The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 197–208 | Cite as

Methodological behaviorism from the standpoint of a radical behaviorist

  • J. MooreEmail author


Methodological behaviorism is the name for a prescriptive orientation to psychological science. Its first and original feature is that the terms and concepts deployed in psychological theories and explanations should be based on observable stimuli and behavior. I argue that the interpretation of the phrase “based on” has changed over the years because of the influence of operationism. Its second feature, which developed after the first and is prominent in contemporary psychology, is that research should emphasize formal testing of a theory that involves mediating theoretical entities from an nonbehavioral dimension according to the hypothetico-deductive method. I argue that for contemporary methodological behaviorism, explanations of the behavior of both participants and scientists appeal to the mediating entities as mental causes, if only indirectly. In contrast to methodological behaviorism is the radical behaviorism of B. F. Skinner. Unlike methodological behaviorism, radical behaviorism conceives of verbal behavior in terms of an operant process that involves antecedent circumstances and reinforcing consequences, rather than in terms of a nonbehavioral process that involves reference and symbolism. In addition, radical behaviorism recognizes private behavioral events and subscribes to research and explanatory practices that do not include testing hypotheses about supposed mediating entities from another dimension. I conclude that methodological behaviorism is actually closer to mentalism than to Skinner’s radical behaviorism.

Key words

logical positivism methodological behaviorism operationism radical behaviorism research methods verbal behavior 


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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