The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 161–179 | Cite as

Contingencies and Metacontingencies: Toward a Synthesis of Behavior Analysis and Cultural Materialism

  • Sigrid S. Glenn
Article

Abstract

A synthesis of cultural materialism and behavior analysis might increase the scientific and technological value of both fields. Conceptual and substantive relations between the two fields show important similarities, particularly with regard to the causal role of the environment in behavioral and cultural evolution. Key concepts in Marvin Harris’s cultural materialist theories are outlined. A distinction is made between contingencies at the behavioral level of analysis (contingencies of reinforcement) and contingencies at the cultural level of analysis (metacontingencies). Relations between the two kinds of contingencies are explored in cultural practices from paleolithic to industrial sociocultural systems. A synthesis of these two fields may offer the opportunity to resolve serious problems currently facing modern cultures.

Key words

cultural materialism metacontingency cultural evolution behavior analysis 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Ator, N. A. (1986). Behavioral biology. The Behavior Analyst, 9, 123–125.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Ayres, C. E. (1962). The theory of economic progress. New York: Schocken Books. (Originally published in 1944.)Google Scholar
  3. Branch, M. N. (1977). On the role of “memory” in the analysis of behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 28, 171–179.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Dawkins, R. (1984). Replicators, consequences, and displacement activities. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7, 486–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dawkins, R. (1986). The blind watchmaker. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  6. Glenn, S. S. (1985, October). Behavioral selection and cultural contingencies. Paper presented at the meeting of the Southeastern Association for Behavior Analysis, Charleston, SC.Google Scholar
  7. Glenn, S. S. (1986a). Metacontingencies in Waiden Two. Behavior Analysis and Social Action, 5, 2–8.Google Scholar
  8. Glenn, S. S. (1986b, August). Behavior: A gene for the social sciences. Poster presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  9. Harris, M. (1964). The nature of cultural things. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  10. Harris, M. (1974). Cows, pigs, wars and witches. New York: Random House. (All quotations from Vintage Books Edition, 1978.)Google Scholar
  11. Harris, M. (1977). Cannibals and kings: The origins of cultures. New York: Random House. (All quotations from First Vintage Books Edition, 1978.)Google Scholar
  12. Harris, M. (1979). Cultural materialism. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  13. Harris, M. (1981). Why nothing works. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Originally published as America Now.)Google Scholar
  14. Harris, M. (1985). The sacred cow and the abominable pig. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Originally published as Good to eat.)Google Scholar
  15. Hineline, P. N. (1986). Re-tuning the operant-respondent distinction. In T. Thompson & M. Zeiler (Eds.), Analysis and integration of behavioral units (pp. 55–79). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Hopkins, B. L. (1987). Comments on the future of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 20, 339–346.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnston, J. M., & Pennypacker, H. S. (1980). Strategies and tactics of human behavioral research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Lloyd, K. E. (1985). Behavioral anthropology: A review of Marvin Harris’ Cultural materialism. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 43, 279–287.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Lubinski, D., & Thompson, T. (1986). Functional units of human behavior and their integration: A dispositional analysis. In T. Thompson & M. Zeiler (Eds.), Analysis and integration of behavioral units (pp. 275–314). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Malagodi, E. F. (1986). On radicalizing behaviorism: A call for cultural analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 9, 1–17.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Malott, R. W. (1988). Rule-governed behavior and behavioral anthropology. The Behavior Analyst, 11, 181–203.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Malott, R. W., & Whaley, D. L. (1976). Psychology. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  23. Mayr, E., & Provine, W. B. (1980). The evolutionary synthesis: Perspectives on the unification of biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Segal, E. F. (1987). Waiden Two: The morality of anarchy. The Behavior Analyst, 10, 147–160.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Skinner, B. F. (1948). Waiden Two. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  27. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  28. Skinner, B. F. (1981). Selection by consequences. Science, 213, 501–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Skinner, B. F. (1986). Evolution of verbal behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 45, 115–122.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Vargas, E. A. (1985). Cultural contingencies: A review of Marvin Harris’s Cannibals and Kings. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 43, 419–428.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sigrid S. Glenn
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Behavioral Studies, University of North TexasDentonUSA

Personalised recommendations