Behaviorism (or behaviourism) is a systematic approach to understanding the behavior of humans and other animals.[1] It assumes that behavior is either a reflex evoked by the pairing of certain antecedent stimuli in the environment, or a consequence of that individual's history, including especially reinforcement and punishment contingencies, together with the individual's current motivational state and controlling stimuli. Although behaviorists generally accept the important role of heredity in determining behavior, they focus primarily on environmental events.

It combines elements of philosophy, methodology, and psychological theory. Behaviorism emerged in the early 1900s as a reaction to depth psychology and other traditional forms of psychology, which often had difficulty making predictions that could be tested experimentally, but derived from earlier research in the late nineteenth century, such as when Edward Thorndike pioneered the law of effect, a procedure that involved the use of consequences to strengthen or weaken behavior.

During the first half of the twentieth century, John B. Watson devised methodological behaviorism, which rejected introspective methods and sought to understand behavior by only measuring observable behaviors and events. It was not until the 1930s that B. F. Skinner suggested that covert behavior—particularly, thoughts and feelings—are subjected to the same controlling variables as observable behavior, which became the basis for his philosophy called "radical behaviorism."[2][3] While Watson and Ivan Pavlov investigated how stimulus-response procedures elicit reflexes in respondent conditioning, Skinner assessed the controlling nature of reinforcement and its potential effect on the antecedents (or discriminative stimuli) that emits behavior; the technique became known as operant conditioning.

The application of radical behaviorism—known as applied behavior analysis—is used in a variety of contexts, including, for example, organizational behavior management and pediatric feeding therapy, to the treatment of mental disorders, such as autism and substance abuse.[4][5][6] In addition, while behaviorism and cognitive schools of psychological thought may not agree theoretically, they have complemented each other in the cognitive-behavior therapies, which have demonstrated utility in treating certain pathologies, such as simple phobias, PTSD, and mood disorders.


There is no universally agreed-upon classification, but some titles given to the various branches of behaviorism include:

  • Interbehaviorism: Proposed by Jacob Robert Kantor before B. F. Skinner's writings.
  • Methodological behaviorism: John B. Watson's behaviorism states that only public events (motor behaviors of an individual) can be objectively observed. Although it was still acknowledged that thoughts and feelings exist, they were not considered part of the science of behavior.[2][7][8] It also laid the theoretical foundation for the early approach behavior modification in the 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Psychological behaviorism: As proposed by Arthur W. Staats, unlike the previous behaviorisms of Skinner, Hull, and Tolman, was based upon a program of human research involving various types of human behavior. Psychological behaviorism introduces new principles of human learning. Humans learn not only by the animal learning principles but also by special human learning principles. Those principles involve humans' uniquely huge learning ability. Humans learn repertoires that enable them to learn other things. Human learning is thus cumulative. No other animal demonstrates that ability, making the human species unique.
  • Radical behaviorism: Skinner's philosophy is an extension of Watson's form of behaviorism by theorizing that processes within the organism—particularly, private events, such as thoughts and feelings—are also part of the science of behavior, and suggests that environmental variables control these internal events just as they control observable behaviors. Although private events cannot be directly seen by others, they are later determined through the species' overt behavior. Radical behaviorism forms the core philosophy behind behavior analysis. Willard Van Orman Quine used many of radical behaviorism's ideas in his study of knowledge and language.[7]
  • Teleological behaviorism: Proposed by Howard Rachlin, post-Skinnerian, purposive, close to microeconomics. Focuses on objective observation as opposed to cognitive processes.
  • Theoretical behaviorism: Proposed by J. E. R. Staddon,[9][10][11] adds a concept of internal state to allow for the effects of context. According to theoretical behaviorism, a state is a set of equivalent histories, i.e., past histories in which members of the same stimulus class produce members of the same response class (i.e., B. F. Skinner's concept of the operant). Conditioned stimuli are thus seen to control neither stimulus nor response but state. Theoretical behaviorism is a logical extension of Skinner's class-based (generic) definition of the operant.

Two subtypes of theoretical behaviorism are:

  • Hullian and post-Hullian: theoretical, group data, not dynamic, physiological
  • Purposive: Tolman's behavioristic anticipation of cognitive psychology

Modern-day theory: radical behaviorism

B. F. Skinner proposed radical behaviorism as the conceptual underpinning of the experimental analysis of behavior. This viewpoint differs from other approaches to behavioral research in various ways, but, most notably here, it contrasts with methodological behaviorism in accepting feelings, states of mind and introspection as behaviors subject to scientific investigation. Like methodological behaviorism, it rejects the reflex as a model of all behavior, and it defends the science of behavior as complementary to but independent of physiology. Radical behaviorism overlaps considerably with other western philosophical positions, such as American pragmatism.[12]

Experimental and conceptual innovations

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[13] and Schedules of Reinforcement.[14] 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 have a common consequence. Operants are often thought of as species of responses, where the individuals differ but the class coheres in its function-shared consequences with operants and reproductive success with species. This is a clear distinction between Skinner's theory and S–R theory.

Skinner's empirical work expanded on earlier research on trial-and-error learning by researchers such as Thorndike and Guthrie with both conceptual reformulations—Thorndike's notion of a stimulus–response "association" or "connection" was abandoned; and methodological ones—the use of the "free operant", so called because the animal was now permitted to respond at its own rate rather than in a series of trials determined by the experimenter procedures. With this method, Skinner carried out substantial experimental work on the effects of different schedules and rates of reinforcement on the rates of operant responses made by rats and pigeons. He achieved remarkable success in training animals to perform unexpected responses, to emit large numbers of responses, and to demonstrate many empirical regularities at the purely behavioral level. This lent some credibility to his conceptual analysis. It is largely his conceptual analysis that made his work much more rigorous than his peers', a point which can be seen clearly in his seminal work Are Theories of Learning Necessary? in which he criticizes what he viewed to be theoretical weaknesses then common in the study of psychology. An important descendant of the experimental analysis of behavior is the Society for Quantitative Analysis of Behavior.[15][16]

Relation to language

As Skinner turned from experimental work to concentrate on the philosophical underpinnings of a science of behavior, his attention turned to human language with his 1957 book Verbal Behavior[17] and other language-related publications;[18] Verbal Behavior laid out a vocabulary and theory for functional analysis of verbal behavior, and was strongly criticized in a review by Noam Chomsky.[19][20]

Skinner did not respond in detail but claimed that Chomsky failed to understand his ideas,[21] and the disagreements between the two and the theories involved have been further discussed.[22][23][24][25][26][27] Innateness theory, which has been heavily critiqued,[28][29] is opposed to behaviorist theory which claims that language is a set of habits that can be acquired by means of conditioning.[30][31][32] According to some, the behaviorist account is a process which would be too slow to explain a phenomenon as complicated as language learning. What was important for a behaviorist's analysis of human behavior was not language acquisition so much as the interaction between language and overt behavior. In an essay republished in his 1969 book Contingencies of Reinforcement,[33] Skinner took the view that humans could construct linguistic stimuli that would then acquire control over their behavior in the same way that external stimuli could. The possibility of such "instructional control" over behavior meant that contingencies of reinforcement would not always produce the same effects on human behavior as they reliably do in other animals. The focus of a radical behaviorist analysis of human behavior therefore shifted to an attempt to understand the interaction between instructional control and contingency control, and also to understand the behavioral processes that determine what instructions are constructed and what control they acquire over behavior. Recently, a new line of behavioral research on language was started under the name of relational frame theory.[34][35][36][37]


Behaviourism focuses on one particular view of learning: a change in external behaviour achieved through using reinforcement and repetition (Rote learning) to shape behavior of learners. Skinner found that behaviors could be shaped when the use of reinforcement was implemented. Desired behavior is rewarded, while the undesired behavior is not rewarded.[38] Incorporating behaviorism into the classroom allowed educators to assist their students in excelling both academically and personally. In the field of language learning, this type of teaching was called the audio-lingual method, characterised by the whole class using choral chanting of key phrases, dialogues and immediate correction.

Within the behaviourist view of learning, the "teacher" is the dominant person in the classroom and takes complete control, evaluation of learning comes from the teacher who decides what is right or wrong. The learner does not have any opportunity for evaluation or reflection within the learning process, they are simply told what is right or wrong. The conceptualization of learning using this approach could be considered "superficial" as the focus is on external changes in behaviour i.e. not interested in the internal processes of learning leading to behaviour change and has no place for the emotions involved the process.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner in 1937 and deals with the management of environmental contingencies to change behavior.[39][40][41] In other words, behavior is controlled by historical consequential contingencies, particularly reinforcementa stimulus that increases the probability of performing behaviors, and punishmenta stimulus that decreases such probability. The core tools of consequences are either positive (presenting stimuli following a response), or negative (withdrawn stimuli following a response).[42] The following descriptions explained the concepts of four common types of consequences in operant conditioning:

  • Positive reinforcement: Providing a stimulus that an individual desires to reinforce desired behaviors. For example, a child loves playing video games. His mother reinforced his tendency to provide a helping hands to other family members by providing more time for him to play video games.
  • Negative reinforcement: Removing a stimulus that an individual does not desire to reinforce desired behaviors. For example, a child hates being nagged to clean his room. His mother reinforces his room cleaning by removing the undesired stimulus of nagging after he has cleaned.
  • Positive punishment: Providing a stimulus that an individual does not desire to decrease undesired behaviors. For example, a child hates to do chores. His parents will try to reduce the undesired behavior of failing a test by applying the undesired stimuli of more chores around the house.
  • Negative punishment: Removing a stimulus that an individual desires in order to decrease undesired behaviors. For example, a child loves playing video games. His parents will try to reduce the undesired behavior of failing an exam by removing the desired stimulus of video games.

Classical experiment in operant conditioning, for example the Skinner Box, "puzzle box" or operant conditioning chamber to test the effects of operant conditioning principles on rats, cats and other species. From the study of Skinner box, he discovered that the rats learned very effectively if they were rewarded frequently with food. Skinner also found that he could shape the rats' behavior through the use of rewards, which could, in turn, be applied to human learning as well.

Skinner's model was based on the premise that reinforcement is used for the desired actions or responses while punishment was used to stop the undesired actions responses that are not. This theory proved that humans or animals will repeat any action that leads to a positive outcome, and avoiding any action that leads to a negative outcome. The experiment with the pigeons showed that a positive outcome leads to learned behavior since the pigeon learned to peck the disc in return for the reward of food.

These historical consequential contingencies subsequently leads to (antecedent) stimulus control, including the discriminative stimulus (Sd), which increases the chance of the organism engaging in a behavior. For example, in another experiment with a pigeon, whenever Skinner pressed the switch (Sd), it signaled the pigeon to perform the behavior of pecking because it learned in the past that each time it pecked following the pressing of the switch, food was presented (the positive reinforcing stimulus). Another controlling antecedent stimuli in operant conditioning called the stimulus delta (S-delta) signals the organism not to perform a behavior (or response) since reinforcement was either extinguished or the behavior was punished in the past. One notable instance of this occurs when a person stops their car immediately after the traffic light turns red (S-delta). However, because such controlling stimuli does not elicit reflexive behavior as in respondent conditioning, stimulus control only emits the operant behavior, and the person driving the car could instead decide to drive through the red traffic light, but potentially receive a speeding ticket (the positive punishing stimulus).

Ratio and interval

In operant conditioning experimentation, research frequently presented reinforcement and punishment based on either time (interval) or number of responses (ratio). They can be fixed and variable by nature. The following descriptions are four common types of ratio and interval schedules:

  • Fixed ratio: Presenting a reinforcement or punishment after a certain number of responses are met. For example, after a child finished 3 homework assignments, the parents presented him a gift. In this case, a reinforcer is present only after 3 responses are made. Therefore, this is a FR3 schedule (the short form of Fixed ratio 3, the number after fixed ratio representing the number of responses made in order to pursue a reinforcement/punishment)
  • Fixed interval: After an individual/animal performed one targeted behavior (e.g. pressing a bar for food in rats), the reinforcement or punishment is presented after a fixed amount of time. For example, after the rats presses a bar, it will receive some food 60 seconds after the behavior of pressing the bar.
  • Variable ratio: Presenting reinforcement or punishment after several number of random responses are met. For example, after the first time a child finished 3 homework assignments, the parents presented him a gift. But for the following four times, the child receives a gift after he finished 1, 2, 3 and 1 homework assignments. In this case, the child received a gift after finishing an average of 2 homeworks. Therefore, this is a VR2 schedule (the short form of Variable Ratio 2, the number after variable ratio representing the average number of responses made in order to pursue a reinforcement/punishment).
  • Variable interval: Presenting reinforcement or punishment after random interval of time has pass through. For example, at the first five trials, if a child finished a homework assignment, the parents presented him a gift after 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 minutes respectively. In this case, the gift is presented only if a child finished a homework and wait for a variable period of time. Therefore, this is a VI3 schedule (the short form of Variable Interval 3, the number after variable interval representing the average time after an individual performed the targeted behavior).

Respondent conditioning

Although operant conditioning plays the largest role in discussions of behavioral mechanisms, respondent conditioning (also called Pavlovian or classical conditioning) is also an important behavior-analytic process that need not refer to mental or other internal processes. Pavlov's experiments with dogs provide the most familiar example of the classical conditioning procedure. At the beginning, the dog was provided a meat (unconditioned stimulus, UCS, naturally elicit a response that is not controlled) to eat, resulting in increased salivation (unconditioned response, UCR, which means that a response is naturally caused by UCS). Afterwards, a bell ring was presented together with food to the dog. Although bell ring was a neutral stimulus (NS, meaning that the stimulus did not had any effect), dog would start salivate when only hearing a bell ring after a number of pairings. Eventually, the neutral stimulus (bell ring) became conditioned. Therefore, salvation was elicited as a conditioned response (the response same as the unconditioned response), pairing up with meat—the conditioned stimulus) [43] Although Pavlov proposed some tentative physiological processes that might be involved in classical conditioning, these have not been confirmed. The idea of classical conditioning helped behaviorist John Watson discover the key mechanism behind how humans acquire the behaviors that they do, which was to find a natural reflex that produces the response being considered.

Watson's "Behaviourist Manifesto" has three aspects that deserve special recognition: one is that psychology should be purely objective, with any interpretation of conscious experience being removed, thus leading to psychology as the "science of behaviour"; the second one is that the goals of psychology should be to predict and control behaviour (as opposed to describe and explain conscious mental states); the third one is that there is no notable distinction between human and non-human behaviour. Following Darwin's theory of evolution, this would simply mean that human behaviour is just a more complex version in respect to behaviour displayed by other species.[44]

In philosophy

Behaviorism is a psychological movement that can be contrasted with philosophy of mind.[45][46][47] The basic premise of radical behaviorism is that the study of behavior should be a natural science, such as chemistry or physics, without any reference to hypothetical inner states of organisms as causes for their behavior.[48][49] Behaviorism takes a functional view of behavior. According to Edmund Fantino and colleagues: "Behavior analysis has much to offer the study of phenomena normally dominated by cognitive and social psychologists. We hope that successful application of behavioral theory and methodology will not only shed light on central problems in judgment and choice but will also generate greater appreciation of the behavioral approach."[50]

Behaviorist sentiments are not uncommon within philosophy of language and analytic philosophy. It is sometimes argued that Ludwig Wittgenstein defended a logical behaviorist position[8] (e.g., the beetle in a box argument). In logical positivism (as held, e.g., by Rudolf Carnap[8] and Carl Hempel),[8] the meaning of psychological statements are their verification conditions, which consist of performed overt behavior. W. V. O. Quine made use of a type of behaviorism,[8] influenced by some of Skinner's ideas, in his own work on language. Quine's work in semantics differed substantially from the empiricist semantics of Carnap which he attempted to create an alternative to, couching his semantic theory in references to physical objects rather than sensations. Gilbert Ryle defended a distinct strain of philosophical behaviorism, sketched in his book The Concept of Mind.[8] Ryle's central claim was that instances of dualism frequently represented "category mistakes", and hence that they were really misunderstandings of the use of ordinary language. Daniel Dennett likewise acknowledges himself to be a type of behaviorist,[51] though he offers extensive criticism of radical behaviorism and refutes Skinner's rejection of the value of intentional idioms and the possibility of free will.[52]

This is Dennett's main point in "Skinner Skinned." Dennett argues that there is a crucial difference between explaining and explaining away… If our explanation of apparently rational behavior turns out to be extremely simple, we may want to say that the behavior was not really rational after all. But if the explanation is very complex and intricate, we may want to say not that the behavior is not rational, but that we now have a better understanding of what rationality consists in. (Compare: if we find out how a computer program solves problems in linear algebra, we don't say it's not really solving them, we just say we know how it does it. On the other hand, in cases like Weizenbaum's ELIZA program, the explanation of how the computer carries on a conversation is so simple that the right thing to say seems to be that the machine isn't really carrying on a conversation, it's just a trick.)

Curtis Brown, Philosophy of Mind, "Behaviorism: Skinner and Dennett"[53]

Law of effect and trace conditioning

Molecular versus molar behaviorism

Skinner's view of behavior is most often characterized as a "molecular" view of behavior; that is, behavior can be decomposed into atomistic parts or molecules. This view is inconsistent with Skinner's complete description of behavior as delineated in other works, including his 1981 article "Selection by Consequences".[54] Skinner proposed that a complete account of behavior requires understanding of selection history at three levels: biology (the natural selection or phylogeny of the animal); behavior (the reinforcement history or ontogeny of the behavioral repertoire of the animal); and for some species, culture (the cultural practices of the social group to which the animal belongs). This whole organism then interacts with its environment. Molecular behaviorists use notions from melioration theory, negative power function discounting or additive versions of negative power function discounting.[55]

Molar behaviorists, such as Howard Rachlin, Richard Herrnstein, and William Baum, argue that behavior cannot be understood by focusing on events in the moment. That is, they argue that behavior is best understood as the ultimate product of an organism's history and that molecular behaviorists are committing a fallacy by inventing fictitious proximal causes for behavior. Molar behaviorists argue that standard molecular constructs, such as "associative strength", are better replaced by molar variables such as rate of reinforcement.[56] Thus, a molar behaviorist would describe "loving someone" as a pattern of loving behavior over time; there is no isolated, proximal cause of loving behavior, only a history of behaviors (of which the current behavior might be an example) that can be summarized as "love".

Theoretical behaviorism

Skinner's radical behaviorism has been highly successful experimentally, revealing new phenomena with new methods, but Skinner's dismissal of theory limited its development. Theoretical behaviorism[57] recognized that a historical system, an organism, has a state as well as sensitivity to stimuli and the ability to emit responses. Indeed, Skinner himself acknowledged the possibility of what he called "latent" responses in humans, even though he neglected to extend this idea to rats and pigeons.[58] Latent responses constitute a repertoire, from which operant reinforcement can select.

21st-century behavior analysis (behaviorism)

Applied behavior analysis (ABA)also called behavioral engineeringis a behavior therapy discipline that refers to the rather broad applications of behavior analysis. While ABA and behavior modification are similar in that both approaches modify the learning environment through respondent and operant conditioning to change behavior, behavior modification did not initially address the causes of such behavior, or investigate solutions that would otherwise prevent the behavior from reoccurring. As the evolution of ABA began to unfold in the mid-1980s, functional behavior assessments (FBAs) were developed to clarify the function of that behavior. By conducting FBAs, it is more common for differential reinforcement contingencies to be used and less likely that aversive consequences will be administered. In addition, the theoretical underpinning of behavior modification was based on methodological behaviorism since private events were not conceptualized, which contrasted from the radical behaviorism viewpoint of behavior analysis.[59][60][61] ABAthe term that replaced behavior modificationhas emerged into a thriving field.

The independent development of behaviour analysis outside the US also continues to develop. In terms of motivation, there remains strong interest in the variety of human motivational behaviour factors.[62][63][64][65][66] Some, may go as far as suggesting that the current rapid change in organisational behaviour could partly be attributed to some of these theories and the theories that are related to it.[67]

The American Psychological Association (APA) also features a subdivision for Behavior Analysis, titled APA Division 25: Behavior Analysis, which has been in existence since 1964, and the interests among behavior analysts today are wide-ranging, as a review of the 30 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) indicates. Such interests include everything from animal behavior, developmental disabilities and autism, to cultural psychology, clinical psychology, verbal behavior, and organizational behavior management (OBM), the latterwhich applies contingency management procedures to model and reinforce appropriate work behavior for employees in organizationshas developed a particularly strong following within ABA, as evidenced by the formation of the Organizational Behavior Management Network and the influential Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM), which was recently rated the third highest impact journal in applied psychology by ISI JOBM rating.

The field of applied animal behaviora sub-discipline of ABA that involves training animalsis regulated by the Animal Behavior Society, which was founded in 1964, and those who practice this technique are called applied animal behaviorists.

ABA has also been particularly well-established in the area of developmental disabilities since the 1960s. Treatment of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has grown so rapidly especially since the mid-1990s, as demand for services encouraged the formation of a professional credentialing program administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. (BACB), which accredits professionally-trained behavior analysts on the national level to practice anywhere throughout the United States. Yet, the BACB can be applicable to all human services related to the rather broad field of behavior analysis (other than the treatment for autism). As of early 2012, there are over 300 BACB approved course sequences offered by about 200 colleges and universities worldwide preparing students for this credential and approximately 11,000 BACB certificants, most of whom work within the country.

Early behavioral interventions (EBIs), such as discrete trial teaching and incidental teaching, have been demonstrated to be empirically validated teaching techniques for children with autism over the past five decades. Since the late 1990s and throughout the twenty-first century, EBIs based on ABA have also been identified as the treatment of choice by the US Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics, and US National Research Council.

Errorless and mass discrete trial teaching procedures are utilized for 30-40 hours per week and instructs a child to sit in a chair, make eye contact, imitate fine and gross motor behaviors, as well as learn speech, which are all taught through shaping and prompting, with such prompting being faded out as the child begins mastering each skill. When the child becomes more verbal from discrete trials, the table-based instructions are phased out, and incidental teaching is then used to have the child initiate their wants and needs by keeping desired items out of reach, as well as allowing them to choose the play activities that will motivate the child to interact with their facilitators and other adults before teaching them how to engage with peers their own age.

A related term for incidental teaching, called pivotal response treatment, is used to describe ABA procedures that exclusively utilize twenty-five hours per week of naturalistic teaching techniques (without initially using discrete trials). Current research is showing that 90% of the population learn quicker and acquire more words through pivotal response treatment since only a small portion of the non-verbal autistic population have lower receptive language skillsor do not respond to their daily environmentand these are the children who initially require discrete trials to acquire speech.

Modern-day clinical behavior analysis has also witnessed a massive resurgence in research and applications related to language and cognition, with the development of relational frame theory (RFT), which is described as a "post-Skinnerian account of language and cognition."[68][34][35][36] RFT also forms the empirical basis for the successful and data-driven acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a therapeutic approach to counseling that relies on acceptance, commitment, value-based living, counterconditioning (mindfulness), and contingency management (positive reinforcement),[69][70][71][72][73][74] which is often used to reduce anxiety or obesity. Another evidenced-based counseling technique derived from RFT is the functional analytic psychotherapy known as behavioral activation (BA), an intervention that relies on the ACL modelawareness, courage, and loveto reinforce more positive moods and healthier lifestyles for those struggling with depression.

Incentive-based contingency management (CM) is well-established as the standard of care for adults with substance abuse and has also shown to be highly efficacious for other addictions (i.e., obesity or gambling). Although it does not directly address the underlying causes of behavior, incentive-based CM is highly behavior analytic as it targets the function of the client's motivational behavior by relying on a preference assessment, which is an assessment procedure that allows the individual to choose the reinforcer (in this case, the monetary value of the voucher, or the use of other incentives, such as prizes).

While schoolwide positive behavior support uses functional behavior assessments and a task analysis to differentially reinforce and design curricular supports that help manage students’ challenging behaviors in the classroom, pediatric feeding therapy also employs FBAsin addition to a liquid chaser and chin feederto differentially reinforce eating behavior in children with feeding disorders. Habit reversal training, an approach firmly grounded in counterconditioning that also uses contingency management procedures to reinforce alternative behavior, is currently the only well-established and empirically-validated approach for managing tic disorders.

Some studies on exposure (desensitization) therapieswhich refer to an array of interventions based on the respondent conditioning procedure known as habituationhave recently been published in behavior analytic journals since the 1990s, as most of the other research were conducted from a cognitive-behavior therapy framework. Systematic desensitization (also called graduated exposure therapy) is a highly acknowledged form of desensitization that is applied in the treatment of phobias. From a behavior analytic research standpoint, systematic desensitization is shown to be more effective when used in conjunction with shaping, which is further subcategorized as contact desensitization, but this comparison has yet to be substantiated with adults since existing research on the exposure therapies have focused exclusively on children.

Among the most widely-published behavior analytic journals include the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB), Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA), Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM), Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions (JBPI), Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS), Applied Animal Behaviour Science (AABS), Behavior Modification (BMO), The Analysis of Verbal Behavior (TAVB), Behavior and Philosophy, Behavior and Social Issues (BSI), and The Psychological Record.

Currently, the US has 14 ABAI accredited MA and PhD programs for comprehensive study in behavior analysis.

Cognitive-behavior therapy

Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is the other behavior therapy discipline, which is similar but unrelated to the field of behaviorism. Nevertheless, CBT often overlaps considerably with the clinical behavior analysis subfield of ABA, but differs in that it initially incorporates cognitive restructuring and emotional deregulation to alter a person's cognition and emotions.

Most research on exposure therapies (also called desensitization)ranging from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder to the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorderare conducted through a CBT framework in non-behavior analytic journals and are well-established treatments for phobic and other anxiety disorders. Cognitive-based behavioral activation (BA), the psychotherapeutic approach used for depression, is shown to be highly effective and is widely-used in clinical practice. Some large randomized control trials have indicated that cognitive-based BA is as beneficial as antidepressant medications but more efficacious than traditional cognitive therapy. Another commonly used clinical treatment derived from behavioral learning theory that is often used through the CBT model is habit reversal training for tics.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a popularly noted counseling intervention that uses a chain analysis, cognitive restructuring, emotional deregulation, distress tolerance, counterconditioning (mindfulness), and contingency management (positive reinforcement). DBT is quite similar to acceptance and commitment therapy, but contrasts in that it derives from a CBT framework, and it is most widely researched for and empirically validated to reduce the risk of suicide in psychiatric patients with borderline personality disorder, but can often be applied effectively to other mental health conditions, such as substance abuse, as well as mood and eating disorders.

Behavior analysis and culture

Cultural analysis has always been at the philosophical core of radical behaviorism from the early days (as seen in Skinner's Walden Two, Science & Human Behavior, Beyond Freedom & Dignity, and About Behaviorism).

During the 1980s, behavior analysts, most notably Sigrid Glenn, had a productive interchange with cultural anthropologist Marvin Harris (the most notable proponent of "cultural materialism") regarding interdisciplinary work. Very recently, behavior analysts have produced a set of basic exploratory experiments in an effort toward this end.[75] Behaviorism is also frequently used in game development, although this application is controversial.[76]

Behavior informatics and behavior computing

With the fast growth of big behavioral data and applications, behavior analysis is ubiquitous. Understanding behavior from the informatics and computing perspective becomes increasingly critical for in-depth understanding of what, why and how behaviors are formed, interact, evolve, change and affect business and decision. Behavior informatics[77][78] and behavior computing[79][80] deeply explore behavior intelligence and behavior insights from the informatics and computing perspectives.

Criticisms and limitations

In the second half of the 20th century, behaviorism was largely eclipsed as a result of the cognitive revolution.[81][82] This shift was due to methodological behaviorism being highly criticized for not examining mental processes, and this led to the development of the cognitive therapy movement. In the mid-20th century, three main influences arose that would inspire and shape cognitive psychology as a formal school of thought:

  • Noam Chomsky's 1959 critique of behaviorism, and empiricism more generally, initiated what would come to be known as the "cognitive revolution".[83]
  • Developments in computer science would lead to parallels being drawn between human thought and the computational functionality of computers, opening entirely new areas of psychological thought. Allen Newell and Herbert Simon spent years developing the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) and later worked with cognitive psychologists regarding the implications of AI. The effective result was more of a framework conceptualization of mental functions with their counterparts in computers (memory, storage, retrieval, etc.)
  • Formal recognition of the field involved the establishment of research institutions such as George Mandler's Center for Human Information Processing in 1964. Mandler described the origins of cognitive psychology in a 2002 article in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences[84]

In the early years of cognitive psychology, behaviorist critics held that the empiricism it pursued was incompatible with the concept of internal mental states. Cognitive neuroscience, however, continues to gather evidence of direct correlations between physiological brain activity and putative mental states, endorsing the basis for cognitive psychology.

List of notable behaviorists

See also


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  3. Dillenburger, Karola & Keenan, Mickey (2009). "None of the As in ABA stand for autism: Dispelling the myths". Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability. 34 (2): 193–195. doi:10.1080/13668250902845244. PMID 19404840.
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  5. Madden, Gregory J., ed. (2013). "APA Handbook of Behavior Analysis". Retrieved December 24, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. Crone-Todd, Darlene, ed. (2015). "Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice". Retrieved 2014-12-24. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. Skinner, BF (1976). About Behaviorism. New York: Random House, Inc. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-394-71618-3.
  8. Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Behaviorism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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Further reading

  • Baum, W.M. (1994) Understanding behaviorism: Behavior, Culture and Evolution. Blackwell.
  • Cao, L.B. (2013) IJCAI2013 tutorial on behavior informatics and computing.
  • Cao, L.B. (2014) Non-IIDness Learning in Behavioral and Social Data, The Computer Journal, 57(9): 1358–1370.
  • Chiesa, Mecca (1994). "Radical Behaviorism: The Philosophy and the Science". Authors Cooperative, Inc.
  • Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E., & Heward, William L. (2007). "Applied Behavior Analysis: Second Edition". Pearson.
  • Ferster, C.B. & Skinner, B.F. (1957). Schedules of reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Malott, Richard W. Principles of Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
  • Mills, John A., Control: A History of Behavioral Psychology, Paperback Edition, New York University Press 2000.
  • Lattal, K.A. & Chase, P.N. (2003) "Behavior Theory and Philosophy". Plenum.
  • Pierce, W. David & Cheney, Carl D. (2013). "Behavior Analysis and Learning: Fifth Edition". Psychology Press.
  • Plotnik, Rod. (2005) Introduction to Psychology. Thomson-Wadsworth (ISBN 0-534-63407-9).
  • Rachlin, H. (1991) Introduction to modern behaviorism. (3rd edition.) New York: Freeman.
  • Skinner, B.F. Beyond Freedom & Dignity, Hackett Publishing Co, Inc 2002.
  • Skinner, B.F. (1938). The behavior of organisms. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Skinner, B.F. (1945). "The operational analysis of psychological terms". Psychological Review. 52 (270–7): 290–4. doi:10.1037/h0062535.
  • Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior (ISBN 0-02-929040-6) Online version.
  • Skinner, B.F. (1957). Verbal behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Skinner, B.F. (1969). Contingencies of reinforcement: a theoretical analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Skinner, B.F. (31 July 1981). "Selection by Consequences" (PDF). Science. 213 (4507): 501–4. Bibcode:1981Sci...213..501S. doi:10.1126/science.7244649. PMID 7244649. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 July 2010. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  • Klein, P. (2013) "Explanation of Behavioural Psychotherapy Styles". .
  • Staddon, J. (2014) The New Behaviorism, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press. pp. xi, 1–282.
  • Watson, J.B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177. (on-line).
  • Watson, J.B. (1919). Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist.
  • Watson, J.B. (1924). Behaviorism.
  • Zuriff, G.E. (1985). Behaviorism: A Conceptual Reconstruction, Columbia University Press.
  • LeClaire, J. and Rushin, J.P. (2010) Behavioral Analytics For Dummies. Wiley. (ISBN 978-0-470-58727-0).


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