Re: Skinner

From: Harrison, Richard (
Date: Tue Nov 14 1995 - 16:36:57 GMT

Just a few comments on Stevan's questions and Skinner's response.

Status of theory in radical behaviourism?

I don't think having theoretical framework to fit experimental results
is necceserily the evil Skinner thinks it is. For example, changing
from 'rate of response' to 'probability of response' involves a change
from fact to theory (or at least interpretation) and this seems pretty

It seems his point is that theory is wasting our time when we could be
amassing data for a future time when we'll have enough data to
understand what its all about. However, doesn't theory help us form
hypothesis that we can go and test in the lab? Also, what will 'enough'
data look like so we know when we can tie it all up in a theory of

Status of neuroscientific theory in radical behaviourism? And the
contribution of behaviourism to a complete neuro-cognitive theory of

Skinner's analogy between behavioural science being to neuroscience
what early genetic science was to the later study of genes is certainly
appealing. However, if we maintain that there is a mind-body problem
and the phenomenon of experience is not neccesserily going to disappear
with advancing neuroscience (even at our cerebroscope extreme) then
there seems to be a fundemental flaw in the analogy. That is, there is
no equivalent of experience in the study of genetics and genes. As
scientists we aspire to explain everything (well eventually...) so the
study of human behaviour should involve the study of cognition as well
as behaviour from an external analysis and the study of neuroscience.

Also its a little disappointing that Skinner does not accept that
behaviourism can be part of a wider psychology. And whilst he does have
some valid criticisms about cognitive scientists it would appear that
behaviourism, neuroscience and cognitive science could be integral
parts of a comprehensive science of human behaviour.


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