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The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 101–106 | Cite as

Simply Too Many Notes

  • J. E. R. Staddon
Commentary

“Simply too many notes…” is the line reportedly suggested to Austrian Emperor Joseph II as a comment on Mozart’s brilliant first opera in Vienna. Well, the opera was brilliant but sometimes there really are too many notes—words—and much of operant conditioning seems to be made up of arguments about them. This is, presumably, a legacy of B. F. Skinner’s devotion to and skill in using language. But science is more than language, and we should surely begin a discussion of consequential learning with some actual examples.

What are we trying to explain? Killeen and Jacobs (2016) do not really make this clear, so an example may help. Here is one that makes more concrete some of the ideas there expressed. Many years ago, Derick Davis (Davis, Staddon, Machado, & Palmer 1993) looked again some data from an earlier experiment on reversal learning (Davis & Staddon, 1990; see also Staddon & Frank, 1974). The problem was simple: How best to explain the fact that pigeons trained on a daily...

Keywords

Killeen Internal state Reversal learning Skinner 

References

  1. Davis, D. G. S., & Staddon, J. E. R. (1990). Memory for reward in probabilistic choice: Markovian and non-Markovian properties. Behaviour, 114, 37–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Davis, D. G. S., Staddon, J. E. R., Machado, A., & Palmer, R. G. (1993). The process of recurrent choice. Psychological Review, 100, 320–341.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Killeen, P. R., & Jacobs, K. W. (2016). Coal is not black, snow is not white, food is not a reinforcer: the roles of affordances and dispositions in the analysis of behavior. Behavior Analyst. doi: 10.1007/s40614-016-0080-7. Advance online publication.Google Scholar
  4. Skinner, B. F. (1948). Verbal behavior. William James Lectures, Harvard University. Download fromhttp://www.behavior.org/resources/595.pdf.
  5. Staddon, J. E. R. (2016). Adaptive Behavior and Learning, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Staddon, J. E. R., & Frank, J. (1974). Mechanisms of discrimination reversal. Animal Behaviour, 22, 802–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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