The Mythical Behaviorist View

[From Fred Nickols (970913.0820 EST)]

Fred Nickols (970911.2240 EST) --

As for me trying to see that "the
behaviorist account is wrong," I'll pass on that invitation. I
wouldn't know whether to use your definition of the behaviorist
account, Skinner's, Fred Keller's, BruceA's, or any one of half a
dozen different accounts of that perspective.

Bruce Nevin (970912.0822 EST)

Can you identify one difference between any pair of these accounts that is
relevant to the question?

Not between Skinner and Keller, nor even BruceA's (because I am not all that
familiar with his views yet), but I have encountered many self-proclaimed
and thoroughly credentialed behaviorists who equate rewards with
reinforcers, who think of punishment as a negative reinforcer, who believe
that reinforcers are reinforcers regardless of circumstance, who believe
that consequences cause the behavior that produces them, and who believe
that if only they could gain control of your reinforcers and mine they could
rule the world. So, I'm careful to distinguish the likes of Skinner and
Keller from those who came after. There's a lot of shlock and snake-oil out
there passing itself off as solid science and claiming ties to this guru or
that one when in fact there is only the thinnest of superficial connections.

My point was simply that I find it unproductive, even counterproductive, to
deal with something as ambiguous as "the behaviorist view"--unless someone
is willing to trot it out for inspection. I know far too many behaviorists
who disagree among themselves for me to succumb to the temptation to believe
that there is a universally accepted schema called "the behaviorist view."
It simply doesn't exist, and to do battle with it is to tilt with windmills.

What you can do is take issue with specific propositions and ideas, and the
reasoning of the people who propose, advocate, and defend them. But why?
It's not likely they'll change their minds; as Rick pointed out, they'll do
what we all do--protect against disturbances--unless they get to the point
of reorganizing their reference structures.

That, by the way, is what brought me to the CSG list. I'm less interested
in the basic proposition that we behave to control our perceptions than I am
in how the reference structures get organized and reorganized. That strikes
me as the key to learning. On that same subject, I don't recall seeing any
discussion of how reference structures get formed and reformed; most of what
I see has to do with the conflict between EAB people and PCT people and
their respective perspectives.

Where might I find a discussion of learning from the PCT perspective?


Fred Nickols