Behavior and Social Issues

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 4–19 | Cite as

Expanding the Behavior-Analytic Meanings of “Freedom”: the Contributions of Israel Goldiamond

  • Ramon Cardinali de FernandesEmail author
  • Alexandre Dittrich


The adoption of determinism and the use of the term “control” when referring to relations of influence between environment and the actions of organisms seem to suggest that there is no room for freedom in behavioral science. Nevertheless, some behavior analysts have articulated meanings of the word “freedom” that are wholly consistent with the epistemological assumptions of radical behaviorism. Some of these meanings, like those elaborated by Skinner, Baum and Catania, are relatively well-known in the behavior-analytical community and had some measure of conceptual or practical impact. In order to expand the possible behavior-analytic meanings of “freedom,” this article aimed to revisit and discuss a unique and little-known formulation on the subject elaborated by Israel Goldiamond. To these ends, we present (a) Goldiamond’s first remarks on freedom; (b) his subsequent proposal of a nonlinear behavior analysis; (c) the concepts of degrees of freedom, degrees of coercion and “genuine choice”; and (d) the types of coercion identified by Goldiamond that ultimately limit freedom in different social contexts. This is followed by a discussion on how and to what extent Goldiamond’s formulation constitutes an expansion of the behavior-analytic meanings of “freedom.” Similarities and differences between Goldiamond´s formulations and those of Skinner, Baum and Catania are also discussed.


freedom coercion nonlinear behavior analysis choice Israel Goldiamond 


  1. Abib, J. A. D. (2016). Cenário de uma revolução psicológica. Revista Brasileira de Terapia Comportamental e Cognitiva, 18, 27–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baum, W. M. (2017). Understanding behaviorism: Behavior, culture, and evolution (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Retrieved from Scholar
  3. Brandenburg, O. J., & Weber, L. N. D. (2005). Autoconhecimento e liberdade no behaviorismo radical. Psico-USF, 10, 87–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Catania, A. C. (1980). Freedom of choice: A behavioral analysis. The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 14, 97–145. Retrieved from Scholar
  5. Cerutti, D., & Catania, A. C. (1997). Pigeons’ preference for free choice: Number of keys versus key area. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 68, 349–56. Retrieved from Scholar
  6. Cruz, R. N. (2010). Possíveis relações entre o contexto histórico e a recepção do behaviorismo radical. Psicologia: Ciência e Profissão, 30, 478–491. Retrieved from Scholar
  7. Dittrich, A. (2010). Sentidos possíveis de “liberdade” no behaviorismo radical. In M. M. C. Hübner, M. R. Garcia, P. R. Abreu, E. N. P. Cillo, & P. B. Faleiros (Eds.), Sobre comportamento e cognição: Vol. 25. Análise experimental do comportamento, cultura, questões conceituais e filosóficas (pp. 13–17). Santo André: ESETec.Google Scholar
  8. Gimenez, L. S., Layng, T. V. J., & Andronis, P. T. (2003). Contribuições de Israel Goldiamond para o desenvolvimento da análise do comportamento. In M. Z. S. Brandão, F. C. S. Conte, F. S. Brandão, Y. K. Ingberman, C. B. Moura, V. M. Silva, & S. M. Oliane (Eds.), Sobre comportamento e cognição: Vol. 11. A história e os avanços, a seleção por consequências em ação (pp. 34–46). Santo André: ESETec.Google Scholar
  9. Goldiamond, I. (1965). Justified and unjustified alarm over behavioral control. In O. Milton (Ed.), Behavior disorders: Perspectives and trends (pp. 237–261). New York: J. B. Lipincott.Google Scholar
  10. Goldiamond, I. (1975a). Singling out behavior modification for legal regulation: Some effects on patient care, psychotherapy, and research in general. Arizona Law Review, 17, 105–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Goldiamond, I. (1975b). Alternative sets as a framework for behavioral formulations and research. Behaviorism, 3, 49–86.Google Scholar
  12. Goldiamond, I. (1976). Protection of human subjects and patients: A social contingency analysis of distinctions between research and practice, and its implications. Behaviorism, 4, 1–41.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Goldiamond, I. (1984). Training parent trainers and ethicists in nonlinear analysis of behavior. In R. F. Dangel & R. A. Polster (Eds.), Parent training: Foundations of research and practice (pp. 504–546). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  14. Goldiamond, I. (2002). Toward a constructional approach to social problems: Ethical and constitutional issues raised by applied behavior analysis. Behavior and Social Issues, 11, 108–197. Retrieved from Scholar
  15. Hamilton, L. F. T. (2012). Os usos do termo “liberdade” no anarquismo de Bakunin e no behaviorismo radical de Skinner (Master’s thesis). Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo. Retrieved from
  16. Hunziker, M. H. L. (2017). Dogmas sobre o controle aversivo. Acta Comportamentalia, 25, 85–100.Google Scholar
  17. Laurenti, C. (2009). Criatividade, liberdade e dignidade: Impactos do darwinismo no behaviorismo radical. Scientia Studia, 7, 251–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Layng, T. V. J. (2009). The search for an effective clinical behavior analysis: The nonlinear thinking of Israel Goldiamond. The Behavior Analyst, 32, 163–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Michael, J. (1982). Distinguishing between discriminative and motivational functions of stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 37, 149–155. Retrieved from Scholar
  20. Polanyi, K. (2001). The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our times (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rost, K. A., Hemmes, N. S., & Alvero, A. M. (2014). Effects of the relative values of alternatives on preference for free-choice in humans. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 102, 241–251. Retrieved from Scholar
  22. Sidman, M. (1989). Coercion and its fallout. Boston, MA: Authors Cooperative.Google Scholar
  23. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. East Norwalk, CT: Appleton-Century-Crofts.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  25. Skinner, B. F. (1984). The operational analysis of psychological terms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7, 547–581. Retrieved from Scholar
  26. Steinfeld, R. J. (2001). Coercion, contract, and free labor in the nineteenth century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wexler, D. B. (1973). Token and taboo: Behavior modification, token economies, and the law. California Law Review, 61, 81–109. Retrieved from Scholar
  28. Widerquist, K. (2013). Independence, propertylessness, and basic income: A theory of freedom as the power to say no. Exploring the basic income guarantee (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from Scholar

Copyright information

© Ramon Cardinali de Fernandes & Alexandre Dittrich 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramon Cardinali de Fernandes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexandre Dittrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Universidade Federal do ParanáBrazil

Personalised recommendations