Experimental Analysis of Behavior - Philosophical Basis of Behavioral Research

Philosophical Basis of Behavioral Research

Laboratory methods employed in the experimental analysis of behavior are based upon B.F. Skinner's philosophy of radical behaviorism, which is premised upon:

  1. Everything that organisms do is behavior (including thinking), and
  2. All behavior is lawful, which allows itself to be experimentally studied.

Central to behavior analysis is the use of a Four-Term Contingency (Motivating Operation, Discriminative Stimulus, Response, Reinforcing Stimulus) to describe functional relationships in the control of behavior.

  • Motivating operations (MO) that establish whether or not an organism's behavior will be affected by a consequence. Such antecedent states include establishing operations, which increase the effectiveness of their corresponding consequences, and abolishing operations, which decrease their effectiveness. Besides modulating the effectiveness of consequences, these motivating operations can also acquire discriminative control over an organism's behavior. For example, an organism which is in a state of hunger (establishes food as an effective reinforcer) is more likely to engage in behavior that has previously resulted in being fed, while an organism in a satiated state (abolishes the effectiveness of food as a reinforcer) is less likely to engage in such behavior.
  • Discriminative stimulus (Sd) which is a setting or cue, or might be said to be an occasion for a response.
  • Behavior is a response (R), typically controlled by past consequences, which is also controlled by the presence of a discriminative stimulus. It operates on the environment, as in having an effect.
  • Consequences can consist of reinforcing stimuli (Srein) or punishing stimuli (Save) which follow and modify an operant response. Reinforcing stimuli are often classified as positively (Sr+) or negatively reinforcing (Sr−). More complex schedules of reinforcement can also be used.

Read more about this topic:  Experimental Analysis Of Behavior

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