Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Radical Behaviorist?

There seems to be be some misinformation floating around the blogs of late. I would like to take a minute and try to correct some of this.

Myth #1: B.F. Skinner advocated punishment.

At no time in his carear was Skinner an advocate of punishment. This is directly said both in his early and later books.

Myth #2: Radical Behaviorists believe in using punishment.

That's funny because I am a radical behaviorist and I don't believe in using punishment. Skinner was the first radical behaviorist and he didn't believe in using punishment. Radical behaviorists are not "radical" because we are really, really behavior analytic, or because we condone punishment. We are radical because we seperated from earlier forms of behaviorism, namely in that we consider thoughts and feelings to be objects worthy of formal study.


Blogger KeithABA said...

I think I know where some of that confusion came from.

In that Article, Dr. Israel referred to himself as a radical behaviorist.

Certainly, "Radical Extremism," doesn't protray a positive light to the word radical.

Another one we can blame on Skinner for using a lousy choice of language! :) (aka punishment)

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skinner didn't advocate punishment, and I feel this was one of his more brilliant and noteworthy positions. Certainly Skinner was "the" Radical Behaviorist, but no where does he state that Radical Behaviorists cannot use punishment. He does suggest very heavily that a Radical Behaviorist would be informed by the costs and imprecision and ill will that punishment entails. As such we might assume that non-punishing utopias like Walden Two are "Radical Behaviorist" logically, and not merely conveniently.

The Science of Human Behavior has grown and is no longer just Skinner and a small group of his peers. Modern Behavior Analysts are sometimes foolish and are unable to see the wisdom of eschewing punishment. They were punished as children, as students, as employees and citizens. They came across research (or conducted it) in the 1970s that said "punishment works" (e.g. Azrin, et al).

The Science of Human Behavior like any science is too large to contain any single position on anything. Some biologists believe in "creation science" despite their education.

I think that Matt Israel deserves to be condemned for what he does and his bandying about Skinner's name (and that of the ABA and Radical Behaviorism and so on) is a nice way to make him seem more legitimate than he is. His is fringe work that is not well supported by any work that I can tell. Where are his published reports? Where is his data? The BCBA ethical standards state that work must be empirically validated - is his?

He might claim (and I have not seen anything that suggests this) that his work is "experimental" or "research". In which case the data should be forthcoming (and might be presented at a poster session). But it doesn't seem to be that way. He presents his so called data the way a car salesman presents "customer satisfaction" and other bogus data to prove a point - his point.

He claims to have a 'near zero rejection policy' which is a red flag for "sacred science" type fallacies. To accept everyone is to imply that you help (or can help) everyone you accept. If you are claiming to help everyone you accept than you are claiming an enormous amount of therapeutic efficacy with "nearly everyone". If that is the case he should have reams of his own published work showing this miraculous work. Where is it?

I consider myself a Radical Behaviorist, but I did not go to Harvard, and I did not study under B.F.Skinner. I consider my objection to punishment to be more in line with Skinner's arguments than Israel's who I think is just making Behavior Analysis look bad to protect his profit making business.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous passionlessDrone said...

Hi Interverbal -

The first thing I think of when I come to your blog, is, radical.


Take care!


5:56 AM  

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