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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Research methods as a way of talking about behavior February 28, 2017

I have more than a passing interest in research methods, particularly those that have driven the basic and applied research literature of behavior analysis over the years. A fourth edition of “S&T” is well underway, which means I’ve been writing about the methods for studying behavior for more than 35 years (see Johnston & Pennypacker,…

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How good are you at recognizing mentalism? February 7, 2017

Applied behavior analysts face many challenges. We always need more guidance from our science, for instance, especially its applied literature. Making the best of the opportunities presented by our field’s rapid growth and development has become particularly important. One of the central problems here concerns how we can do a better job of training new…

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How do you know who you are? January 1, 2017

“Solitary confinement is not a head banging against the wall in terror or rage. Sometimes it is, but mostly it’s just the slow erasure of who you thought you were. You think you are still you, but you have no real way of knowing. How can you know if you have no one to reflect…

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Should we talk about controlling as a behavior? December 6, 2016

Isn’t it obvious? We often talk about someone controlling his or her environment – especially someone else’s behavior – implying that controlling is a behavior of some sort. We also talk about control as the outcome or consequence of such behavior, perhaps a type of positive reinforcer, as when we are successful in engineering a…

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How would they have learned that? November 13, 2016

For behavior analysts, talking with other people about behavior can be trying. Knowing that they lack our professional training, we make an effort to be patient with their understanding our subject matter. It’s difficult because their history prepares them with a ready and apparently endless supply of explanations – both explicit and implicit – that…

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The behavior analyst and the border collie October 19, 2016

I’ve had a variety of dogs over the years, from little (Sealyham Terrier) to big (Irish Wolfhound) and including a number of other breeds and mutts in between, but border collies (BCs) are something special. They’re pretty amazing dogs, generally reputed to be the smartest of all breeds. That’s debatable, of course, but living with…

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Labeling behavior September 18, 2016

You really can’t talk about behavior without labeling the piece of it under discussion. Behavior is such a broad, varied, and pervasive phenomenon that we have no choice but to get specific about the particular instances of interest. So whether it’s a casual conversation or a professional presentation, we identify the features of behavior at…

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Can you unlearn a behavior? August 4, 2016

Have you ever suggested that a behavior can be unlearned? It’s an easy slip-of-the-tongue, not apparently much different from saying that we can get rid of a target behavior. And if we’re successful, isn’t that the same as unlearning the behavior? Can we say that the individual has learned to not engage in that behavior…

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