Skip to main content Accessibility help

Reply to Harnad

  • B. F. Skinner (a1)


A. What is the current status of theory in radical behaviorism? Radical behaviorism is antitheoretical in the sense that it attacks and rejects traditional explanations of behavior in terms of internal initiating causes. It is anti-creationist. It turns instead, as Darwin did, to the selection of presumably random variations by contingencies of survival (ethology) and contingencies of reinforcement (the experimental analysis of behavior). In that analysis, rate of responding is taken as a basic datum and studied as a function of many contingencies of reinforcement. The results are factual, not theoretical. The analysis has “matured” by successfully analyzing more and more complex arrangements of variables. If rate of responding is taken as a measure of probability of response, an element of theory no doubt arises, and theory may be necessary in interpreting facts about behavior which are out of reach of precise prediction and control. As in modern astronomy, a laboratory science of behavior will continue, I believe, to give the best possible explanation of facts beyond experimental control – events in the world at large in the case of behavior, the waves and particles reaching the earth from outer space in the case of astronomy. The depth and breadth of both fields depend not upon improvements in theory but upon success in the analysis of presumably similar phenomena where some degree of prediction and control is possible.



Hide All
Bernstein, D. J. & Ebbesen, E. B. (1978) Reinforcement and substitution in humans: A multiple-response analysis. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 30:243–53. [ACC]
Catania, A. C. (1978) The psychology of learning: Some lessons from the Darwinian revolution. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 309:1828. [ACC]
Catania, A. C. (1983) Behavior analysis and behavior synthesis in the extrapolation from animal to human behavior. In: Animal models of human behavior, ed. Davey, G.. Wiley. [ACC]
Chomsky, N. (1959) Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal behavior. Language 35:2658. [ACC, BFS]
Dawkins, R. (1976) The selfish gene. Oxford University Press. [ACC]
Dawkins, R. (1982) The extended phenotype. W. H. Freeman and Company. [ACC]
Eisenberger, R., Karpman, M. & Trattner, T. (1967) What is the necessary and sufficient condition for reinforcement in the contingency situation? Journal of Experimental Psychology 74:342–50. [ACC]
Erickson, E. H. (1963) Childhood and society. Rev. ed.W. W. Norton. [BFS]
Guttman, N. (1959) Generalization gradients around stimuli associated with different reinforcement schedules. Journal of Experimental Psychology 58:335–40. [BFS]
Herrnstein, R. J., Loveland, D. H. & Cable, C. (1976) Natural concepts in pigeons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes 2:285311. [BFS]
Matthews, B. A., Shimoff, E., Catania, A. C. & Sagvolden, T. (1977) Uninstructed human responding: Sensitivity to ratio and interval contingencies. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 27:453–67. [ACC]
Maynard Smith, J. (1958) The theory of evolution. Penguin Books. [ACC]
Pavlov, I. P. (1927) Conditioned reflexes. Trans. Anrep, G. V.. Oxford University Press. [BFS]
Premack, D. (1959) Toward empirical behavior laws: I. Positive reinforcement. Psychological Review 66:219–33. [ACC]
Premack, D. (1971) Catching up with common sense or two sides of a generalization: Reinforcement and punishment. In: The nature of reinforcement, ed. Glaser, R.. Academic Press. [ACC]
Rachlin, H. & Burkhard, B. (1978) The temporal triangle: Response substitution in instrumental conditioning. Psychological Review 85:2247. [ACC]
Sherrington, C. (1906) The integrative action of the nervous system. Scribner's. [BFS]
Sidman, M. & Stoddard, L. T. (1967) The effectiveness of fading in programming a simultaneous form discrimination for retarded children. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 10:315. [BFS]
Simpson, G. G. (1953) The major features of evolution. Columbia University Press. [ACC]
Skinner, B. F. (1934) A discrimination without previous conditioning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 20:532–36. [BFS]
Skinner, B. F. (1938) The behavior of organisms. Appleton-Century-Crofts. [BFS]
Skinner, B. F. (1953) Science and human behavior. Macmillan. [ACC]
Skinner, B. F. (1957) Verbal behavior. Appleton-Century-Crofts. [BFS]
Skinner, B. F. (1956) Freedom and the control of men. American Scholar 25:4765. [ACC]
Skinner, B. F. (1975) The shaping of phylogenic behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 24:117–20. [ACC]
Skinner, B. F. (1984a) Cognitive science and behaviorism. [BFS]
Skinner, B. F. (1984b) The evolution of behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 41:217–21. [ACC]
Skinner, B. F., & Julià, P. (1984) Reply to Place: “Three senses of the word ‘tact’”. Behaviorism. In press. [BFS]
Terrace, H. S. (1963) Errorless transfer of a discrimination across two continua. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 6:223–32. [BFS]
Tolman, E. C. (1948) Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review 55:189208. [BFS]

Reply to Harnad

  • B. F. Skinner (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed