Advertisement

The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Rules, Culture, and Fitness

  • William M. Baum
Article

Abstract

Behavior analysis risks intellectual isolation unless it integrates its explanations with evolutionary theory. Rule-governed behavior is an example of a topic that requires an evolutionary perspective for a full understanding. A rule may be defined as a verbal discriminative stimulus produced by the behavior of a speaker under the stimulus control of a long-term contingency between the behavior and fitness. As a discriminative stimulus, the rule strengthens listener behavior that is reinforced in the short run by socially mediated contingencies, but which also enters into the long-term contingency that enhances the listener’s fitness. The long-term contingency constitutes the global context for the speaker’s giving the rule. When a rule is said to be “internalized,” the listener’s behavior has switched from short- to long-term control. The fitness-enhancing consequences of long-term contingencies are health, resources, relationships, or reproduction. This view ties rules both to evolutionary theory and to culture. Stating a rule is a cultural practice. The practice strengthens, with short-term reinforcement, behavior that usually enhances fitness in the long run. The practice evolves because of its effect on fitness. The standard definition of a rule as a verbal statement that points to a contingency fails to distinguish between a rule and a bargain (“If you’ll do X, then I’ll do Y”), which signifies only a single short-term contingency that provides mutual reinforcement for speaker and listener. In contrast, the giving and following of a rule (“Dress warmly; it’s cold outside”) can be understood only by reference also to a contingency providing long-term enhancement of the listener’s fitness or the fitness of the listener’s genes. Such a perspective may change the way both behavior analysts and evolutionary biologists think about rule-governed behavior.

Key words

rule rule-governed behavior culture fitness evolutionary theory rule giving rule making rule following bargain 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alcock, J. (1993). Animal behavior (5th ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.Google Scholar
  2. Allan, L. G., & Jenkins, H. M. (1983). The effect of representations of binary variables on judgment of influence. Learning and Motivation, 14, 381–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1979). Judgment of contingency in depressed and non-depressed students: Sadder but wiser? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 108, 441–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baum, W. M. (1994a). John B. Watson and behavior analysis: Past, present, and future. In J. T. Todd & E. K. Morris (Eds.), Modern perspectives on John B. Watson and classical behaviorism (pp. 133–140). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baum, W. M. (1994b). Understanding behaviorism: Science, behavior, and culture. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  6. Blakely, E., & Schlinger, H. (1987). Rules: Function-altering contingency-specifying stimuli. The Behavior Analyst, 10, 183–187.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1985). Culture and the evolutionary process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cerutti, D. T. (1989). Discrimination theory of rule-governed behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 51, 259–276.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Dawkins, R. (1989). The selfish gene (new ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dickinson, A., Shanks, D., & Evenden, J. (1984). Judgement of act-outcome contingency: The role of selective attribution. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36A, 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Glenn, S. S. (1988). Contingencies and meta-contingencies: Toward a synthesis of behavior analysis and cultural materialism. The Behavior Analyst, 11, 161–179.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Glenn, S. S. (1991). Contingencies and meta-contingencies: Relations among behavioral, cultural, and biological evolution. In P. A. Lamal (Ed.), Behavioral analysis of societies and cultural practices (pp. 39–73). New York: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  13. Harris, M. (1980). Cultural materialism. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  14. Harris, M. (1987). Foodways: Historical overview and theoretical prolegomenon. In M. Harris & E. B. Ross (Eds.), Food and evolution (pp. 57–90). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Harris, M., & Ross, E. B. (1987). Death, sex, and fertility. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, L. J., & Chase, P. N. (Eds.). (1991). Dialogues on verbal behavior. Reno, NV: Context.Google Scholar
  17. Hayes, S. C. (Ed.). (1989). Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  18. Herrnstein, R. J. (1969). Method and theory in the study of avoidance. Psychological Review, 76, 49–69.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hineline, P. N., & Wanchisen, B. A. (1989). Correlated hypothesizing and the distinction between contingency-shaped and rule-governed behavior. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 221–268). New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Logue, A. W. (1978). Behaviorist John B. Watson and the continuity of the species. Behaviorism, 6, 71–79.Google Scholar
  21. Logue, A. W. (1994). Watson’s behaviorist manifesto: Past positive and current negative consequences. In J. T. Todd & E. K. Morris (Eds.), Modern perspectives on John B. Watson and classical behaviorism (pp. 109–123). Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  22. Malagodi, E. F., & Jackson, K. (1989). Behavior analysts and cultural analysis: Troubles and issues. The Behavior Analyst, 12, 17–33.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Petrovich, S. B., & Gewirtz, J. L. (1991). Imprinting and attachment: Proximate and ultimate considerations. In J. L. Gewirtz & W. M. Kurtines (Eds.), Intersections with attachment (pp. 69–93). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  24. Reese, H. W. (1989). Rules and rule-governance: Cognitive and behavioristic views. In S. C. Hayes (Ed.), Rule-governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control (pp. 3–84). New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Segal, E. F. (1972). Induction and the provenance of operants. In R. M. Gilbert & J. R. Millenson (Eds.), Reinforcement: Behavioral analyses (pp. 1–34). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Skinner, B. F. (1945). The operational analysis of psychological terms. Psychological Review, 52, 270–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Skinner, B. F. (1969). An operant analysis of problem solving. In Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis (pp. 133–171). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  29. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  30. Skinner, B. F (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  31. Skinner, B. F. (1981). Selection by consequences. Science, 213, 501–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Sommerville, C. J. (1982). The rise and fall of childhood. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Staddon, J. E. R. (1977). Schedule-induced behavior. In W. K. Honig & J. E. R. Staddon (Eds.), Handbook of operant behavior (pp. 125–152). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  34. Staddon, J. E. R. (1983). Adaptive behavior and learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Todd, J. T. (1994). What psychology has to say about John B. Watson: Classical behaviorism in psychology textbooks, 1920–1989. In J. T. Todd & E. K. Morris (Eds.), Modern perspectives on John B. Watson and classical behaviorism (pp. 75–107). Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  36. Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wilson, D. S., & Sober, E. (1994). Re-introducing group selection to the human behavioral sciences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 585–654. (Includes commentary)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zettle, R. D., & Hayes, S. C. (1982). Rule-governed behavior: A potential theoretical framework for cognitive-behavioral therapy. In P. C. Kendall (Ed.), Advances in cognitive-behavioral research and therapy (Vol. 1, pp. 73–118). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations