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Lecture 7

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

Behaviorists also rejected the method of introspection but criticized functionalism because it was not based on controlled experiments and its theories provided little predictive ability. B.F. Skinner was a developer of behaviorism. He did not think that considering how the mind affects behavior was worthwhile, for he considered behavior simply as a learned response to an external stimulus. Yet, such behaviorist concepts tend to deny the human capacity for random, unpredictable, sentient decision-making, further blocking the functionalist concept that human behavior is an active process driven by the individual. Perhaps, a combination of both the functionalist and behaviorist perspectives provides scientists with the most empirical value , but, even so, it remains philosophically (and physiologically) difficult to integrate the two concepts without raising further questions about human behavior. For instance, consider the interrelationship between three elements: the human environment, the human autonomic nervous system (our fight or flight muscle responses), and the human somatic nervous system (our voluntary muscle control). The behaviorist perspective explains a mixture of both types of muscle behavior, whereas the functionalist perspective resides mostly in the somatic nervous system. It can be argued that all behavioral origins begin within the nervous system, prompting all scientists of human behavior to possess basic physiological understandings, something very well understood by the functionalist founder William James. Skinner was influential in defining radical behaviorism, a philosophy codifying the basis of his school of research (named the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, or EAB.) While EAB differs from other approaches to behavioral research on numerous methodological and theoretical points, radical behaviorism departs from methodological behaviorism most notably in accepting feelings, states of mind and introspection as existent and scientifically treatable. This is done by identifying them as something non-dualistic, and here Skinner takes a divide-and-conquer approach, with some instances being identified with bodily conditions or behavior, and others getting a more extended "analysis" in terms of behavior. However, radical behaviorism stops short of identifying feelings as causes of behavior. Among other points of difference were a rejection of the reflex as a model of all behavior and a defense of a science of behavior complementary to but independent of physiology. Radical behaviorism has considerable overlap with other western philosophical positions such as American pragmatism. Another way of looking at behaviorism is through the lens of egoism, which is defined to be a causal analysis of the elements that define human behavior with a strong social component involved. This essentially philosophical position gained strength from the success of Skinner's early experimental work with rats and pigeons, summarized in his books The Behavior of Organisms and Schedules of Reinforcement. Of particular importance was his concept of the operant response, of which the canonical example was the rat's lever-press. In contrast with the idea of a physiological or reflex response, an operant is a class of structurally distinct but functionally equivalent responses. For example, while a rat might press a lever with its left paw or its right paw or its tail, all of these responses operate on the world in the same way and ha
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