Rules are for amateurs January 22, 2018

In this post, I’m going to wander a bit afield from my usual focus on how we talk about behavior from a conceptual or theoretical perspective. This discussion will still focus on how we talk about behavior, but it’s how we talk about our own professional behavior that is at issue. Procedural rules The rules…

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As if November 21, 2017

We do it all the time and it seems so harmless – saying something about behavior but adding a speculation beginning with “as if.” “She was really kind of annoyed, as if she was already in a bad mood” or “When I talk to my dog, he cocks his head as if he’s trying to…

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Identifying a behavior September 6, 2017

A recent thread on the Applied Behavior Analysis Facebook page asked the following question: “Can non-verbal animals mand or is this strictly a human verbal operant?” Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the resulting reactions suggested a variety of behaviors owners considered mands in their pet’s repertoire. These examples generally took the form of an animal…

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You don’t have to understand August 3, 2017

One of the more common convictions shared by everyday folk – that is, those who haven’t been enlightened by training in behavior analysis – is that it is necessary to understand a contingency in order to succumb to its effects. In spite of obvious evidence to the contrary, this assumption should not be surprising. Since…

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Can you step outside your history? June 28, 2017

Regardless of when you studied to become a behavior analyst, your journey was guided by the work of B. F. Skinner. Through his 20 books and hundreds of papers, he has been an instructor for all of us. Even though most have read only a limited selection of his publications, almost everything else we studied…

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What are your intentions? May 29, 2017

In common parlance, when talking about human affairs it’s difficult to avoid referencing intentions. The usual assumption is that intentions are something each of us privately possesses, so we have no hesitation in describing our own. However, we’re not bashful about characterizing the intentions of others based on how we read the circumstances surrounding their…

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You can’t understand feelings and emotions without behavior! April 28, 2017

Even passing contact with the mainstream research literature on feelings and emotions suggests that most investigators are content with trying to understand these phenomena without considering the role of learned behavior. This approach typically collates psychological and physiological elements to fashion explanations that somehow seem to avoid any need for bringing learned behavior into the…

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Do we have to explain everything? March 30, 2017

Behavior analysts are used to explaining. Whether as researchers or practitioners, we see our job as understanding behavior. This mandate implies that we should be able to explain what is going on with behavior, both as a general phenomenon and in particular instances. After all, analyzing behavior involves studying it carefully, breaking it down into…

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