical monism in this regard is the articulation of the factors and their participation in the ongoing present. In our view, this is all that scientists ever do, regardless of their philosophical underpinnings; hence, whatever failure to contribute or lack of usefulness that may be charged against radical monism must be shared by all who hold themselves to be engaged in making such a contribution. Furthermore, what one does or does not do with an articulation of the factors participating in the ongoing present is not a matter of the utility of the approach, per se, but with the manner in which the approach is being utilized by scientists. In other words, understanding is an aim central to all scientific work, and whether or not this understanding is then used in efforts to influence the world in particular ways is another matter.

That said, we must make one confession, and it is significant enough to make much of what we have just said about scientific understandings suspect. As described, radical monism eschews all dichotomies. Among them is the dichotomy of speaking and things spoken of. Even this dichotomy is disallowed. In short, radical monism is radical enough to deny the legitimacy of its own description: Radical monism takes as its task the conceptualization of an event in the moment, assuming this event to constitute the all, while, at the same time, it recognizes that the conceptualization achieved is something other than the event conceptualized, thereby violating its own premise of "the event in this moment" being the all. In other words, from the perspective of the event, there are no constructs to speak of, and, furthermore, all constructs fall short of capturing the event whereby no adequate description of the event may ever be achieved (Hayes 1993, 1997a).

By way of explanation, a thoroughgoing radical monist says nothing. We are not rushing toward this conclusion, needless to say. So, for now, we will just acknowledge the inconsistency of holding the position of radical monism and talking about it at the same time. This has been the uncomfortable solution of many others before us, among whom may be counted the existential, various, and sundry religious mystics as well as some otherwise respectable technical philosophers (e.g., D. T. Suzuki 1964, S. Suzuki 1970; Watts 1999). So, at least we can find comfort in the company of fellow travelers.

Still, as we have mentioned, we are not rushing toward the inevitable conclusion of saying nothing. While our monistic position is an extension of interbehaviorism, we have also found interbehaviorism and interbehavioral psychology to be the only way to continue speaking about the world in a way that is consistent with radical monism. That is, interbehaviorism and interbehavioral psychology provide us with a means to continue speaking about the world without violating our monistic assumptions.

I nterbehaviorism and I nterbehavioral Psychology

As we have suggested, our perspective is grounded in interbehaviorism and interbehavioral psychology. Interbehaviorism may be somewhat unconventional and unknown to some readers, however. In this section we describe some core features of interbehaviorism (Kantor 1953) and interbehavioral psychology (Kantor 1958), which are fundamental to our monistic position and analysis of motivation.

Interbehaviorists make the explicit distinction between constructs and events, especially as there is a tendency to confuse the former with the latter in the sciences (Fryling and Hayes 2009; Kantor 1953, 1957; Smith 2007). While interbehaviorists do not suggest that constructs be avoided altogether, specific emphasis is placed on the use of constructs that are derived from events and, even then, to maintain the distinction between those constructs and events. Given this, events are approached as they are, with constructs later being derived from them. This is in stark contrast to the more common practice of imposing constructs on events. This perspective, moreover, seems to be one that those who embrace a thoroughgoing natural science approach would favor. Specifically, it reduces the likelihood of employing constructs derived from cultural folklore and increases the likelihood of developing constructs that are more directly derived from events (see Hayes et al. 1997; Pan-ott 1983, for more on constructs and behavior analysis, specifically). Indeed, constructs are analytical tools, and not to be confused with events themselves. In this way, our monistic position is preserved, while at the same time we are permitted to speak about the world. This aspect of our perspective perhaps makes us especially careful about the use of constructs in science, providing us with a unique perspective from which the analysis of psychological concepts might be pursued.

Interbehaviorists conceptualize the subject matter of psychology as an integrated field event, whereby the participating factors are considered interdependent. Specifically, the psychological event (PE) is described by the following formula: PE=C(k, sf, rf, hi, md, st), where C refers to the interdependency of participating factors; that there is one event, one whole. K refers to the uniqueness of each and every event, sf the stimulus function, tf the response function, hi the interbehavioral history, md the medium of contact, and st setting factors (Kantor 1958, p. 14; Smith 2006). Altering one of these factors changes the entire event, whereby none of the above factors are considered more or less important, dependent, or independent from others. The distinction between constructs and events is important here. The above-mentioned participating factors are constructs and are developed for analytical purposes. There is no actual distinction between the factors participating in the psychological event; rather, the participating factors are constructs developed for the purposes of analyzing the psychological event. Again, this seems to be well aligned with our monistic position.

Of particular relevance to our analysis of motivation are the factors of interbehavioral history and setting factors. Each and every event is conceptualized as one evolving whole, whereby the interbehavioral history is occurring in the present, and therefore considered a feature of present happenings. As such, the past and the present are not seen as distinct things that influence the psychological event; they are features of the event itself. There is no past and no future that can be spoken of or otherwise contacted as distinct from present happenings. Setting factors are also central to our analysis of motivation. From the perspective of an interbehaviorist, setting factors might have their primary impact on (a) stimulus objects, (b) the reacting individual, or (c) the entire interaction (see Kantor and Smith 1975, P. 47), and participate in psychological events as all participants do, by altering the entire event. In other words, the presence or absence of specific setting factors alters the entire psychological event, whereby stimulus and response functions are impacted, various interbehavioral histories are made present, and more. Importantly, setting factors participate in the current psychological event rather than in some other event.

Finally, interbehavioral psychologists conceptualize behavior as an interaction, and therefore prefer to use the term interbehavior, to explicitly acknowledge this reciprocal function. Moreover, interbehaviorists distinguish between the responding organism and psychological responding, and similarly between stimulus objects and psychological stimulation. These distinctions are not trivial, as they permit the understanding of a wide range of complex and socially important behavior. For example, behavior analysts struggle to conceptualize remembering without referring to unobservable events and likewise continue to argue over the status of private, "unseen behavior." For the interbehaviorist, remembering and other complex behavior is readily conceptualized as an interaction with physical stimulus objects that have particular substitute stimulus functions, by virtue of their historical participation in spatiotemporal proximity to the stimuli being substituted for, and an individual's responding with respect to this historical relationship. For example, if someone hears a song on the radio on Monday while talking to a colleague from work about a meeting, upon hearing that same song on Wednesday they may again hear the conversation in the absence of the actual conversation itself. In other words, the song might substitute for the conversation. Likewise, a subtle facial expression might substitute for previous thoughts that have been articulated in the presence of that facial expression, whereby an experienced observer might hear another person's thoughts in the physical environment, even when those thoughts are not currently being articulated (see Hayes and Fryling 2009). In other words, stimulus and response substitution permit all behavior to be articulated in the current event field and not in some other historical or dualistic location.

Now that we have articulated the relevant features of interbehaviorism and interbehavioral psychology, let us continue to discuss events from our radical monistic, int erbehavioral perspective. Our plan is to conduct an analysis of the concept of motivation, and motivation in behavior analysis specifically, for the purpose of evaluating its logical and conceptual adequacy from our perspective. Motivation is a central category in the psychological domain, having been implicated in explanations of psychological events since the very beginning of the discipline. Motivation is also a concept that appears to have gained in popularity within the behavioral subdivision of the discipline of psychology, largely due to the popularity of the establishing operation and subsequent refinements of that concept. We now move on to discuss the topic of motivation. We will return to the subject of radical monism in our concluding remarks.


Psychologists, like scientists of many other varieties, have always felt a need to explain their subject matter by reference to its causes (Skinner 1953). For most psychologies, motivation is the name for this aspect of their domains. That is, motives, if not the only class of concepts in the causal category, are at least significant among those that are. But what are motives? Further, what distinguishes a motivated from a nonmotivated event?

Unfortunately, the literature on motivation is not helpful toward answering these questions because just about everything psychological is discussed under this heading. Among the referents for the term motivation are every type and variety of action, causes of action, forces and powers responsible for action, stimuli, incentives, ends of action, and so on. For example, when looking through a textbook on the topic, one encounters topics such as the motivated brain, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, personality, emotion, unconscious motives, cognition, and more (Reeve 2008). As may be obvious from this partial list, motivational events are sometimes internally localized (e.g., intrinsic, unconscious psychic forces) and sometimes externally localized (e.g., environmental events).

In the internal case, individuals are held to possess or display motives. Various needs, drives, and emotions are invoked to explain the origination of action in these cases. Behaviorists have avoided constructions of this sort (Skinner 1953, 1974), preferring to localize motivational events in the external environment. From this perspective, motivation refers to activities performed by experimenters or operators who arrange conditions so as to produce behavior changes on the parts of those operated upon. For example, an experimenter withholds an animal's food, or a worker is offered a bonus, or a child's arithmetic problems are phrased in the language of baseball (see Iwata et al. 2000; McGill 1999).

As Michael (1993) pointed out, the topic of motivation has historically received relatively little attention in the behavior-analytic literature, and what has been discussed in this context has been articulated in categorical concepts appropriate to sciences other than psychology, namely physiology and ecology (p. 192). While these treatments may have merit in their own right, they do not address the problem of motivation at a psychological level of analysis. At the psychological level, there is little to comment on. More often than not, motivation has been neglected as a separate or distinct category of independent variable. Instead, the concept of reinforcement has been made to do double duty--to explain both how it is that organisms know how to do things and, furthermore, how it is that they want to do them (also see Parrott 1983). More plainly, reinforcement has been made to explain both learning and motivation.

The aforementioned reinforcement solution to the problem of motivation has not been entirely satisfactory according to Michael (1993), however. For example, Michael cites Skinner's recognition of the need for a motivation-like concept in his identification of deprivation and satiation as something other than stimulus variables, and in his treatment of these concepts and aversive stimulation in the analysis of verbal behavior in particular (pp. 191-192). From Michael's perspective, an additional construct would decrease the likelihood of overlooking or misclassifying motivational variables as discriminative stimuli (Michael 1982).

Hence, it would appear that a categorical concept of the motivational sort is needed for a thoroughgoing behavior-analytic account. In behavior analysis, the categorical concept proposed and developed has been the establishing operation (EO; Michael 1982, 1993), a concept first introduced by Keller and Schoenfeld in 1950, now more commonly referred to as the motivating operation (MO; Laraway et al. 2003). While the MO refinement of the EO concept has been welcomed and certainly extends upon the multiple ways in which motivational variables impact behavior (specifically, by distinguishing between establishing operations [EOs] and abolishing operations [AOs] as types of MOs), our analysis pertains to features of the EO concept that are unchanged by the MO refinement. Moreover, relational frame theorists (Hayes et al. 2001; Hayes et al. 1989) have proposed a verbal, EO-like concept, namely, the augmental, which involves language used to increase or decrease the reinforcing value of following rules and is especially relevant to the treatment of rule following (and central to the authors' behavior-analytic approach to psychotherapy). However, like the MO, the addition of the augmental does not change our analysis of motivation in behavior analysis more generally. That is, our analysis pertains equally to the initial conceptualization of the EO and the MO refinement, as well as the augmental. Therefore, as we primarily examine motivation in behavior analysis by analyzing key scholarly work on the EO, we will use the more traditional term E0 throughout.

Establishing Operations

To begin our analysis, we consider the definition of E0s as proposed by Michael (1993). An EO, according to Michael, "is an environmental event, operation, or stimulus condition that affects an organism by momentarily altering (a) the reinforcing effectiveness of other events and (b) the frequency of occurrence of that part of the organism's repertoire relevant to those events as consequences" (p. 192). Given that the EO is invoked to account for momentary effects, we may assume that it serves as an explanation for the occurrence of a type of response at a particular point in time--more technically, for the occurrence of a member of an operant class--though not for the strength of an operant, as the latter is neither established nor observed in any particular moment. The strength of an operant is assumed, rather, to be a product of reinforcement, or, more specifically, reinforcement history.

Furthermore, despite bearing responsibility for the occurrence of a type of response at a particular point in time, as does a discriminative stimulus, an EO is not thereby taken to be a discriminative stimulus, the distinction between them having to do with certain dynamic characteristics of a forthcoming event. More specifically, a discriminative stimulus evokes a response at a particular time marked by an increased availability of reinforcement for that response, should it occur at that time. An EO, by contrast, is responsible for the occurrence of a response at a particular time due to an increase in the reinforcing effectiveness of a forthcoming event, should it take place (Michael 1982).

In summary, an EO has two momentaty effects: First, it increases the reinforcing effectiveness of future events, to be observed when and if they occur (called the reinforcer establishing effect); second, it alters the frequency of occurrence of behaviors previously consequated by those events, observed in the present situation (called the evocative effect; Michael 1993, p. 192).

The contention that an EO changes the character of something that has not happened yet is somewhat problematic in this definition of an EO, at least in the reinforcer-establishing aspect of it. From our perspective, something that has not happened yet has no character to change. In fact, to our way of thinking, there is no such thing as something that has not happened. For this reason, to identify and characterize an EO by reference to the effectiveness of future events is illogical. Bear in mind that talk of the future is not about events in the future, as one might argue that a tact is about events in the present. Talk of the future occurs as a form of metaphorical extension based on talk about events of the past and present. Talk of the future is not referential in this sense. As such, it does not seem reasonable to define current events as though they were in some way constituted of events that have not yet happened--as though they were constituted of future events. It seems far more reasonable to define events in terms of their actual participants, and these are found in the present circumstance.

There may be some objection to this notion, so let us elaborate on this point just a little further. The future figures prominently in explanations for behavior arising from many different quarters in psychology, although not typically from within behavior analysis. For example, from a behavior-analytic perspective, rats are not said to press levers in order to get food but rather because lever pressing has produced food in the past. The rat acts as she does in this moment because of events that have taken place in the past (namely, reinforcement) and because of those that are now present (namely, discriminative stimuli).

While the concepts of reinforcement and discrimination may occasionally be articulated in purposeful language as a means of contacting ordinary talk about behavior, they do not require reference to the future to have utility in the explanation of behavior. On the contrary, reference to the future in explanations of behavior is considered not only to be nontechnical but also to constitute a fundamental misunderstanding of the behavior-analytic position. So, why do we find ourselves falling into this trap in the explication of motivational concepts, such as the EO? We do not know why behavior analysts have adopted this approach with respect to E0s, but we have some suspicions, to which we will return. For now, let us consider how the concept of the EO might be reinterpreted to eliminate its objectionable features.

Eliminating the Reinforcer-Establishing Function

Eliminating the objectionable features of the EO concept amounts to the abandonment of the reinforcer-establishing aspect of the EO definition or, more precisely, the reconcep-tualization of this aspect as a feature of the evocative effect.2 Recall Michael's (1993) conceptualization of the evocative effect, the altering of the frequency of occurrence of that part of the organism's repertoire relevant to those events as consequences" (p. 192). In his analysis, E0s affect organisms by momentarily altering the frequency of the types of behavior that have been previously reinforced by a particular stimulus, such as food.

This evocative effect is further understood as the result of "1) a direct effect of the establishing operation on such behavior; 2) an indirect effect of an increase in the evocative effect of all discriminative stimuli for behavior that has previously been followed by food; and 3) an increase in the frequency of behavior that has been followed by conditioned reinforcers whose effectiveness depends on food deprivation" (Michael 1993, pp. 192-193). This third specific case of conditioned reinforcement is not different in principle from the general case of the evocative effect, so it will not be considered in detail here. Instead, we will concentrate on the other two means by which the evocative effect is assumed to take place, namely, as a direct effect on behavior and indirectly by increasing the evocative effect of discriminative stimuli for behavior.

Concerns About the Direct Effect

First, it is not clear what it means to suggest that an event, such as food deprivation, which is not regarded as a stimulus event, has a direct effect on behavior. While the case has sometimes been made that operations such as food deprivation and aversive stimulation increase the "general activity" of organisms (e.g., Finger 1951), this is not a common view among behavior analysts. A behavior-analytic approach more typically articulates changes in behavior as a function of changes in stimulation. Specifically, individual instances of behavior are said to be evoked or elicited, and classes of behavior are said to be strengthened by reinforcers. Little is said about possible direct effects, such as "general activity" in behavior-analytic circles and, at least to our way of thinking, for good reason.

After all, what exactly is general activity? Is it not just an unanalyzed collection of specific actions? And do we not regard specific actions as standing in relation to specific stimuli from a behavior-analytic perspective? Surely, we would not take the position that there can be responses without stimulation--or stimulation without responses.3 Given this, it is not clear why we would argue that E0s alter the frequency of behavior by direct action. How and in what manner does food deprivation, for example, directly move the organism? This argument does not seem sensible to us.

Salvaging the Indirect Effect

The indirect means by which the evocative effect of an EO takes place is much more promising, in our view. In this case, the evocative effect of an EO is a result of an increase in the evocative effect of all discriminative stimuli for the behavior in question. This analysis avoids the problem of responses occurring without stimulation, suggesting that responses do occur with respect to stimuli but that the effects or functions of those stimuli vary with the contexts in which they appear.

For example, a lever may have a number of stimulus functions coordinated with a number of different responses, such as seeing the lever, touching it, pressing it, and so on. The lever, furthermore, may be present in a context of food deprivation as well as in a context of food satiation. When food deprivation is present, the discriminative effect of the lever on pressing responses may be increased. Likewise, when food satiation is present, other functions of the lever may be increased, such as those coordinated with merely seeing the lever. This account is similar to Skinner's description of the operation of audience variables, as articulated in his book, Verbal Behavior (1957). It is also very similar to Kantor's (1938, 1958; Kantor and Smith 1975) views as to the nature and participation of setting factors in event fields. From Kantor's standpoint, setting factors of an organismic sort, such as food deprivation, as well as those having more of an environmental character participate in psychological events, and thus are interrelated with particular functions of stimulating and responding at specific points in time.

At this juncture it may be worth elaborating on the conceptual differences between the traditional behavior-analytic approach to motivation (i.e., the EO and related constructs) and Kantor's conceptualization of the setting factor. As we have described, E0s have two primary effects: changing the value of consequences and changing the frequency of behavior with respect to those consequences. Thus, the EO approach rests on a contingency analysis whereby the consequences of behavior are what are changed and therefore ultimately continue to control behavior. By contrast, setting factors do not alter the value of consequences. Furthermore, from the perspective of the psychological event, there are no consequences to alter. Psychological events are integrated fields, not linear contingencies, and as such participants in such fields are held to be part of one integrative event. Specifically, from the perspective of the psychological event, setting factors are participants in this multifactored field and therefore alter the entire event of interest, including both stimulus and response functions. Importantly, setting factors operate as constituents of the present event. They have no role in events in which they are not present.


In summary, Michael (1993) has articulated two effects of E0s: a reinforcer-establishing effect and an evocative effect. We have objected to the reinforcer-establishing effect on the grounds that this analysis appeals to events that have yet to happen as aspects of the definition of current operations; specifically, that future reinforcers control current happenings. We have argued that the effect of the EO be limited to the evocative effect for this reason. Upon closer scrutiny of the evocative effect, however, we have further suggested that only one of the means by which this effect of an EO is articulated from within the general framework of a behavior-analytic account, namely the indirect means of increasing the effectiveness of discriminative stimuli, is plausible. Hence, we have salvaged this indirect effect and rejected the account of direct effects of E0s.

The end result has been to suggest that E0s constitute contextual variables, the role of which is to participate in all psychological events, whereby particular functions of stimulus objects from among those they harbor at particular points in time are made psychologically present. (4) This interpretation renders E0s similar to the general case of audience control (Skinner 1957) or conditional discrimination, as understood in behavior analysis, and to the Kantorian analysis of setting factors.

Distinguishing Motivated From Nonmotivated Events

Thus far, through a process of logical elimination and reinterpretation, we have arrived at a concept of motivation that is indistinguishable from the psychological event in general. That is, if an EO is to be understood as a setting factor, its role being participatory in nature, in which one of possibly several potential functions of a stimulus along with its coordinated response occur, then it may be argued that E0s participate in all psychological occurrences, because all psychological events take place in the context of setting factors and this is how they operate.

Given this conclusion, what are we to make of the concept of motivation? How does a motivated event differ from a nonmotivated event'? For example, how does wanting food, in traditional terms, differ from not wanting food'? The short answer is that there is only one type of event--no one any more or less motivated than another. All psychological events involve setting factors, and thus all psychological events might be considered "motivated" in traditional terms.

Nevertheless, the topic of motivation seems important, and we will attempt some semblance of an answer to the question above: What distinguishes motivated from nonmotivated events? From our radical monistic perspective, the question may be better phrased as, Are there factors participating in what are considered to be motivated segments of behavior that are not participating in what are considered to be nonmotivated segments? We think, in fact, that there are such factors and that they involve implicit actions with respect to the consequences of behavior, occurring by way of the past consequences of behavior being present substitutively in currently available stimulus objects. For example, the lever, as a stimulus object, might involve the stimulus functions of food delivery, given a history of the lever and food delivery occurring in spatiotemporal proximity to one another. This seems to be related to what Michael (1993) referred to as the reinforcer-establishing effect, although his interpretation of this circumstance is not useful from our perspective. Specifically, Michael believed that something happens to future events. Alternatively, we believe that we are responding to past events--past consequences of behavior--as though they were future consequences of behavior, and that this responding is occurring in the present moment, the only time and space in which responding can occur.

Central to the distinction between motivated and nonmotivated events is the interbehavioral construct of stimulus substitution. As we have mentioned, motivated events involve responding to "future consequences" of behavior in the present moment, and this necessarily involves stimulus substitution because future consequences of behavior do not actually exist. However, through a history of an organism responding to specific spatiotemporal association conditions, particular stimulus objects come to develop the functions of other objects even when those other objects are absent. For example, if a visit to the ocean had always occurred with a particular friend, you might see that friend when you are at the ocean even if the friend is not physically present. Likewise, if a lever had always occurred with respect to the delivery of food, an animal might behave with respect to food (e.g., salivate) in the presence of the lever alone. In these examples, the ocean and lever are substitute stimuli, and the seeing of the friend and salivation are implicit responses. This sort of substitute stimulus--response function is necessarily involved in events typically classified as motivated. Again, we do not believe that it is useful to talk about changes taking place in the character of future events because these events have not yet happened, and they thereby have no character to change. Rather, from the perspective of the event, motivated events appear to constitute specific setting factors, substitute stimu kis functions, and implicit responses with respect to those stimulus functions.

Thus, it may prove useful to distinguish motivated from nonmotivated events simply on the basis of number and types of functions operating in current event fields. For example, wanting food may be regarded as a circumstance in which stimulation, ordinarily inhering in food, is occurring in the absence of food by way of other immediately present stimuli, such as a lever. That is, when we want food or are motivated to find food, "food functions" in the absence of "food forms" are present in the event field. When we want food, the olfactory, gustatory, or visual functions of food may be actualized such that we may smell, taste, or see food when only talk of food is present as a stimulus. When we do not want food, these functions may not be actualized by such talk.

The difference between motivated and nonmotivated behavior may then be understood as the degree to which these substitutional or implicit functions of stimuli are operating in event fields, and this, in turn, may be massively influenced by verbal activity and its stimulus products. In other words, while an animal may "want sex" in the sense of being able to feel it in its absence under certain conditions, an animal may never "yearn" for sex, be obsessed with it, be heartsick over it, and so on. These are verbal elaborations of which animals appear to be incapable. In other words, while animals engage in implicit behavior with respect to substitute stimuli, those substitute stimuli never involve the future or other arbitrary stimulus forms such as words, constructs that are specifically verbal in nature. While this issue is important, it is not so much the subject of motivation as is language, so we will not deal with it in detail here (see Hayes and Hayes 1992).

Return to Radical Monism

As previously mentioned, psychologists have always felt a need to explain their subject matter by reference to its causes. In behavior analysis, the principal causal variable is reinforcement, and the category of reinforcement has undergone some changes since it was first introduced. Early interpretations of reinforcement were rather mechanical in nature. Reinforcers did things. They made things happen. They strengthened operants. Mechanical conceptions of this sort were eventually replaced with the notion of selection (Skinner 1971, 1981). The capacity for behavior to be reinforced was held to be a product of biological evolution (e.g. Skinner 1971, 1974). It was argued that this was why reinforcers worked; this is why they could do what they did.

Selection is an outcome or product concept rather than a process concept. What continues to occur or exist is a product of unspecified events that eliminated what has not continued to exist. To find the process or the operative variable in a selection analysis, one must look to the circumstances that led to the extinction of what is no longer here. In other words, what continues to exist or occur needs no explanation, and for this reason reinforcement interpreted as selection may be said to be simply a descriptive, as opposed to an explanatory, concept.

Unfortunately, for many scientists and lay person alike, descriptive concepts are not quite so satisfying as explanatory concepts, and there is always some pressure to give descriptive concepts more power--to make them more explanatory (e.g., Tonneau 2008). Behavior analysts seem to vacillate on this point, and they always have. The interest in motivation may reflect this longing for explanation in behavior analysis. The EO concept is a process concept. E0s do things, they operate on things, they make things happen. The irony of this situation is that one of the things that they do is turn stimuli into reinforcers, the implication being that these stimuli are then able to do something to responding. In short, the EO concept is not only explanatory in its own right, but it gives reinforcement its explanatory character as well.

The attraction to causality is common in behavior analysis, and the EO construct is by no means alone in this regard (see Hayes et al. 1997). But we must ask, of what use are causal concepts? How do they help us understand behavior? What is there to understand? From a radical monistic perspective, the concept of causality is superfluous. When it is held that there is only one event--one event with no parts--as claimed by radical monism, there is no need for a concept of causality. There is no event other than this one--none of any sort--let alone one serving as the cause of this one. Moreover, causality is never actually observed, and is therefore imposed by scientists, presumably as a result of cultural folklore.

Therefore, there is no need for a causal interpretation of motivation. The concept of E0s as setting factors need not imply causality. It is not necessary to suggest that setting factors such as food deprivation make anything happen--they do not have to actualize anything or determine anything to be a useful psychological category. It is every bit as informative to speak of them merely as other participants in the event field as it has evolved to this moment as it is to invent causal properties for them. In short, motivational variables, be they called E0s or setting factors, do not determine psychological events but rather constitute them. (5)

It was our goal to consider the concept of motivation, especially as it is conceptualized in behavior analysis, from our radical monistic, interbehavioral perspective. Importantly, we did not pursue such an analysis to prove any one way of looking at the world to be more right or wrong than others. Furthermore, this article is not about "empirical facts" per se but rather about the interpretation of those facts. In other words, we are not denying that the sort of manipulations that fall under the purview of "motivation" in behavior analysis participate in the evolution of psychological events. Rather, we are questioning the way in which those manipulations are interpreted. In pursuing this analysis we have exposed some concerns with the behavior-analytic approach and offered a means by which motivation might be reconciled with our perspective. In doing so, we have suggested that E0s are better conceptualized as setting factors, which participate as contextual variables in which particular substitute stimulation and implicit responding occur. In our view, this approach lends itself to a more comprehensive and coherent analysis of psychological happenings and is more consistent with a natural science of behavior.

Published online: 2 April 2014 [c] Association of Behavior Analysis International 2014


Cherpas, C. (1993). Do establishing operations alter reinforcement effectiveness? The Behavior Analyst. 16, 347-349.

Finger, F. W. (1951). The effect of food deprivation and subsequent satiation upon general activity in the rat. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 44(6), 557-564.

Fryling, M. J., & Hayes, L. J. (2009). Psychological events and constructs: An alliance with Smith. The Psychologiall Ream", 59, 133-142.

Fryling, M. J., & Hayes, L. J. (2011). The concept of function in the analysis of behavior. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 37, 11-20.

Hayes, L. J. (1992). The psychological present. The Behavior Analyst, 15, 139-145.

Hayes, L. J. (1993). Reality and truth. In S. C. Hayes, L. J. Hayes, H. W. Reese, & T. R. Sarbin (Eds.), Varieties of sciemific contextualisin (pp. 35-44). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Hayes, L. J. (1997a). Scientific knowing in psychological perspective. In L. J. Hayes & P. M. Ghezzi (Eds.), Investigations in behavioral epistemology (pp. 123-141). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Hayes, L. J. (1997b). Understanding mysticism. The Psychological Record, 47, 573-597.

Hayes, L. J., & Fryling, M. J. (2009). Overcoming the pseudo-problem of private events in the analysis of behavior. Behavior and Philosophy; 37,39-57.

Hayes, S. C., & Hayes, L. J. (1992). Verbal relations and the evolution of behavior analysis. American Psychologist, 47(11), 1383-1395.

Hayes, S. C., Zettle, R. D., & Rosenfarb, I. (1989). Rule-following. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 191-220). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Hayes, L. J., Adams, M. A., & Dixon, M. R. (1997). Causal constructs and conceptual confusions. The Psychological Record, 46,97-111.

Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational frame theory: A post-Skin nerian account of human language and cognition. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Iwata, B. A., Smith, R. G., & Michael, J. (2000). Current research on the influence of establishing operations on behavior in applied settings. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 411-418.

Kantor, J. R. (1938). The nature of psychology as a natural science. Acta PsychologIA, 4, 1-61.

Kantor, J. R. (1950). Psychology and logic (Vol. 2). Chicago, IL: The Principia Press.

Kantor, J. R. (1953). The logic of modern science. Chicago, IL: The Principia Press.

Kantor, J. R. (1957). Events and constructs in the science of psychology: Philosophy: Banished and recalled. The Psychological Record. 7, 55-60.

Kantor, J. R. (1958). Interbehavioral psychology. Chicago, IL: The Principia Press.

Kantor, J. R., & Smith, N. W. (1975). The science of psychology: An interbehavioral survey. Bloomington, IN: The Principia Press.

Keller, F. S., & Schoenfeld, W. N. (1950). Principles qfp sychologv. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofis.

Klatt, K. P., & Morris, E. K. (2001). The Premack principle, response deprivation, and establishing operations. The Behavior Analyst, 24, 173-180.

Laraway, S.. Snycerski, S., Michael, J., & Poling, A. (2003). Motivating operations and terms to describe them: Some further refinements. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 36, 407-414.

McGill, P. (1999). Establishing operations: Implications for the assessment, treatment, and prevention of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 32, 393-418.

Michael, J. L. (1982). Distinguishing between discriminative and motivational functions of stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavim; 37, 149-155.

Michael, J. L. (1993). Establishing operations. The Behavior Analyst, 16, 191-206.

Monism. (2007). In Staq/brd encyclopedia qfphilosophy. Retrieved from Morris, E. K. (1992). The aim, progress, and evolution of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst. /5, 3-29.

Parrott, L. J. (1983). Similarities and differences between Skinner's Radical Behaviorism and Kantor's Interbehaviorism. Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis, 9, 95-.115.

Reeve, J. (2008). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). I-Toboken, NJ: Wiley.

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York, NY: Knopf.

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York, NY: Knopf. Skinner, B. F. (1981). Selection by consequences. Science. 2/3(4507), 501-504.

Smith, N. W. (2006). The interbehavioral field. In B. D. Midgley & E. K. Morris (Eds.), Modern perspectives on J. R. Kantor and interbehaviorism (pp. 87-110). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Smith, N. W. (2007). Events and constructs. The Psychological Record, 57, 169-186.

Suzuki, D. T. (1964). An introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Suzuki, S. (1970). Zen mind, beginner's mind. New York, NY: Weatherhill.

Tonneau, F. (2008). The concept of reinforcement: Explanatory or descriptive'? Behavior and Philosophy. 36, 87-96.

Watts, A. (1999). Buddhism: The religion of no-religion. Singapore: Tuttle.

(1) Several of these ideas have been described in more detail elsewhere (Hayes 1992, 1993, 1997a, 1997b).

(2) Cherpas (1993) also expressed concern with the establishing operation construct, specifically, with the reinforcer-establishing aspect of it, suggesting that all we ever see is the evocation of behavior. Cherpas then questioned the EC) concept itself, as the term seems to emphasize the reinforcer-establishing aspect.

(3) It is sometimes the case that behavior analysts do fall into the trap of suggesting that responding could occur without stimulation (e.g., Skinner 1974, pp. 91-92), but this is, of course, a problem, as the subject matter of behavior science involves relations between the responding organism and the stimulating environment.

(4) Morris (1992) has also suggested that E0s be considered contextual variables, though the author maintains a contingency, rather than a field analysis, and is thus required to "unpack" Skinnerian constructs. The outcome of this exercise is close to Kantor's field orientation.

(5) Kantor (1950) has elaborated on the interbehavioral alternative to traditional, causal ways of thinking. From the perspective of interbehaviorists, the only types of relations that can be understood are descriptive, correlational relations, which is how the term function is employed by interbehaviorists (Fry ling and Hayes 2011). This is at odds with the more traditional distinction between correlation and cause. From the perspective of interbehaviorists, there are only correlations, with "explanations" merely comprising more elaborate descriptions (Kantor 1953, pp. 33-34).

DOI 10.1007/s40732-014-0025-z

L. J. Hayes

Department of Psychology/296, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA


M. J. Fryling

California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA
COPYRIGHT 2014 The Psychological Record
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hayes, Linda J.; Fryling, Mitch J.
Publication:The Psychological Record
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2014
Previous Article:Rule-Based insensitivity and delusion maintenance in schizophrenia.
Next Article:Identity and delay functions of meaningful stimuli: enhanced equivalence class formation.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |