Visions of Reinforcement Danced in Their Heads

[From Rick Marken (951224.1100)]

Samuel Saunders (951224:1:39:33 EST) --

As I said, it [the reinforcement model described] is incomplete at best.

At best! As Bill Powers (951223.0130 MST) said about it:

The above analysis is crap. It's just ringing the changes on a single
algebraic expression, and from that you will never get an analysis of
the system.

Samuel says:

I don't think that comparing and contrasting reinforcement theory and
PCT is a bad idea. I do think that it can't be done with one experiment
or one data set.

Who said it can be done with one experiment? You gotta start
somewhere, though, right?

'Reinforcement theory' consists of an array of approaches... Given this
diversity, it is almost certain that a few 'reinforcement models' can
accommodate any result that we may present.

Why don't we find out? My guess is that, since all reinforcement models
are based on the same fundamental assumption (selection by
consequences), all will be quickly ruled out by experiments where
disturbances are added to the supposed "controlling" consequences.

The only solution, I think, will come from a sustained attack on some
problem area. In that case, it should be possible to show a series of
results, all consistent with PCT, which, somewhere within the series,
conflict with most of the well supported alternatives.

That's right! But how can you know that the results "conflict with most
of the well supported alternatives" unless you know what results the
well-supported alternatives predict!

We keep hearing that reinforcement theory is "well-supported" by the
existing data. Reinforcement theorists make it sound like their theory
rests on the same kind of solid empirical base as Newton's theory. This
is clearly a bunch of crap. We have not seen one (count them, 1) example
of a reinforcement model producing behavior like that observed in even
the simplest operant experiment. I think that the "well-supportedness"
of reinforcement theory is nothing more than a collective hallucination.

The world has gotten by for centuries with that folk Psychology, and
for a century or two with a scientific Psychology based on similar

Are the prisons no longer operating ? Have the orphanages been closed?


The Ghost of Christmas Future