From: Smith, Wendy (
Date: Tue Nov 14 1995 - 13:37:49 GMT

I find behaviourism a very difficult topic. As I'm reading, I
continually feel as if I'm missing the point. It seems to "explain"
everything - and yet I don't feel any more enlightened at the end, so
it didn't really explain anything to me! All the essential issues (or
what appear to me to be essential - is this where I'm missing the
point?) seem to be avoided eg "What is the current status of the
theory?" (SH) "Radical behaviourism is anti-theory" (BFS) or "What is
behaviour?" (SH) "There is no essence of behaviour" (BFS).

Behaviourism appears to be putting more and more data and observations
into a pot - but not combining them into a coherent whole. Skinner
criticises the use of statistical control, rather than controlling via
the experimental method. therefore lots of participants are used, when
very interesting findings can be about individuals. But it strikes me
that a science which can only offer explanations on an individual
basis, and with a detailed history of the individual known, is not very
useful. This doesn't seem to be an understanding of human behaviour,
but a mere description of it.

Also, Skinner acknowledges that there is neural activity; and that
there is overt behaviour (eg lever pressing). Presumably there is a
link between the two (perhaps this is where cognition fits in?)
However, this seems to be considered "unnecessary" or "not the province
of behaviourism". Skinner says "They [learning theories] consist of
references to 'mental' events, as in saying that an organism learns to
behave in a certain way because it finds 'something pleasant' or
because 'it expects something to happen'". However, this is not the
cognitive psychology that we practice, is it?

It's like two people trying to communicate who have no common language
at all, and they're trying to talk by using literal dictionary

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:56 GMT