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Review of General Psychology 2012 American Psychological Association

2012, Vol. 16, No. 3, 269 282 1089-2680/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0026766

On Behaviorism in the Cognitive Revolution: Myth and Reactions

Joao Paulo Watrin and Rosangela Darwich


Universidade da Amazonia

For a long time, psychology was a discipline devoted to the study of mind. Behaviorism represented a rupture
in that tradition, redefining psychology as the study of behavior. The rupture, however, would not have been
everlasting. When the cognitive revolution broke out in the 1950s, the study of mental life was renewed in the
form of cognitivism. Since then, it is usually told that the cognitive revolution displaced behaviorism, causing
the latters decline or even its death. Nonetheless, at that same time, behaviorism saw the growth of behavior
analysis, which remained until today as a living behaviorist field. This article analyzes how behaviorism is
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

depicted in the story of the cognitive revolution, as well as some of the reactions that portrayal generated
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within behavior analysis. It is argued that the story of the cognitive revolution affirms the importance of
cognitivism and consolidates its historical identity but fosters the movement at the expense of behaviorisms
depiction. At the same time, behavior analysts reactions often contradict the revolutions story and, conse-
quently, offer an alternative but disarticulated version of history. As a result, each side tells a different story,
and the case would be illustrative of how such kind of stories can favor one position while distorting some
notions.

Keywords: behaviorism, behavior analysis, cognitivism, cognitive revolution, history of psychology

The past is never dead. Its not even past. (Faulkner, 1951, p. 92) were being made to restore the mind as the so-called cognitive
processes. That is what many have been calling the cognitive
In the course of history, there is a clear difficulty to define revolution (e.g., Baars, 1986; Bruner, 1990; Gardner, 1985;
psychology. For a long time, it was treated as the study of mind or
Sperry, 1993). Roughly speaking, the revolution represented the
human psyche. Some authors, though, saw the emergence of
rise of cognitivism, a movement that comprises not only cognitive
behaviorism as a revolution in psychological science (e.g., Gard-
psychology, but also the broader and interdisciplinary endeavor of
ner, 1985; Moore, 1999). Starting with J. B. Watson (1878 1958),
cognitive science.
the behaviorist school flourished in the beginning of the 20th
century. It was a remarkable rupture in the history of psychology, It has been said that the cognitive revolution caused the replace-
once it put the mind aside of scientific inquiry. From then on, ment, decline, or even death of behaviorism, including behavior
behaviorism began a tradition of study of behavior, comprising analysis (e.g., Baars, 1986; Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006; Gard-
severaland sometimes even conflictingtheoretical systems ner, 1985; Mandler, 2002; Sperry, 1993). Leahey (2000), for his
(Moore, 1999). In that context, behavior analysis emerged as one part, talks about the strange death of radical behaviorism (p.
of the behavioristic approaches, having been developed from the 528), saying that its alleged end is a false belief. Roediger (2004)
works of B. F. Skinner (1904 1990). With an emphasis on operant asks what happened to behaviorism and, after considering possible
behavior and an antimentalistic position, it became a forefront reasons for its decline, concludes that it is alive and well, espe-
system of behaviorism during the 1950s. cially in the Skinnerian tradition. Some go further and demonstrate
Nevertheless, during the development of behavior analysis, an- that there was no revolution in the philosophical sense (e.g.,
other movement was taking shape in American psychology. If Leahey, 1992; ODonohue, Ferguson, & Naugle, 2003). Beyond
behaviorism tried to dismiss the study of mental life, many efforts mere speculation, there were also attempts to investigate the prob-
lem through empirical means. While some showed that behavior-
ism is still growing (Friman, Allen, Kerwin, & Larzelere, 1993;
Wyatt, Hawkins, & Davis, 1986), others pointed out that it has
Joao Paulo Watrin and Rosangela Darwich, Psychology Undergraduate
been declining since the rise of cognitivism (Robins, Gosling, &
Program, Center for Health and Biological Sciences, Universidade da
Amazonia, Belem, Para, Brazil. Craik, 1999; Tracy, Robins, & Gosling, 2004).
This article is a result of the first authors undergraduate research at As a result, the same history is told in very different ways.
Universidade da Amazonia, under supervision of the second author. We History, however, is a product of the selective interpretation of an
thank the very helpful comments of Claudio Watrin on early versions of historian. The facts never speak for themselves. As Carr (1987)
this article. The authors also thank some behavior analysts for responding said, the facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is
to requests for information. Joao Paulo Watrin is now at the Psychology
he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order
Undergraduate Program, Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences,
Federal University of Para.
or context (p. 11). In this case, the cognitive revolution is also a
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joao story about two schools whose paths cross. Each side stresses
Paulo Watrin, Trav. Vileta, 688/409, Belem PA, Brazil, CEP: 66087-422. different facts. Both have their interests at stake, given that inter-
E-mail: jpwatrin@yahoo.com.br pretations are conflicting or disputable.
269
270 WATRIN AND DARWICH

Even so, some versions of history become usual or crystallized. to solve practical problems; and (c) the conceptual analysis of
That seems to be the case of the cognitive revolution, the story of behavior, which performs theoretical reflections about the subject
a radical paradigm shift in which behaviorism was displaced in matter and methods of investigation (Moore, 1999; see also Moore
favor of cognitivism. Given the drama of its narrative, it probably & Cooper, 2003). Those domains are interrelated and based in
sounds convincing to unwary ears. In becoming usual, however, radical behaviorism, a philosophy of science that lays the founda-
the cognitivist story also made difficult to equally consider other tions of behavior analysis.
perspectives about the past. Its romance and simplicity may con- The history of the field as a whole has its roots in the behaviorist
ceal significant implications to the image of behaviorism, at the school. In 1913, Watson published the article Psychology as the
same time that its popularity may have obscured behaviorist ver- Behaviorist Views It. Attacking the study of consciousness, Wat-
sions of the same facts. son (1913) redefined psychology as a purely objective experi-
This article analyzes how behaviorism is portrayed in the story mental branch of natural science (p. 158), proposing the predic-
of the cognitive revolution, as well as some of the reactions it tion and control of behavior as its goal. That drastic movement
generated within the behaviorist movement. In this context, be- would greatly contribute to the beginning of a new tradition, whose
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havior analysis is taken as representative of the behaviorist point of name seems to have been created by Watson himself: behavior-
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view. Even though behaviorism does not reduce itself to behavior ism (Schneider & Morris, 1987).
analysis, the latter has outlived many behaviorist systems, becom- In the following decades, several psychologists would be iden-
ing an organized field and producing its own story about the facts tified as behaviorists. Names such as Clark Hull (1884 1952) and
of the revolution. That story will be compared with the one Edward Tolman (1886 1959) became associated with the behav-
disseminated by the cognitivist historiography, a group of authors iorist movement, once they developed their own explanatory mod-
who fostered the idea of cognitivism as a unified and revolutionary els of behavior (e.g., Hull, 1943; Tolman, 1932). New forms of
movement. From this confrontation, it is expected that rhetorical behaviorism were thus being shaped and were sometimes at odds
strategies in storytelling become evident. It is not a question of with those that already existed (Moore, 1999). In the 1930s, the
who is right or wrong, neither of which approach is better or contributions of Skinner established his place among those devel-
worse, but rather of what each side tells and how they tell the same opments. Conceiving behavior as a lawful process, Skinners ex-
history. The case could be illustrative of how such kind of stories perimental works on reflexes led him to new concepts and methods
can favor one position while distorting some notions, generating of investigation (see Iversen, 1992). Reflexand, subsequently,
implications for how the history of psychology is told. all behaviorwas no longer something that happened inside the
For those purposes, the current work is divided in two funda- organism; rather, it was seen as a relation in which a response is
mental parts. First, it critically examines the portrayal of behav- defined in function of a stimulus and vice versa (Skinner, 1931).
iorism in the cognitivist historiography. It will be argued that the Then, the differentiation of two kinds of reflex established the
story of the cognitive revolution asserts the importance of cogni- basis for the distinction between operants and respondents (Skin-
tivism and consolidates its historical identity but fosters the move- ner, 1937). If respondent was the traditional reflex (eliciting stim-
ment at the expense of behaviorisms portrayal. Second, the article ulus 3 response), operant referred to the behavior that is sensitive
presents the revolution from the perspective of a behaviorist do- to its consequences (antecedent stimulus 3 operant response 7
main, showing some of the reactions produced inside (or in de- consequence) (Skinner, 1938, 1953/1965). In 1938, Skinner pub-
fense of) behavior analysis. Since the cognitivist story became well lished The Behavior of Organisms, in which he summarized many
known, those reactions would offer a counterpoint to that narrative of his positions and refined the concept of operant behavior.
but still constitute a disarticulated story. Before that, however, it Skinnerian behaviorism was acquiring its shape. Its first develop-
would be useful to know how the paths from behavior analysis and ments laid the fundamental concepts and methods of behavior
from cognitivism came across each other. analysis. Because they relied on basic research, they were also the
first steps of the experimental analysis of behavior.
Parallel Histories In the 1940s, the first introductory course based in Skinners
psychology and the first conference on experimental analysis of
behavior took place (Keller & Schoenfeld, 1949; Michael, 1980).
On the Behaviorist Side: From Behaviorism to In 1945, Skinner wrote The Operational Analysis of Psychological
Behavior Analysis Terms, in which, for the first time in print, he defined his thought
as radical behaviorism (Skinner, 1945, p. 294; see also Sch-
As the philosophy of a science of behavior, behaviorism calls for
probably the most drastic change ever proposed in our way of thinking neider, & Morris, 1987). The term would designate a philosophy
about man. It is almost literally a matter of turning the explanation of that, on one hand, defines private events (e.g., thinking, feelings)
behavior inside out. (Skinner, 1974, p. 274) as behavior and, therefore, as a legitimate subject matter of a
behavioral analysis, but on the other hand attacks explanatory
Behavior analysis constitutes a field and a psychological system mentalism, the explanation of behavior by mental events (cf.
devoted to the study of behavior, here defined in terms of func- Skinner, 1945, 1974). Private events usually refer to a mental
tional relations between behavioral and environmental events (Ca- concept, but they are behavior and, as such, cannot cause other
tania, 1998). As a field, behavior analysis has today three funda- behavior. That antimentalism would become a central feature of
mental domains: (a) the experimental analysis of behavior, a basic radical behaviorism.
science devoted to empirical research on behavioral processes, Then called operant psychology, Skinnerian behaviorism was
especially in the laboratory; (b) applied behavior analysis, a tech- put to the test during the 1950s. Applications and extensions of
nological domain dedicated to apply behavior-analytic knowledge Skinners principles were being developed, such as those with
ON BEHAVIORISM IN THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION 271

psychiatric patients (see Rutherford, 2003). Many of those appli- The cognitivist movement was, in fact, a series of developments
cations were successful. As Morris (2003) noted, the applicability that simultaneously took place in various disciplines, such as
of operant psychology was a result of its success as a science, and psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, anthropol-
then a reason for its success as a paradigm and approach (p. 291). ogy, and neuroscience (Gardner, 1985; Miller, 2003). Each disci-
It is remarkable that, at that same time, Skinner wrote books with pline would provide a different perspective about cognition, a
applications of his principles to human daily life. In 1953, he distinct level and object of analysis. Thus, since its beginnings, the
published Science and Human Behavior (Skinner, 1953/1965), a movement would reveal itself as a very heterogeneous group of
book with interpretations of social institutions as varied as educa- researchers and works.
tion and religion. Four years later, it was the time for Verbal There seems to be general agreement that cognitivism began to
Behavior (Skinner, 1957), the application of his principles to flourish from the middle 1950s to the 1960s (see, e.g., Baars, 1986;
language. The prominence of Skinner and his work began to rise Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006; Miller, 2003; Thagard, 2005). At
and the foundations for applied behavior analysis were laid (Mor- that time, computers were being developed at full steam. Because
ris, Smith, & Altus, 2005). the brain was compared to the computer, the latter became the
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Therefore, Skinner would become central to the development of vehicle for the reintroduction of mind, and a vital agent of behav-
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behavior analysis. The field, however, was not yet structured. Indeed, iorisms overthrow (Crowther-Heyck, 1999, p. 37). The analogy
the term behavior analysis only appeared in the 1970s (Morris, between mind and computer came to be a central feature of
Todd, Midgley, Schneider, & Johnson, 1990).1 Moreover, a field cognitivism. Computers would inspire the movements terminol-
constitutes itself as such when it starts to become organized, that is, to ogy, and cognitivism was early associated to the expression infor-
have its own associations and journals. That began in the late 1950s. mation processing (Baars, 1986; Mandler, 2002). The device be-
In 1957, it was established the Society for the Experimental Analysis came a main instrument of research and, fundamentally, served as
of Behavior (SEAB) and, one year later, the Journal of the Experi- a model for explaining human thought (see Friedenberg & Silver-
mental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB). In 1968, it came the time for man, 2006; Gardner, 1985; Sternberg, 2009). The computer met-
founding the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA). Experi- aphor was born and would become an alternative to behaviorist
mental analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis then be- explanations.
came institutionalized (see also Laties, 2008; Laties & Mace, 1993). Deviations from behaviorism were already visible in the 1940s,
Other behavior-analytic associations and journals were to be created, such as in the Hixon Symposium of 1948 at the California Institute
such as the Midwest Association for Behavior Analysis (MABA) in of Technology (see Gardner, 1985; Mandler, 2002). It was, how-
1974, which would become the Association for Behavior Analysis ever, in the 1950s that major events began to happen. In 1956,
(ABA). Its respective journal, The Behavior Analyst (TBA), was cognitivism had its annus mirabilis. The Symposium on Informa-
founded in 1978 (Morris et al., 2001). tion Theory occurred in that year at the Massachusetts Institute of
Thus, behavior analysis constituted itself by the gradual establish- Technology and was attended by many of the future leading
ment of its domains, being consolidated as a field in the late 1970s. figures of the cognitivist movement, such as George Miller
Although Skinner became synonymous with behavior analysis, the (1920 ), Noam Chomsky (1928 ), Herbert Simon (1916 2001),
field exceeded its pioneer.2 Behavior analysis took on a life of its own. and Allen Newell (19271992). In that same year, many works
Other people took part in the spreading of the field, such as Fred based on new approaches were published, such as Millers (1956)
Keller (1899 1996), Charles Ferster (19221981), William Schoen- article The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two and
feld (19151996), and Murray Sidman (1923). They disseminated its Bruner, Goodnow, and Austins (1956/1986) book A Study of
knowledge, just as developed new concepts and methods (e.g., Sid- Thinking. 1956 became the birthdate of the cognitivist move-
man & Tailby, 1982). Skinner, however, remained as the fields main ment (Miller, 2003). Gardner (1986) observed that seldom have
spokesman. Schultz and Schultz (2004), for instance, asserted that, amateur historians achieved such consensus. There has been nearly
despite. . .criticisms, Skinner remained the uncontested champion of unanimous agreement among the surviving principals that cogni-
behavioral psychology from the 1950s to the 1980s. During this tive science was officially recognized around 1956 (p. 28).
period, American psychology was shaped more by his work than by In 1959, a major controversy involving Skinnerian behaviorism
the ideas of any other psychologist (p. 344). would begin. Two years after Skinners (1957) publication of
Behavior analysis was, in a manner, at the cutting edge of Verbal Behavior, Chomsky (1959) published a review of that
behaviorism from the 1950s onward, at the same time that propo- book, rejecting Skinnerian assumptions about language. Skinner
nents of other behaviorisms (e.g., Hull, Tolman) were dying one did not publicly reply to the attack, a posture that would bring
by one (Morris, 2003). Nevertheless, while behavior analysis many costs to his position. As Gardner (1985) pointed out, the
flourished, a series of events were already shaping a new approach fact that Skinner never responded publicly to the review signaled
to the study of the mind. Taken as a revolution, that other move- to many interested researchers the theoretical bankruptcy of the
ment represented the birth of cognitivism (see Figure 1 for the
parallel timelines of behavior analysis and cognitivism).
1
It is noteworthy, for example, that Skinner did not use to speak of
behavior analysis but rather referred to a science of behavior (e.g.,
On the Cognitivist Side: The Road to the Revolution Skinner, 1975, 1987).
2
Therefore, Skinnerian behaviorism would be an inadequate term for
I believe that. . .the current so-called cognitive, mentalist, or con- behavior analysis. The former would properly refer to Skinners body of
sciousness revolution is the most radical turnaroundthe most revi- work, whereas the latter would refer to a field developed from his propos-
sionary and transformative. (Sperry, 1993, p. 878) als. Still, both phrases will be used here interchangeably.
272 WATRIN AND DARWICH
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Figure 1. Some of the parallel developments in behavior analysis and cognitivism from the 1930s until the
1970s.

behaviorist position (p. 191). The review became one of the Up to that time, cognitivism was a somewhat quiet and
movements landmarks, and Chomsky was regarded as a pioneer unconscious movement (see Baars, 1986). According to
(see Palmer, 2006). Miller (2003), at the time it was happening I did not realize
During the 1960s, the movement picked up steam and received that I was, in fact, a revolutionary. . .. (p. 141). Then, the
its current name (Bruner, 1986; Gardner, 1985). In 1960, Miller 1970s saw the movements consolidation. Journals based in its
and Jerome Bruner (1915) founded the Center for Cognitive new perspectives were established in that decade, such as
Studies at Harvard University. In 1967, Ulric Neisser (1928 ) Cognitive Psychology (1970) and Cognition (1971). Also at that
published Cognitive Psychology, defining the movements subject time, the term cognitive science was coined. It referred to an
matter as all processes by which the sensory input is transformed, interdisciplinary endeavor whose subject matter was the nature
reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. . .. Such terms as of knowledge and, ultimately, the mind (see Gardner, 1985;
sensation, perception, imagery, retention, recall, problem-solving, Miller, 2003). Given its interdisciplinary character, the mind
and thinking, among many others, refer to hypothetical stages or was approached by multiple perspectives. In spite of the move-
aspects of cognition (Neisser, 1967, p. 4). Other important pub- ments general interest by psychological phenomena, cognitive
lications were made (e.g., Miller, Pribram, & Galanter, 1960), and psychology became the expression of cognitivism in the spe-
cognitivist research began to receive strong financial support. cific discipline of psychology.
ON BEHAVIORISM IN THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION 273

Still, from all developments in the 1970s, it was remarkable the (see, e.g., Baars, 1986; Bruner, 1990; Gardner, 1985; Sperry,
growing awareness about the movements impact, specifically the 1993).
changes it provoked in psychology. An alleged behavioristic dom- In any case, the cognitivist movement is usually depicted in
inance seemed to be shaken, and discussions about a possible terms of its conflictive relationship with behaviorism, including
scientific revolution in experimental psychology were being the Skinnerian tradition. Mandler (2002) even defines a revolution
made (e.g., Palermo, 1971; Segal & Lachman, 1972). Decades with such a relation, stating that the well-documented cognitive
after Watsons (1913) dismissal of consciousness and introspec- revolution was, to a large extent, an evolving return to attitudes
tion, both seemed to make a return (Lieberman, 1979; Natsoulas, and trends that were present before the advent of behaviorism and
1978). It was being said that behaviorisms dominance was eroded, that were alive and well outside of the United States, where
giving way to competing formulations, such as those of cognitiv- behaviorism had not developed any coherent support (p. 339).
ism (Segal & Lachman, 1972). Even in the American Psycholog- The revolution was thus the birth of a new mentalistic approach,
ical Association (APA) presidential address, there was already talk which developed in parallel to an antimentalistic tradition, that is,
about a cognitive revolution (McKeachie, 1976, p. 829). behaviorism itself. It was, in a sense, natural that some reciprocal
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opposition to behaviorism appeared. Bruner (1990), however, says


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Behaviorism in the Cognitivist Historiography that it was not a revolution against behaviorism with the aim of
transforming behaviorism into a better way of pursuing psychol-
The quarrel between cognitivism and behaviorism became cen- ogy by adding a little mentalism to it (p. 2), but he soon con-
tral to understanding the revolution. Behaviorism would have been cludes: I think it should be clear to you by now that we were not
greatly affected, and impacts would be thus extensible to behavior out to reform behaviorism, but to replace it [emphasis added]
analysis. Alleged changes are drastic, but assumptions are some- (p. 3). Certainly, someone who wants to replace behaviorism does
times inconsistent. This analysis evaluates recurring features of not support it or, at least, has a better proposal.
behaviorism as it is portrayed in the cognitivist historiography.
Although not present in every account, those elements are suffi-
The Generic (and Misrepresented) Nature of
ciently repeated to constitute a widespread version of history,
whose structure will be reviewed here (see Table 1 for a list of
Behaviorism
references here cited that show some of these elements). Empirical In that context, oppositions are rather to a generically defined
verifications on the revolutions claims will be also briefly as- behaviorism. It is usually understood in its broad sense, sometimes
sessed, as wells as the historiographical functions of the cognitivist as a metatheory or as a paradigm. Consequently, behaviorism
story. does not refer to any particular behaviorist system or psychologist
and, at the same time, it seems to refer to all of them. Baars (1986)
The Nature and Target of the Cognitivist Movement acknowledges the ambiguity of the term, saying the following:

There is no consensus about the nature of the cognitivist move- Behaviorism is a fairly good label for the scientific metatheory that
ment. It is usually understood as a scientific revolution in the dominated psychology between 1913 and 1960, but a closer look
Kuhnian sense, implying that psychology had undergone a para- shows that there are many varieties of behaviorism: . . .the reader
digm shift (e.g., Baars, 1986; Palermo, 1971; see also Kuhn, 1970). should be sensitive to possible ambiguities (p. 5).
Some, however, argue that it was rather a counterrevolution,
because it was a response to an earlier behaviorist revolution Sperry (1993), for his part, asserts the following:
(e.g., Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006; Miller, 2003). There is also [W]hen I speak of behaviorism here, I mean behaviorism per se, in the
controversy over the adequacy of the term revolution, given that sense of an overriding paradigm, metatheory, or working framework
there were no cataclysmic events, leaders, or radicalisms (Mandler, for psychology in general. The reference is not [emphasis added] to
2002, 2007). Despite the disagreement, revolution still seems to any of the various subordinate theories, practices, and approaches to
be the most common label, having widespread use in literature behavior, learning, or brain function that may have become associated

Table 1
Some Recurring Features of Behaviorism in the Cognitivist Historiography

Features of behaviorism References


a
Generic label for different and conflicting theoretical systems Pinker, 1999
Former hegemonic force in psychology (includes generic label) Bruner, 1986; McKeachie, 1976; Palermo, 1971; Sternberg, 2009; Thagard, 2005
Displaced or defunct school (includes generic label) Miller, 2003
All features above Baars, 1986; Crowther-Heyck, 1999; Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006; Gardner,
1985; Mandler, 2002, 2007; Pinker, 2003; Robins, Gosling, & Craik, 1999;
Segal & Lachman, 1972b; Sperry, 1993; Tracy, Robins, & Gosling, 2004
a
Friman et al. (1993) and Spear (2007) also used generic labels for the behaviorist school (e.g., behavioral psychology). Nevertheless, because they are
critical of the cognitivist historiography, they were not included here. b Segal and Lachman (1972) speak rather of neobehavioristic dominance. They
recognized that neobehaviorism comprised several and conflicting systems, at the same time they also treat it as a paradigm, with common features across
its many differences.
274 WATRIN AND DARWICH

incidentally by coming into vogue during the half-century reign of exceptions put their validity at stake. Furthermore, the notion of
behaviorism (p. 880). generic behaviorism itself is a fallacy, having the form of a straw
man argument. Given its vague definition, the behaviorism at-
As a result, accounts of the revolution usually refer to behav- tacked by cognitivists is often a simplification, a superficial ver-
iorism or behaviorists only. It is not uncommon, for instance, sion of a complex set of theoretical systems. In the conventional
that they talk about behaviorist dogmas (Mandler, 2002, p. 339), historiography, it is that representation that is often refuted by the
without much reference to any particular system. A host of differ- cognitivists instead of any behavioristic system in particular.
ent and conflicting systems is grouped under a single label, as if In spite of the prior disputable use of the word behaviorism,
they all shared the same position. Being vaguely defined, behav- the conventional historiography seems to have taken advantage of
iorism is frequently treated as a homogeneous school, as a linear the terms ambiguity to legitimate the idea of a revolution. A
tradition. The term behaviorism, however, refers to a variety of generic behaviorism was, then, presented, underlying fallacious
conflicting positions (Leigland, 2003; but see also Moore, 1999). arguments. This ambiguous treatment is dangerous for behavior
Indeed, after Watsons (1913) first use, many theories related to analysis and modern behaviorism, because it creates and strength-
the study of behavior were taken as behaviorists.3 Since the term
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ens academic folklore (see also Todd & Morris, 1992). Its decep-
began to be largely used, its ambiguity was soon recognized, seen
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tive character gives rise to misrepresentations.


that there was no single-enterprise called behaviorism (e.g.,
Hunter, 1922; Spence, 1948; Williams, 1931). Woodworth (1924)
summarized the problem: Alleged Behavioristic Dominance
[I]f I am asked whether I am a behaviorist, I have to reply that I do not Grounded in the idea of a generic behaviorism is the assumption
know, and do not much care. If I am, it is because I believe in the of a behavioristic hegemony. Behaviorism is said to have domi-
several projects put forward by behaviorists. If I am not, it is partly nated American psychology, reigning before the advent of
because I also believe in other projects which behaviorists seem to
cognitivism. Baars (1986) began his book saying that for at least
avoid, and partly because I cannot see any one big thing, to be called
behaviorism . . . (p. 264). 50 years, until very recently, scientific psychology was dominated
by a philosophy of science known as behaviorism (p. 1), even
Spence (1948) also noted that the term was mostly used when when, later in that same book, Skinner asserts in an interview that
someone defines his or her oppositions to an effective (or alleged) behaviorism was never really dominant (as cited in Baars, 1986,
behaviorism. Even so, later developments were identified with p. 88).
behaviorism, such as behavior analysis itself. Therefore, the When behaviorism is vaguely defined, it is also easier to assume
term would still designate a very heterogeneous set of positions. Its its previous hegemony, as well as its later decline or even its
indiscriminate use, on the other hand, overlooks the historical death. Conversely, it also becomes more difficult to assess the
complexity and diversity of the behaviorist school. dominance. It would be necessary to define in which terms behav-
Moreover, references to a generic behaviorism set biases in the iorism was dominant, to what extent it was hegemonic. That
analysis of behavioristic systems. When behaviorism is vaguely presupposes the need for evaluating such factors as the period of
defined, it is easier to misrepresent any system by attributing dominance, its reach (e.g., experimental psychology, psychology
features of other positions to it. Properties of particular systems are as a whole), the means by which it was expressed (e.g., journal
ascribed to all. Pinker (1999), for example, says the following: citations, presence in graduate programs), and, fundamentally,
which behavioristic position(s) was (were) dominantif any.
Skinner and other behaviorists insisted that all talk about mental Notwithstanding, historical accounts show little agreement on
events was sterile speculation; only stimulusresponse connection those parameters. Although there are variations, the period of
could be studied in the lab and the field. Exactly the opposite turned dominance is usually situated between the 1920s and the 1950s
out to be true. Before computational ideas were imported in the 1950s
(see, e.g., Gardner, 1985; Mandler, 2002). The range of that
and 1960s by Newell and Simon and the psychologists George Miller
and Donald Broadbent, psychology was dull, dull, dull (p. 84).
hegemony is not so consensual. Some have pointed that it was, in
a sense, restricted to experimental psychology (e.g., Palermo,
Generalizations like that are likely to produce misattributions. 1971; Mandler, 2007). Others, however, simply talk of behavior-
Indeed, the stimulusresponse connections were the subject-matter ism having dominated psychology in general (e.g., Pinker, 2003).
of Watsons behaviorism, but Pinker (1999) seems to neglect that Apparently, there are not many references to which form of
some behavioral systems had other theoretical emphases, as was behaviorism reigned before the revolution. Gardner (1985), for
the case of Hullian, Tolmanian, and Skinnerian behaviorisms. On instance, talks about the dominance of Watsons agenda, asserting
the other hand, general features of behaviorism are also postulated that, later,
as if they were a strict rule. It is the case of saying, for example,
that behaviorism focuses only on the relation between observable 3
It is of small wonder, for instance, that Leahey (2000) talks about
behavior [emphasis added] and environmental events or stimuli
behavioralism instead of characterizing as behaviorism all study or practice
(Sternberg, 2009, p. 8). That argument ignores that Skinner (1945, related to behavior. Behavioralism would be the broader trend of interest in
1974), for instance, made private events (e.g., thinking, feeling) a the explanation of behavior.
legitimate subject-matter too.4 4
Observable behavior is an ambiguous phrase, being usually used as
In this manner, misattributions usually take the form of hasty or a synonym for overt, public behavior. Although not public, private events
sweeping generalizations, as if all behaviorists shared a certain are also observable if one considers that the behaving organism has access
position. Those kinds of arguments are fallacious, once their to them.
ON BEHAVIORISM IN THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION 275

A whole generation of scientiststhe leading psychologists of the Mandler, 2002). In any case, the revolution is taken as the
next generationwere trained in the orbit of Watson; and investiga- cause or, at least, as the aggravating circumstancefor the
tors like Clark Hull, B. F. Skinner, Kenneth Spence, and E. L. overthrow of behaviorism (e.g., Baars, 1986; Sperry, 1993). As
Thorndike helped to ensure that the psychology of America between Gardner (1985) put it,
1920 and 1950 was irremedially behaviorist. Child care, treatment of
prisoners, teaching of children, and many other societal activities [C]ognitive psychologists have won the battle on their chosen field
came to be dominated by behavioristic rhetoric and behaviorist prac- within psychology. While behaviorism still has appeal as a method for
tices (p. 110). dealing with various clinical populations, its theoretical superstructure
and its experimental strictures no longer exert much influence within
As can be seen, when talking about dominance, Gardner put the research community. Nearly all researchers accept the needand
together very different behavioristic positions in the same passage. the advisability of positing a level of mental representation (p. 130).
It is not clear which of those systems dominated, neither how,
where nor when they had their hegemony. Were they all reigning So, in the cognitivist historiography, victory would be cognitiv-
at one time? Mandler (2002) asserts that the Hull-Spence position ist and behaviorism would fall. With all its remaining systems, it
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

dominated during the 1930s and 1940s, and that would be the was declared dead or displaced and, therefore, just another part of
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supposed target of the cognitivist movement. Later, only Skinner history. Its fall became, then, one of the most remarkable impacts
would have maintained some influence. Sternberg (2009), for his of the cognitive revolution, while cognitivistic dominance would
part, seems to suggest that Skinnerian behaviorism was dominant, become just a natural consequence. In that context, there is prac-
stating that, largely because of Skinners towering presence, tically no doubt about the place that behaviorism had in the history
behaviorism dominated the discipline of psychology for several (see, e.g., Hergenhahn, 2009; Schultz & Schultz, 2004). It was
decades (p. 9). Thagard (2005) does not even indicate a repre- influential to the extent of constituting itself as a historical land-
sentative system, saying only that behaviorism dominated the mark. Influence, however, does not necessarily mean hegemony.
psychological scene through the 1950s (p. 6). Therefore, the Behaviorism had and has unquestionable influence, but its domi-
question of behaviorisms hegemony still remains to be solved. As nance is disputable. The same is true for cognitivism.
Greenwood (1999) once noted, one might wonder to what extent
the behavioristic hegemony adequately reflects the variety of be- Empirical Verifications of the Revolution
havioristic positions or the rhetoric of those who attain powerful
positions within psychology. As there seems to be a good deal of speculation in the cognitivist
Despite all divergences, the behavioristic dominance seems to historiography, the cognitive revolution has been addressed in
be a common ground in the cognitivist historiography. It is a empirical investigations on the history of psychology. In 1987,
widespread assumption, being present not only in historical ac- Boneau (1992) conducted a survey with senior psychologists about
counts (e.g., Mandler, 2007), but also in introductory books to developments in the past 25 years. The emergence of cognitivism
cognitive science (e.g., Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006) and texts and the waning of behaviorism appeared as some of the most
for popular audiences (e.g., Pinker, 2003). Presentation of evi- surprising events in the then recent history, being consequently
dence, however, is quite rare and, even so, inconsistent.5 Its most recognized as facts by psychologys community.
knownand perhaps onlyproof is the oral and textbooks tra- Quantitative analyses on trends in psychology have been also
dition of assuming that hegemony. So much so that only recently carried out. Friman et al. (1993), for instance, performed a citation
empirical studies put the claim of behavioristic fall to the test (e.g., analysis to test the hypothesis of a Kuhnian revolution. The results
Friman et al., 1993; Robins, Gosling, & Craik, 1999). The lack of showed the growth of cognitive psychology. On the other hand,
evidence puts the question of dominance at stake. It is an assump- there was no evidence for the death or decline of behavioral
tion par excellence, because it is a claim taken for granted. psychology, refuting the revolutions hypothesis. Robins, Gos-
Nevertheless, even if all those issues were solved, dominance ling, and Craik (1999) developed another method for a quantitative
itself is a troublesome notion. To assume that one school or theory analysis of history, using citation analysis and keyword searches.
is dominant presupposes that psychology is a unified discipline, a The results also pointed to the steady growth of cognitivism but
long-time disputed assumption (Spear, 2007). Furthermore, much showed the decline of behaviorism. In the 1970s, that decline
of the behaviorist movement appeared to be restricted to experi- would give way to the ascendant trajectory of cognitivism, thus
mental psychology, contradicting the idea that it dominated the confirming the revolutions hypothesis. Those latter results also
whole discipline. As Miller (2003) himself considered, it is im- appeared in a later replication (Tracy, Robins, & Gosling, 2004).
portant to remember that the mind had never disappeared from Although praiseworthy, those studies did not escape criticisms
social or clinical psychology. It was only experimentalists in the about their implications. As Spear (2007) pointed out, the primary
U.S. who really believed that behaviorism would work (p. 142). concern, of course, is the question of what, if any, approach
Even so, behaviorism did not become dominant. Studies about
mentalistic themes, such as consciousness or even animal cogni- 5
tion, never disappeared from the experimental field (see, e.g., Mandler (2002), for instance, tries to substantiate the claim of behav-
ioristic rise and fall by presenting the percentage of nonhuman subjects in
Dewsbury, 2000; Leahey, 1992; Lovie, 1983).
Journal of Experimental Psychologys articles. Behaviorism, however, is
Still, the idea of a behavioristic dominance also allows the not restricted to animal research and vice versa (e.g., Lattal & Perone,
idea of a cognitivistic dominance, given that hegemonic behav- 1998; Wasserman & Zentall, 2006). Furthermore, the author tries to com-
iorism would not have been everlasting. For some, the seeds of pare the influence (here as synonymous for dominance) of Skinner, Hull,
failure were inherent in the own behaviorist program and might and Spence by the number of literature citations, but references to an author
have grown because of Watsons attitude (cf. Gardner, 1985; do not necessarily imply a favorable reading.
276 WATRIN AND DARWICH

currently dominates psychology (p. 364). Also the portrayal of enlightened rebirth of classical values. Dark Ages, for its part,
behaviorism was called into question, because it is, once again, implies a period of ignorance, a cultural stagnation during the
generically depicted (e.g., behavioral psychology, behavior- Middle Ages. Still, the Middle Ages were not a cultural hiatus,
ism). Leigland (2000), for example, discussed the assumption that seen, for instance, in its literary productivity (cf. Hay, 1977;
behaviorism was a monolithic school that once dominated psy- Treadgold, 1984). Indeed, the term Dark Ages was coined by
chology, being later overthrown by cognitivism. Given those con- humanists trying to assign their place in history, given that the
flicting and disputable results, Spear (2007) critically reevaluated contrast with Renaissances lights would serve as a sharp chrono-
Robins, Gosling, and Craiks (1999) analyses, replicating and logical demarcation (Mommsen, 1942; but see also Ferguson,
modifying some of their measures. It was demonstrated that cog- 1939). More than showing facts, a dark era makes the lights of
nitivism did not come to dominate psychology, although it has Renaissance even brighter.6
been steadily growing in popularity. There were also no evidences The story of the cognitive revolution is not so different. Indeed,
for an eclipse of behaviorism. some had already recognized the similarity between the two sto-
In this manner, the rise of cognitivism is a widely recognized
ries, talking about a supposed behaviorist dark age and a cog-
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

fact. Nevertheless, there is little agreement on the death, fall, or


nitive renaissance (see, e.g., Marx & Cronan-Hillix, 1987; Roe-
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.

replacement of behaviorism, as well as on whether there is a


diger, 2004). The cognitivist historiography tells a story at the
dominant school in psychology. Those studies are naturally of
expense of behaviorisms portrayal, that is, regardless of its his-
historical relevance but are too inconsistent to make the claims of
torical complexity and diversity. Behaviorism became an empty
a cognitive revolution historically accurate. Such inconsistency
could be largely a result of the complexity of their subject-matter abstraction which, taken as reality, served as repository for cog-
and the simplification of their assumptions. This is clear when nitivist myths. Just as the Dark Ages, it became a synonym for
most of them seem to assume that psychology is a unified science hiatus, a period of mostly sterile contributions. Cognitivism meant
with uniform traditions, in which schools can compete for influ- the rebirth of mind and valuable research, putting an end to the
ence or hegemony. Psychology is much broader than the simple behaviorist stagnation. Although disputable, a cognitive revolution
struggle between its traditions. It is more likely that most psychol- also casts cognitivism in better lights, assigning the place of the
ogists work in areas other than cognitive or behavioral psychology, movement in the history of psychology. Thus, the narratives first
even if they were influenced by those traditions. Moreover, in spite function is that of chronological demarcation, namely to establish
of their intended objectivity, those studies are also not immune to the revolution as a historical watershed.
the interests of any tradition, which could profit from one or other Consequently, the narrative also supports the progressive view
kind of data. of history, promoting the cognitivist research program. It estab-
lishes cognitivism as an undeniable advance, an indelible part of
Historiographical Functions psychologys progress. That would be a natural interest of cogni-
tivist researchers. It is no wonder, for instance, that the authors of
As every version of history, the revolutions story has its func- many historical accounts are linked to cognitivist research or the
tions, its purposes in disseminating a certain interpretation. Its revolution itself (e.g., Baars, 1986; Gardner, 1985; Mandler, 2002;
narrative was structured in a given way to fulfill those functions. Miller, 2003). The story is also repeated in introductory books of
To evaluate them, one should take into account the storys impli- cognitive science (e.g., Friedenberg & Silverman, 2006; Sternberg,
cations, who tells it, and how its authors or characters could profit 2009; Thagard, 2005). The revolutions story asserts the impor-
from it. A comparison may shed light upon those aspects. tance of the cognitivist agenda, even if that implies the misrepre-
In the revolutions drama, behaviorism takes a central role as sentation of previous historyin this case, behaviorism. In this
antagonist. Because it dominated psychology for decades, it pre- manner, a second function is to boost the cognitivist movement.
vented or retarded scientific progress, turning research away from As some have argued (e.g., Leahey, 1992; Spear, 2007), that
the mind. Psychologys classical subject-matter was set aside, and
story is an origin myth. As such, it developed from erroneous or
an era of behavioristic orthodoxy began. In the history of the
imperfect beliefs, which are based on idealizations, oversimplifi-
discipline, that gap would be necessary to provoke a renewed
cations, and misrepresentations, as well as on oral and textbooks
interest in mental life. Now called cognition, mind was brought
traditions (see Evans, 2004). Its claims are mostly disputable.
back. Cognitivism would perform its rebirth, its rescue from the
Nevertheless, that story still tells and disseminates the origins of
darkness. After a revolution, psychology could finally retake its
the movement, because some events became widely recognized
course of progress. In the revolutions narrative, history is told by
contrast. landmarks. Therefore, a third function is to constitute and consol-
That picture is not new. It resembles much of the traditional idate a historical identity for the emerging tradition of cognitivism.
Renaissance historiography, the depiction of the cultural, human- In short, it is suggested that the revolutions narrative serves to
istic movement that spanned from the 14th to the 17th centuries. three primary functions:
The French term for rebirth, Renaissance alludes to the move-
ments revival of classical values (Brotton, 2006). It is often 6
It is noteworthy that the use of both terms became so controversial that
contrasted to the Dark Ages, the previous period of waning of many historians prefer to talk about Middle Ages instead of Dark
classical culture in the Middle Ages. Metaphors of darkness, lights, Ages, and Early Modern Age instead of Renaissance (Brotton, 2006).
and rebirth were already found in early Renaissances texts (see, Indeed, if one admits a Dark Age and a Renaissance, it would be
e.g., Burke, 1964). The contrast, however, conceals important necessary to talk about several dark ages and renaissances during the lively
implications. Renaissance conveys the idea of renovation, of an Middle Ages (Treadgold, 1984).
ON BEHAVIORISM IN THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION 277

To assign a place in history for cognitivism, given that it part, charged Baars (1986) account on the cognitive revolution of
establishes the revolution as a watershed; misrepresenting behaviorism but noted that there is much in the
To boost the cognitivist agenda, because it glorifies the move- cognitive literature that, upon close inspection, cannot easily be
ment at the expense of behaviorisms portrayal; differentiated from the experimental concerns of behavior analy-
To constitute and consolidate a historical identity for the sis (p. 199). In his review of Gardners (1985) book, Shimp
movement, given that the story is a collection of landmark events. (1989) also pointed out the misrepresentation of behavior analysis
and of behaviorism in general, asserting that behavior analysts
Reactions From the Behaviorist Side may occasionally need to control an urge to fling the book down
and dismiss it (p. 163). Salzinger (1973) started a review of
We need to change our behavior, and we can do so only by changing Neissers (1967) book with a more conciliatory tone, saying that
our physical and social environments. We choose the wrong path at the research in cognitive psychology is certainly interesting, on
the very start when we suppose that our goal is to change the minds the whole well executed, and very challenging. It is well within the
and hearts of men and women rather than the world in which they
scope of a behavioristic approach. It merely awaits more attention
live (Skinner, 1977, p. 10).
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from behaviorists (p. 369). Still, he also criticized the cognitivist


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This section shows another story. On the behaviorist side, be- approach, ending in the best Skinnerian fashion: Are theories of
havior analysis was still flourishing when the events of the so- cognition necessary? (p. 377).
called cognitive revolution took place. Because the cognitivist Among the reactions, there were also works that analyzed the
historiography is critical of behaviorism, it was unlikely that cognitive revolution itself, dismissing it in the philosophical sense
behavior analysts would not react. And they did. The reactions (e.g., Leahey, 1992; ODonohue, Ferguson, & Naugle, 2003). In
here presented were written not only by behavior analysts but also those cases, the cognitivist movement was found to be incompat-
by other scholars interested in the quarrel. In some sense, they ible with key models of scientific revolution (e.g., Kuhn, 1970;
would favor this alternative story. Laudan, 1977). Other works dealt with related misconceptions
about behaviorism. Amsel (1992), for example, noted that the
behaviorism attacked by cognitivists is a caricature from Watso-
Reception of Cognitivism
nian and Skinnerian behaviorisms. Some have tried to dismiss the
For behavior analysts, cognition is behavior and, as such, a alleged death or decline of behaviorism by empirical means. They
legitimate subject matter to their science (see, e.g., Palmer, 2003). showed that, in the period of the cognitive revolution, references to
Cognitivism, for its part, was soon qualified as a new form of Skinner increased (Thyer, 1991) and that professional associations
mentalism, being thus opposed to the behavioranalytic stand- and publications devoted to behaviorism were both multiplying
point. Reactions to cognitivism seem to have increased from the (Wyatt, Hawkins, & Davis, 1986). It is noteworthy that cognitiv-
1970s onward, simultaneously to the growing awareness of a ists were not alone in misrepresenting behaviorism (see, e.g., Todd
cognitive revolution and to charges of behaviorisms decline. It & Morris, 1983), but it is not rare to find behaviorist rebuttals to
would begin a tense and ambiguous relationship between behavior cognitivist allegations.
analysis and the study of cognition. In their effort to react, behavior analysts have shown that cog-
Skinner addressed the cognitivist issue in many of his texts (e.g., nitivism and its portrayal of behaviorism did not go unnoticed. The
Skinner, 1977, 1985, 1987, 1990). His criticism revolved around cognitivist issue became so significant that, during the late 1970s,
central features of the cognitivist program, such as the explanatory there was an increase in the use of cognitive keywords in the
role of cognitive processes, the importance of rules in explaining Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, one of the main
behavior, the computer metaphor, and contributions from brain behavior-analytic outlets (Morris, Higgins, & Bickel, 1982). The
and computer sciences. At some times, the author also charged importance of the theme also became evident with a special issue
cognitivism of being an ineffective approach, saying, for instance, of that journal about cognition and behavior analysis in 1989.
that the appeal to cognitive states and processes is a diversion Their editors did not hesitate to say Cognition and behavior
which could well be responsible for much of our failure to solve analysis have a continuing, close, and perhaps difficult, relation-
our problems (Skinner, 1977, p. 10). Given the limited number of ship (White, McCarthy, & Fantino, 1989, p. 197).
references in Skinners work, it is sometimes difficult to determine
which version(s) of cognitivism he criticized. Indeed, the same The ChomskySkinner Controversy
case made against the cognitivist historiography could be made
against Skinner. Cognitivism comprised very different develop- Among the reactions, the ChomskySkinner issue has received
ments and theoretical positions that eventually became interrelated special attention in behavior-analytic literature. Indeed, since
(Greenwood, 1999). Still, Skinners work seems to suggest the Chomsky (1959) reviewed Skinners (1957) Verbal Behavior, it
illusion of a generic and unified cognitivism. became the major controversy involving behavior analysis in the
Nevertheless, reactions from other behavior analysts would be cognitive revolution. The impact it provoked can be assessed by
more specific. Many of them were responses to particular ques- the body of works discussing the question. Those works usually
tions or charges against behaviorism, assuming a critical tone in offer alternative views, pointing to the misconceptions, to biases,
general. Some took the shape of book reviews. In reviewing and to the rhetoric involved in the controversy.
Mackenzies (1977) account on the decline of behaviorism, Zuriff In this context, a major issue is Skinners apparent silence in
(1979), for example, asserted that it was a paradox to review such front of the review. Nevertheless, he commented on the episode far
a book in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, a from mainstream outlets, stating, for example, that Chomskys
healthy behaviorist journal. Morgan and Buskist (1990), for their review was not really a review of my book but of what Chomsky
278 WATRIN AND DARWICH

took, erroneously, to be my position (Skinner, 1972, p. 32; but see time successful. That may have accelerated the speed with which
also Czubaroff, 1988). But, if Skinner has not answered publicly, behavior analysts drew away from the psychological establishment,
others would do it. MacCorquodale (1970) produced a detailed founding their own associations, holding their own meetings, publish-
rebuttal of Chomskys text, concluding that the theory criticized ing their own journals. They were accused of building their own
ghetto, but they were simply accepting the fact that they had little to
in the review was an amalgam of some rather outdated behavior-
gain from the study of a creative mind (p. 1210).
istic lore. . . (p. 98). Approved by Skinner (1972) himself, Mac-
Corquodales reply was submitted to Language, the same journal As a consequence, there have been concerns about the future of
where Chomskys review was published. Notwithstanding, for the field, giving room for criticism of behavior analysis itself (e.g.,
reasons unknown, the editors rejected MacCorquodales manu- Fraley & Vargas, 1986; Hayes, 2001; Michael, 1980). In fact, there
script, which was eventually published in the Journal of the were behavior analysts who did not find the isolation a problem in
Experimental Analysis of Behavior (Palmer, 2006). Given the itself (e.g., Lee, 1989). The conservative attitude is alive and
prominence attained by Chomsky, that editorial decision may have kicking in behavior analysissometimes, against every chance of
favored even more the Chomskian position. change. At the slightest sign of distance from the Skinnerian spirit,
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In any case, Chomskys understanding and scholarship on ver- resistances appear, as if there was a threat to its professional and
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bal behavior have been still widely disputed in behavior-analytic scientific identity. Complaints have been made, for example,
outlets (e.g., Adelman, 2007; Palmer, 2006). There have also been against the growing mentalism in behavior analysis, including
reactions pointing to other aspects of the issue. Knapp (1992), for cognitive wording (e.g., Branch & Malagodi, 1980; Michael,
instance, showed that the influence of Chomskys critique resulted 1980). Charges of intellectual intolerance against the field are not
in a neglect of other reviews of Skinners (1957) book, which were rare (e.g., Krantz, 1971; see also Todd & Morris, 1992).
more positive, even though critical. Others have tried to show the On the other hand, there are also attempts to make the field more
vitality of Skinners views by the increasing number of sales and flexible, visible, and open to new contributions. In this context,
references to Verbal Behavior, dismissing the idea that it was there have been those who still believe in a dialogue with cogni-
refuted (Schlinger, 2008). To elucidate the episode, Chomsky was tivism (e.g., Slocum & Butterfield, 1994; Smith, 1994). Indeed,
even interviewed. At the occasion, he revealed that, in face of the behavior analysis scientific and professional identity depends on
prestige and orthodoxy radical behaviorism enjoyed, he de- its difference from other approaches, such as the cognitivist. While
cided to write the attack. Chomsky actually wrote the review such a distinction is still important, Catania (1998), for example,
before the book was published (as cited in Virues-Ortega, 2006, contends that the respective correlations of cognitive and behav-
p. 246), once many of Skinners ideas were already present in the ioral languages with structural and functional problems made it
early 1950s due to the latters William James lectures at Harvard. difficult to recognize that the problems were different and there-
Moreover, some reactions have also focused on the rhetoric fore that these research areas might be complementary rather than
component of the ChomskySkinner controversy (e.g., Andresen, mutually exclusive (p. 369). Palmer and Donahoe (1992), for
1991; Czubaroff, 1988). In many cases, Chomsky and Skinner (as their part, argue that some trends in cognitive science are amenable
well as other behavior analysts and cognitivists) rely upon non- to interpretations from behavior analysis, making possible fruitful
formal, persuasive strategies of argumentation. In spite of aca- interactions between them. In this manner, some have made a way
demic tradition, the controversy became a clear instance in which for cooperation or, at least, for a peaceful coexistence between
debate is rather rhetorical than logical. behavior analysis and cognitivism.
The future is unknown, but there are those who still believe that
Concerns About the Future behaviorism or behavior analysis may strengthen once again (e.g.,
Ardila, 2006; Overskeid, 2008; Uttal, 2001). In any case, behav-
The cognitivist historiography contends that behaviorism and be- iorism is still alive in the form of behavior analysisand willing
havior analysis were displaced by a paradigm shift. Indeed, in to write history in its own way. Behavior analysts reactions to
behavior-analytic literature, there is also talk about an eclipse of cognitivism thus offer an alternative story that often contradicts the
behavior analysis (Catania, 1987, p. 255). The field is far from the narrative of a cognitive revolution. Even so, it is a disarticulated
mainstream. The causes, however, may be other than just the rise of story, with convergences and divergences in many points. For the
cognitivism. Behavior analysis was found to be isolating itself from most part, it is devoted to address specific questions and charges of
1958 to 1989, with high self-citation rates in the Journal of the the cognitivist story instead of offering a coherent narrative that
Experimental Analysis of Behavior, one of its main outlets (Krantz, could oppose to that of the cognitivists.
1971; Coleman & Mehlman, 1992). As a matter of fact, most reac-
tions here shown were published in behavior-analytic journals. In Final Remarks
defending against cognitivism, they seem to be talking to themselves
most of the time. On the other hand, a few aspects of their history may The story of the cognitive revolution seems successful in fos-
explain the fields isolation. Some have already noted the general tering the cognitivist movement and developing its historical iden-
resistance found by behavior analysts, because their conceptions chal- tity. It left, however, several questions unsolved when it speaks of
lenged many Western and psychologys traditions, (see, e.g., behaviorism. That term is ambiguous and its use disputable. It
ODonohue, Callaghan, & Ruckstuhl, 1998; Rutherford, 2000). Skin- was a behaviorism that only the cognitivists knew. In the same
ner (1990) summarized this way: vein, one might argue against the meaning of cognitivism,
because it was not a unified tradition. Indeed, this review criticized
Because of its similarity to the vernacular, cognitive psychology was a cognitivist historiography, but the notion of such historiogra-
easy to understand and the so-called cognitive revolution was for a phy only became possible when those authors assumed a generic
ON BEHAVIORISM IN THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION 279

cognitivism as a common ground to construct their story. The very Narratives of revolutions convince by their romance, but that
historiography that once celebrated a cognitive revolution also kind of story is not about particular events. It is about an alleged
favors a distorted notion of the cognitivist tradition. It is based on drastic change in scientific psychology, reflecting issues of pro-
the idea that cognitivism was, in some sense, a unified and revo- fessional and scientific identity. If that sort of story becomes usual
lutionary movement, capable of resisting and displacing behavior- and crystallized, the consequences are far-reaching. It may under-
ism. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to imagine an alternative story, lie decisions regarding personal and resources allocation. There-
in which someone resorts to that same generic cognitivism to fore, a perspective about the past can change the building of the
describe its rise and fall. As seen in Skinners work, that sort of future. Gains and losses become concrete when those stories come
story could well be told by a behavioristand, perhaps, it already to be part of the historical process.
exists (see, e.g., Overskeid, 2008). In the case of the revolution, each side tells a different story, but
Both behaviorism and cognitivism designate very heteroge- rhetorical strategies become evident when both stories are con-
neous sets of positions. In the quarrel between cognitivists and fronted. Although there are not truer interpretations, there are
behavior analysts, it is clear that not all of them took part in the certainly better ways of dealing with the past rather than by
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issue or subscribed to the perspectives here presented. Some have disregarding other traditions. In the case of the cognitive revolu-
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.

even argued in defense of the opposite side (e.g., Roediger, 2004). tion, the movement certainly had its originality. More than the end
Behaviorism and cognitivism can be deceptive terms. In the his- of behaviorism, cognitivism represented an alternative to it. That
tory of psychology, they can help to understand large trends over view begins to tell history in a different way.
periods of time. Nonetheless, they are abstractions. They are not
real entities, capable of dominating a discipline that is not even
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