The operant, from rat to man: an introduction to some recent experiments on human behavior.

Verplanck, W.S. (1955) The operant, from rat to man: an introduction to some recent experiments on human behavior. [Journal (Paginated)]

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Virtually all psychologists accept the premise that human behavior is orderly. The order that they see, however, varies considerably from group to group, and the aspects of behavior in which these orders appear differ as well. The clinician and the personality psychologist observe their fellow men and see need-presses, repressions, and aggressive drives. The experimental psychologist finds his order in the rates at which nonsense syllables are learned, or at which conditioned eyelid reflexes are acquired. If he is physiologically oriented, he is apt to concern himself with muscle twitches and even with the secretion of saliva. It is in terms of such variables that psychologists have set their descriptions of, and their predictions about, the actions of people. All of us, whether psychologists or not, observe people acting. We learn rules of "practical psychology." Some of us, especially the novelists and playwrights, do a remarkably good job of giving plausible accounts of behavior, often in terms that seem pertinent. These writers, however, do not employ the language used by psychologists at either end of the spectrum. They describe ordinary, everyday behavior, and describe it well, but not by using the conceptualizations that psychologists seem to have found useful, nor even terms that can be readily translated into such conceptualizations. The psychologist's efforts tend to be limited in their usefulness to the description and prediction of the behavior of people whose behavior is awry, or of people who are engaged in the strange and unusual activities demanded of them in a laboratory of experimental psychology. Dale Carnegie, practical politicians, and, perhaps, everybody but psychologists, concern themselves with simple, ordinary, everyday behavior. One reason for this situation is, perhaps, the lack of methods of conceptualizing behavior, or of abstracting relevant aspects of behavior for study that are not clinic- or laboratory-bound. This lack of methods is due, perhaps, to a conviction that ordinary behavior is too complex and is determined by too many variables to make possible the discovery of any order except by the application of theory. What I desire to do here is to introduce some concepts, and to describe some experiments derived from them, that suggest that the orderliness of human behavior may be more accessible than has been hitherto assumed. These experiments may accordingly suggest new direction for research on human behavior.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Subjects:Psychology > Applied Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Behavioral Analysis
Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Psychology > Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
ID Code:602
Deposited By: Verplank, William
Deposited On:27 Feb 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54


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