Advertisement

Abstract

The behavioral approach to cognition is a kind of atomic theory. Phenomena commonly called “cognitive,” such as recall, problem solving, composition, planning, and imagining, are typically complex behavioral events that are compounds of elementary or atomic operants. For example, a long division problem can be solved by a series of one-digit multiplication and subtraction calculations along with various ordering operations. The compound usually serves some adaptive purpose, and over repeated instances can itself emerge as a kind of behavioral molecule—the solution to a brain teaser can be dashed off after it has been worked out a few times—but more commonly such compounds are unique; they are seldom repeated exactly when people solve problems, recall an episode, or plan their day. In any case, it is the first instance of a phenomenon that poses a special challenge to science. From a behavioral perspective, such phenomena are best analyzed at the level of the elementary operant, appealing only to principles of behavior that have emerged from experimental science. The behaviorist’s task is to show how such behavioral atoms can combine to produce complex human behavior. Although some examples, such as solving long division problems, may be formulaic, others, such as recalling what one ate for dinner Sunday night, are not. The challenge is formidable. The experimental analysis of even a single operant requires considerable effort, and the study of the relations between two competing operants has kept researchers busy for decades. How much more difficult must be the study of unique mosaics of many operants!

Keywords

Experimental Analysis Verbal Behavior Behavior Analysis Behavioral Approach Behavior Analyst 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Chase, P. N., Johnson, K. R., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1985). Verbal relations within instruction: Are there subclasses of the intraverbal? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 43, 301–313.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chomsky, N. (1959). Review of Verbal Behavior by B. F. Skinner. Language, 35, 26–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chomsky, N. (1971, December 30). The case against B. F. Skinner. The New York Review of Books, 17, 18–24.Google Scholar
  4. Dennett, D. (1978). Brainstorms. New York: Bradford Books.Google Scholar
  5. Donahoe, J. W. & Palmer, D. C. (1994). Learning and complex behavior, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  6. Lamarre, J., & Holland, J. G. (1985). The functional independence of mands and tacts. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 43, 5–19.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lee, V. L. (1981). Prepositional phrases spoken and heard. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 35, 227–242.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Machado, A., Lourenço, O., & Silva, F. J. (2000). Facts, concepts, and theories: The shape of psychology’s epistemic triangle. Behavior and Philosophy, 28, 1–40.Google Scholar
  9. McClelland, J. L. Rumelhart, D. E. & the PDP Research Group (Eds.) (1986). Parallel distributed processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Newton, I. (1952). Mathematical principles of natural philosophy. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Press. ( Original work published 1687 )Google Scholar
  11. Palmer, D. C. (1991). A behavioral interpretation of memory. In L. J. Hayes & P. N. Chase (Eds.) Dialogues on verbal behavior (pp. 261–279 ). Reno, NV: Context Press.Google Scholar
  12. Palmer, D. C. (1998). The speaker as listener: The interpretation of structural regularities in verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 15, 3–16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Skinner, B. F. (1935). The generic nature of the concepts of stimulus and response. Journal of General Psychology, 12, 40–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  15. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton- Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  16. Skinner, B. F. (1988). Reply to Stalker and Ziff. In A. C. Catania & S. Hamad (Eds.), The selection of behavior: The operant behaviorism of B. F. Skinner: Comments and Consequences (pp. 207–208 ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Snow, C. E. (1996). Toward a rational empiricism: Why interactionism is not behaviorism any more than biology is genetics. In M. L. Rice (Ed.), Toward a genetics of language (pp. 377–396 ). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Sundberg, M. L., Endicott, K., & Eigenheer, P. (2000). Using intraverbal prompts to establish tacts for children with autism. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 17, 89–104.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySmith CollegeNorthamptonUK

Personalised recommendations