Jim Johnston

Fourth and second editions October 15, 2019

Back in 2017, I published a post titled, “Research methods as a way of talking about behavior.” The piece explained the relationship between how we talk about behavior and how we study it, noting the considerable differences between colloquial and scientific dialects. I’ve been writing about both dialects and their practical implications for many years,…

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What if we had no verbal behavior? June 20, 2019

The predominant challenge facing students of behavior analysis, not to mention those well into their careers, is dealing with the insidious and pervasive contributions of mentalism to colloquial and even professional dialects. If you are not utterly convinced of this proposition, you should read an earlier post titled, “How good are you at recognizing mentalism?”…

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Are you confused? February 4, 2019

What do we mean when we say we’re confused? We certainly know what it’s like to be or “feel” confused. We may be struggling with instructions on how to assemble something or trying with some difficulty to understand an issue in a textbook or wondering which turn to take to get to a destination. The…

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When are feelings really feelings? November 20, 2018

How many times a day do we express how we’re feeling? Surely so many that we don’t notice the circumstances or pay attention to what our phrasings imply for how we understand behavior. “I feel like having a salad for lunch.” “I’m feeling sleepy.” “I feel sick to my stomach.” “I feel like going to…

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An essential curiosity August 9, 2018

We all know that moment when we’re talking with someone we’ve just met and they ask that question that you don’t really want to answer – “What do you do?” It’s not that we’re not proud of our profession, but that it’s hard to explain what it is. We’ve got our stock responses, which vary…

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Why logic doesn’t matter July 12, 2018

We all do it. We pounce on an offending statement in a discussion by saying it isn’t logical, as if this alone should settle the matter. With no less conviction, we defend our own arguments by saying that they are. This vernacular tendency seems to hold out logic as an arbiter of truth, or at…

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Can professionalism go too far? May 7, 2018

Early on there were just behavior analysts. There was no official definition of what it meant to say that you were a behavior analyst; it was just a matter of self-proclamation. Within that community, there was at least a general sense that being a behavior analyst meant you had a pretty solid knowledge of operant…

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The value of values April 10, 2018

Everyday references to values don’t provide much in the way of hints about their fundamental nature. Our vernacular way of talking about values generally suggests that they crudely identify what we like (or don’t like, depending on how they are expressed). The possibilities range widely, from specific things (vintage Porsches) to activities or experiences (riding…

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Is your behavior really yours? February 27, 2018

The syntax of our vernacular dialect suggests that behavior originates in, comes from, or is possessed by the organism. It is difficult to casually refer to an individual’s behavior – note the possessive case – without these implications. This tendency may not be among the most harmful everyday insinuations, but it’s hardly innocent either. Read…

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