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The Behavior Analyst 1986,9,175-190 No.

2 (Fall)

Mentalism, Behavior-Behavior Relations, and a

Behavior-Analytic View of the Purposes of Science
Steven C. Hayes Aaron J. Brownstein
University of Nevada-Reno University of North Carolina
at Greensboro
In a behavioral view, the purposes of science are primarily prediction and control. To the extent that a
scientist embraces both of these as a unified and generally applicable criterion for science, certain phil-
osophical and theoretical practices are counterproductive, including mentalism in both its metaphysical
and metatheoretical forms. It is possible and often worthwhile to recast some mentalistic talk into an
issue of behavior-behavior relations. When behavior-behavior relations are approached non-mechanisti-
cally, however, analysis cannot stop at the level of the relations themselves. Several analytic concepts
common in the behavioral community share some of the dangers of mentalism ifnot employed properly,
including such concepts as self-reinforcement, response-produced stimulation, and self-rules.

Criticism of a behavioral approach to amine some of the philosophical under-

human behavior has been frequent since pinnings of a behavior-analytic view of
its inception. Recently, a type of criticism science. Many of the points we hope to
has emerged from knowledgeable critics make have been made elsewhere, but the
suggesting that there is a more rapid path discussions have often been directed to-
to the kinds of scientific knowledge sought ward other specific concerns and have
by behaviorists (e.g., Keat, 1972; Wes- not always been interconnected or given
sells, 1981, 1982). Even individuals who a comprehensive rationale. Keystones of
formerly have been sympathetic to a be- a behavior-analytic position can then ap-
havior-analytic position have embraced pear to be dogmatic or arbitrary, rather
this line of criticism. For example, Kil- than required for the intellectual integrity
leen has suggested that we need to "re- of the position.
store the excitement" in our field by ad- Our starting point will be the primary
mitting mentalism (Killeen, 1984). purposes of science from a behavior-an-
Behavorists would enthusiastically alytic viewpoint-prediction and con-
embrace this suggestion if the alterna- trol. We will attempt to show that an
tives being proposed (e.g., Killeen's emphasis on prediction and control is not
"emergent behaviorism," 1984) ad- arbitrary in behavior analysis because it
vanced the goals of science as seen by is a necessary part of successful forms of
behavior analysts. Sadly, that possibility the philosophy that underlies behavior-
does not appear likely. Instead, the critics analytic theorizing. We will examine
seem to be proposing a kind of science mentalism from several vantage points
that is ill-suited to the scientific ends and show that regardless of its form,
sought by behavior analysts. Although the mentalism is necessarily counterproduc-
criticisms may seem to be about scientific tive to the purposes of science embraced
strategies or tactics, in actuality they con- by behavior analysts. Mentalism can,
cern the behavior-analytic view of sci- however, contribute to the purposes of
entific explanation itself. science as seen from other perspectives.
The nature of the recent criticism sug- We will examine a behavioral translation
gests that it may be worthwhile to reex- of some types of mental phenomena in
terms of behavior-behavior relations, but
warn against uses of the translation that
Requests for reprints may be sent to Steven C. also interfere with the accomplishment
Hayes, Department of Psychology, University of
Nevada-Reno, Reno, NY 89557-0062. This paper of prediction and control. We will then
is published in loving memory of Aaron J. Brown- briefly examine several concepts within
stein (1932-1986). We will miss you, old friend. a behavioral perspective that are on a

slippery slope to the same problem cre- a function" (Skinner, 1953, p. 35). This
ated by mentalism. position is not based on an a priori dic-
tum that only what are commonly called
THE PURPOSES OF SCIENCE: "external variables" can possibly influ-
PREDICTION AND CONTROL ence behavior. In a sense, the flow is in
When differences in goals are made ev- the opposite direction. If an event can in
principle directly allow both prediction
ident' many arguments seem to dissolve.
The goals of science from a behavior- and control of behavior, then it deserves
analytic viewpoint have been quite ex- the name "environmental variable" or
plicitly stated: "We undertake to predict "external variable." This relation can be
and control the behavior of the individ- shown by the fact that, in behavior anal-
ual organism. This is our 'dependent ysis, the words "external" or "environ-
variable'-the effect for which we are to mental" do not always refer to the world
find the cause" (Skinner, 1953, p. 35). It outside the skin: rather they refer to the
seems only fair to evaluate a position with world outside behavior (most of which,
respect to the goals it sets for itself, while of course, is outside the skin). For ex-
recognizing of course that other purposes ample, it is sometimes useful ("useful"
might be well served by different posi- in terms of prediction and control) to
'tions. think of an "internal environment" in-
fluencing behavior.
An emphasis on "external variables"
The Emphasis on Control
comes from the goals of science as viewed
Prediction and control are the primary by behavior analysis. Seeking both pre-
goals of behavior analysis (the goals of diction and control puts certain con-
interpretation and explanation are dis- straints on the kinds of statements of re-
cussed later). The behavioral approach lations that are useful for the scientist.
places emphasis on the words "and con- Only statements that point to events ex-
trol" in the phrase "prediction and con- ternal to the behavior of the individual
trol." Behavior analysis has sought an organism being studied can directly lead
explanation of behavior in terms of events to prediction and control. The logic of
that are of a kind that at least potentially this claim is as follows. Scientific state-
allows both prediction and control si- ments, as Skinner pointed out, are not
multaneously. As we discuss below, some themselves the causes of the phenomena
kinds of descriptions of events and re- they encompass. Bodies do not fall, for
lations can in principle only directly pro- example, because of the law of gravity.
duce successful prediction and not con- Rather humans can bring their behavior
trol. Other kinds of descriptions of events under the control of this verbal statement
and relations can allow both, in principle, of a relation (i.e., this rule) and achieve
though of course for practical reasons certain ends. Thus, scientific rules help
control may presently be impossible. Be- us accomplish particular ends by describ-
havior analysis is committed to empha- ing contingencies. They are rules for sci-
sizing this latter kind of analysis. entists, not rules for the world. Thus, sci-
The importance of prediction and con- entists who seek prediction and control
trol as a guide to behavior-analytic theo- must rely on rules that start with the en-
rizing cannot be overemphasized. It is vironment, in the sense of the "world
the key to understanding many behav- outside of the behavior," because scien-
ioral positions that might otherwise ap- tists are, and can only ever be, in other
pear to be arbitrary. For example, be- organisms' environment in this sense.
havior-analytic accounts of behavior are Scientists cannot directly use a rule to
always ultimately to be cast in terms of control behavior unless it starts where
"environmental variables" or "external the scientist is-in the potentially man-
variables": "Our 'independent vari- ipulable world outside of the behavioral
ables'-the causes of behavior-are the system. If a scientific statement is used
external conditions of which behavior is by the scientist to control phenomena but

does not itself start from where the sci- radical behaviorism is a dynamic spatio-
entist resides there must be some un- temporal contextual unit-none of the
specified and unanalyzed link between the terms can be defined independently of
statement and the scientist's behavior. It any of the others. Radical behaviorism
may be useful, but it is necessarily in- is so thoroughgoing in its attempt to ana-
complete in the sense that the rule itself lyze context that even the behavior of
did not specify whatever was done to scientists as they conduct contextual
control the phenomena of interest. analyses is to be understood through more
contextual analyses (Skinner, 1945).
Why Prediction Must Be Included and The explanatory model of the "act in
Control Emphasized context" is shared by many perspectives
on behavior, from certain forms of evo-
Much of the confusion over a behav- lutionary biology (e.g., Dawkins, 1982),
ior-analytic perspective on the goals of to some types of cultural anthropology
science would have vanished had control (e.g., Harris, 1979), to Marxism. Because
alone been emphasized as the defining a basic explanatory model (or "root met-
property of science. To the extent that aphor") is at the core of any well-inte-
control is pursued, it forces us to em- grated and consistent world view, Pepper
phasize external variables that are func- (1942) has suggested that all perspectives
tionally related to the behavior. Indeed, that rely on the "act in context" as an
if the critics ofa behavioral position were explanatory model be thought of as types
right and the emphasis on control rep- of the world view he calls "contextual-
resented merely an emphasis on tech- ism." According to Pepper (1942), the
nological advancement, there would have underlying "truth criterion" of contex-
been no reason not to emphasize control tualism is "successful working" or prag-
alone as the issue. The criticism is a fairly matism (Pepper, 1942). A term, concept,
common one. For example, Wessells or statement of a relation is not true or
(1981) objects to an emphasis on control, false simply according to public agree-
saying "the kinds of predictions one aims ment about the correspondence between
to make need not be dictated by the prag- it and other events, but according to the
matic desire to change behavior for the impact that the use of the term, concept,
better" (p. 161). The concern over con- or statement has on dealing successfully
trol, however, is not primarily with the with the phenomena of interest. Radical
development of technology, though the behaviorism clearly encompasses such a
technological outgrowth of behavior view (e.g., Skinner, 1945).
analysis is impressive and a legitimate The nature of contextualism and of
source of intellectual support for the po- other world views, in Pepper's fullest
sition. At a theoretical level, the concern sense, is a complicated topic. It would
is primarily with the completeness ofthe take us beyond the scope of this paper to
account according to the scientific goals defend fully the claim that behavior anal-
embraced by behavior analysis. A be- ysis fits all of Pepper's defining charac-
havior-analytic position on the goals of teristics for contextualism (but see Hayes
science in tum derives its dignity from & Reese, in press). For our purposes, we
the necessary relation between these par- will refer to behavior analysis as a type
ticular goals and the overall philosophi- of contextualism only in the limited and
cal integrity of the world view repre- uncontroversial sense of a view of the
sented by behavior analysis (cf. Reese, world consistently based on an analysis
1984). ofthe spatiotemporal context of acts, and
Behavior analysis is based on a per- driven by a pragmatic theory of truth.
vasive use of a particular explanatory The problem with the "act in context"
model: the "act in context." In behavior as an explanatory model is that it does
analysis, any event is to be understood not and cannot specify the scope of the
and even defined through a contextual act or the context. Context can proceed
analysis. The three-term contingency of outward spatially to include all ofthe uni-

verse. Context can proceed backward in coincidence, or the wrong construction

time infinitely to include the remotest an- could have been placed on the proper
tecedent, or forward in time to include units of behavior and thus on its ante-
the most delayed consequence. The "act" cedents, and so on. It is primarily the
in question can vary from the finest mus- confirmation of the validity of the units
cle twitch to the most elaborate and ex- of the analysis that requires that control
tended behavioral sequence. Conse- be emphasized in successful forms of
quently, in behavior analysis, an operant contextualism.
can be of almost any size and, in prin- An additional problem in behavior
ciple, can be influenced by contingencies analysis (or any contextualistic perspec-
that are extremely remote or indirect. tive) is that even the behavior of a sci-
Under such circumstances, one might ask entist analyzing behavior is itselfbehav-
how we are to know that a particular con- ior that can be analyzed. Contextual
textual analysis (in behavior analysis, a analysis can easily be paralyzed, how-
particular "contingency analysis") is ad- ever, by the need to analyze context, and
equate? then to analyze the context of the analysis
"Successful working" provides an an- of context, and so on ad infinitum. Pre-
swer to this question. An analysis need diction and control both confirm the val-
proceed only to the point at which suc- ue of the analysis and provide an end-
cessful action can be based on it. Suc- point to the need for analysis-it need
cessful action confirms the value of the continue only to the point at which pre-
analysis-it changes the indeterminent diction and control is possible in prin-
units of contingency analysis in the ab- ciple. Without control as an endpoint,
stract into the determined units ofa given behavior analysis could be caught up in
instance of successful contingency anal- an intellectual whirlpool of infinite
ysis. In behavior analysis, the name for regressions of ever more massive contex-
such successful working is "prediction tual analyses and would lose contact with
and control." We know that a given event "successful working" as its truth crite-
should be called a discriminative stim- rion. The argument can be made that the
ulus, for example, because the effects of relative lack of empirical work springing
doing so are that we can deal more suc- from J. R. Kantor's extremely contex-
cessfully with the behavior of interest. tualistic view of psychology shows what
While prediction alone provides some can happen if contextualists let go of con-
confirmation of the value of an analysis, trol as a primary goal of science. It is the
only control "proves" that the units we successful operation ofcontextualism that
have selected (the divisions we have made pragmatically requires that control be
in context and behavior) are valid. One emphasized-it is not a postulate of the
could ask, for example, how do we know philosophy.
that this is the relevant stimulus for this Ifwe have explained why control must
behavior? The answer is of the general be emphasized as a goal of science in be-
form that when we change this stimulus havior analysis, why should prediction
(and not that stimulus), we get a change be included at all as a goal? There are two
in this behavior (and not that behavior). reasons. First, prediction is pragmatical-
Without manipulation, the units we se- ly useful and thus naturally part of the
lect could be completely mistaken. Be- truth criterion of contextualism. It would
cause the explanatory model in behavior be arbitrary to exclude it. Second, control
analysis does not and cannot specify the cannot be the only proximate outcome
precise nature of these units a priori, this of successful science, because technical
would present a grave problem. Without limitations often exist on our ability to
manipulation, we could guess, for ex- manipulate events. Predictive relation-
ample, that event X is a discriminative ships are not by their nature incomplete
stimulus, but instead it could be part of when prediction is based upon variables
event Y and not a separate event at all, that are in the domain in which the po-
or it could covary with behavior due to tential for control exists because in prin-

ciple they can provide a complete ac- insufficient scope: a wide variety of in-
count. They take us outside the behavioral stances are not encompassed by the "ex-
system. Whether they in fact do provide planation. "
a complete account in a specific instance Behavior analysts also agree that at
can be assessed as additional techniques times science can have explanation with-
allow direct manipulation and as addi- out control. Skinner uses the term "in-
tional knowledge creates networks of terpretation" to describe such cases. It
mutually supportive observations. occurs when a system can be thoroughly
Critics of the goals of science embraced described, but for technical reasons con-
by behavior analysis have often misun- trol is not possible. Even then, behav-
derstood the basis for these goals and the iorists insist that an adequate explana-
integral role they play in behavior anal- tion or interpretation be based on events
ysis. It is to such criticisms that we now that are of the same kind as those per-
tum. mitting control. As we have emphasized
above, this insistence is not an arbitrary
THE BEHAVIOR-ANALYTIC VIEW component of behavior analysis. It is also
OF EXPLANATION consistent with the strategy of the natural
sciences under such circumstances. Mod-
Wessells (1981) has objected to the cri- em astronomy, for example, is based
terion of control by pointing out that "be- fundamentally on the controlled obser-
havioral control can be achieved in the vations of the physicist, and the observa-
absence of explanation and vice versa" tions are of the same kind. Someday we
(p. 161). Astronomy is a commonly used may even manipulate cosmic events. The
example (Martin, 1978; Wessells, 1981) limitations that occur in astronomy are
because we cannot test astronomical technical, not problems with the kinds of
principles based on our ability to control events themselves.
cosmic events. The literal meaning of ex-
planation comes from the same root as The Mechanistic View of Explanation
the word "plane" -literally, explanation
means to layout flat before us. According This view of explanation can be con-
to the behavior-analytic position, "ex- trasted with others that are popular in
planation" ultimately refers to prediction psychology. To put the best face on it
and control with adequate scope and pre- from the point of view of behavior anal-
cision. Thus, seen from the standpoint of ysis, some forms of cognitivism are use-
behavior analysis, Wessell's statement is fully considered as efforts to describe the
at least partially incorrect. We cannot structure of behavior (Catania, 1973). A
have control in a sophisticated manner description of the structure of behavior,
without what behaviorists take to be "ex- however, is a description of the phenom-
planation." With thorough and general ena to be explained. Knowing the phe-
control must also come prediction, and nomena to be explained is vital, but it
to a behaviorist, prediction and control must not be mistaken for a contextual
of sufficient scope and precision is "ex- explanation of these very phenomena.
planation" -it is how behaviorists "lay The distinction is critical because if be-
out" behavioral systems. Control that is havioral events are orderly, they them-
limited in scope and precision does not, selves can allow prediction of behavioral
of course, justify the term "explanation" phenomena, without ever going outside
and in that sense Wessell's observation the particular behavioral system. This is
seems obviously valid. The observation not adequate behavior analytic expla-
that pointing a gun at people and saying nation even though in a more limited
"Your money or your life" will often con- sense it clearly can be useful. No amount
trol monetary exchange is hardly an ex- of description of behavioral events will
planation of charitable giving. Such coer- directly provide for control of behavioral
cion fails as an explanation for monetary events in the same individual. To think
contributions in general because it has otherwise is to make the "structuralist

error" (Skinner, 1974). We cannot con- and the nature ofthe parts does not change
trol the behavior of an individual with- when they are combined into systems.
out considering events other than the be- The conditions that gave rise to this
havior of that individual. structure or the ways we can manipulate
Thus, the cognitivist agenda does not it are irrelevant to the description ofthe
necessarily meet the goals of science ac- operation ofthe machine and predictions
cording to behavior analysis. Cognitiv- based on this description.
ists themselves have no quarrel with this Mechanism has a correspondence-
point: "Most [cognitive] investigators based truth criterion (pepper, 1942). A
agree that their current theories are de- term, concept, or statement of relation is
scriptive and that an explanatory theory, true to the extent that we can agree that
which would accommodate the effects of it corresponds with events. This presents
the environment, is a distal goal" (Wes- particular restrictions to mechanistic the-
sells, 1982, p. 77). Just as it is unfair, ories. It would be improper to develop a
however, to criticize behavior analysis description of a system based on close
without considering its goals and under- contact with it and then to treat this as
lying philosophy, so too it is unfair to an adequate theory of the system because
criticize cognitive perspectives in the obviously any detailed and careful de-
same manner. Cognitivists do not believe scription of events will be in close cor-
that they are confusing description and respondence with these very same events.
explanation. Nor do they believe that the Correspondence can be used to test the
lack of concern for control is a weakness. adequacy of theories or concepts only by
They are correct in both instances, but applying them to new situations, that is,
only in the context of their own under- by deductive prediction. The more ab-
lying philosophical position. stract the relation between the original
Most, though not all, forms of a cog- situation, the theory, and the new situ-
nitive account of behavior seem to be ation, the better (e.g., see Ericsson & Si-
based on the world view of mechanism mon, 1984, on this point). When we can
(cf. Pepper, 1942). The fundamental ex- deductively predict with sufficient pre-
planatory model of mechanism is that of cision and scope, we have "explained"
the machine. The type of cognitive theo- the phenomena according to a mecha-
rizing that is based on computer meta- nistic account. The emphasis on hypo-
phors and uses computer simulations to thetico-deductive theorizing that exists
test the adequacy and operating charac- in all mechanistic perspectives (e.g., most
teristics of various theoretical models is forms of cognitivism and S-R theory) is
obviously mechanistic in this sense. We not arbitrary; it is integral to the func-
will limit our discussion of cognitivism tioning of the underlying world view.
to this mechanistic variety. (Some forms Thus, for mechanists, description and
of behaviorism are also mechanistic, but theoretical prediction form an adequate
not radical behaviorism. A detailed dis- basis for explanation; in contrast, con-
cussion of this is beyond the scope ofthis textualists emphasize prediction and
paper, but see Hayes & Reese, in press.) control. These differences about ade-
In accord with its explanatory model, a quate scientific explanation correspond
mechanist shows no hesitation in ex- with differences about the goals of science
plaining a behavioral system by speci- according to the underlying world view.
fying the component parts ofits structure Neither can be said to be "right" or
and the nature of its orderly operation; "wrong" because any evaluation we can
just as a person examining a car would make about the adequacy of scientific
readily explain its action by an appeal to goals must itself be in terms of some set
its component parts (e.g., pistons, spark of underlying values or goals. From the
plugs) and structural organization (e.g., point of view of contextualism, all we can
the spark plug wire is connected to the say is that these two views of science may
spark plug). In mechanism, each part can be more or less useful for accomplishing
be described independently of the others particular ends, or that they might have

this or that effect on the culture that sup- with the incompleteness of the account
ports them. Most behaviorists probably mentalism engenders when measured in
believe, of course, that a contextualistic terms ofthe goals of prediction and con-
perspective has positive consequences for trol. Our main point is that it is impor-
scientific subcultures and perhaps the tant not to confuse these two types of
majority culture. Evaluating truth on the objections. Many of the behavior-ana-
basis of consequences, however, is itself lytic concerns with mentalism are meta-
a distinctly contextualistic line to take. theoretical objections driven by the goals
Few behaviorists would argue that be- of science embraced by behavior analy-
havior analysis is leading to better and sis, and these objections are by no means
better hypothetico-deductive theories. unique to the topic of mentalism. We
For a mechanist, this may show the in- show later that they apply to topics with-
adequacy of behavior analysis. For a con- in behavior analysis itself.
textualist, it shows no such thing.
To summarize our main points so far: The Scientific Unacceptability of Literal
Prediction and control are reasonable Dualism
goals for science. Together, they allow
behavior analysis to progress efficiently, Originally, psychology was the study
providing an adequate basis for scientific of the soul. The Oxford English Diction-
explanation according to a contextualis- ary (OED) defines "soul" as "the spiritual
tic perspective. Unlike prediction, con- part of man." The OED defines "spirit"
trol requires that we go outside of the as an "incorporeal or immaterial being"
behavioral system itself. Sometimes even and as a "being or intelligence distinct
when we do, control will be technically from anything physical." The word
impossible. For the sake of a complete "physical" comes from a word for nature
account, however, it is necessary that we (thus the science of physics) and is de-
explain behavior in terms of events that fined as "of or pertaining to the phenom-
in principle allow both prediction and enal world of the senses; matter." Thus,
control. This requirement is not due pri- if you take the words literally, "soul" or
marily to a concern with technology. "spirit" are inherently dualistic terms be-
Rather, it is necessary for the successful cause they oppose matter and nonmatter.
working of the explanatory system used We might label this "literal dualism."
in behavior analysis. Other explanatory Literal dualism is the belief that there are
systems imply other kinds of scientific two different essences in the world-one
goals, and alternative practices can be de- type exists in space and time, while the
fended on those grounds. second type is nonspatiotemporal.
This type ofliteral dualism was to some
MENTALISM degree transferred to the concept of
"mind" and thus to its study. The OED
An arena in which to examine the im- defines "mind" as "the mental or psych-
plications of the preceding analysis is the ical being or faculty." An elaborating def-
study of private events. Indeed, many of inition explains that "mind" is "the seat
the objections to behavior analysis are of a person's consciousness, thoughts,
usually cast in terms of private events volitions, and feelings; also, the incor-
and their investigation. The dominant al- poreal subject of the psychical faculties,
ternative to a behavioral analysis ofpri- the spiritual side of a human being; the
vate events is mentalism. Objections to soul as distinguished from the body ....
mentalism can be placed in two basic cat- Mental being; opposed to matter." The
egories: metaphysical objections and spiritual meaning of "mind" is also shown
metatheoretical objections. The meta- by the fact that God has long been re-
physical objections are directed at the ferred to as "mind," as for example in
concept ofliteral dualism and are shared the quote "That eternal infinite mind,
by virtually all scientific perspectives. The who made and governs all things" (Locke,
metatheoretical objections have to do 1690). Thus, in lay terms, the essence of

the mind is fundamentally different from placed literal dualism (Skinner, 1969, pp.
the essence of the physical unvierse. 280-284).
"Mind" explicitly makes contact with a It is very popular to use the word
cultural tradition of literal dualism. "mind" to mean "brain." Television
The objection to literal dualism is two- shows or magazine articles on the action
fold. First, such a view is not scientifically of the human brain, for example, are al-
tenable. This objection is shared by vir- most always said to be about "the human
tually all scientists, including cognitiv- mind." Cognitive psychology has made
ists. By definition, nonspatiotemporal no bones about the connection. A recent
events cannot have form, mass, accel- authoritative text on cognitive psychol-
eration, beginnings, or ends. How they ogy asserted that in cognitive psychology
can be regarded as "events" in such a case "the contemporary view [is] that mental
is problematic. Any event that can be processes are synonymous with brain
discerned is being observed in the world processes" (Ellis & Hunt, 1983, p. 11).
of space and time, and must in that sense Study of the brain and the nervous sys-
be regarded as "physical." Literal dual- tem is, of course, worthwhile and rele-
ism also raises the impossibly difficult vant to a behavioral analysis. But it is no
issue of how nonspatiotemporal events less troublesome simply to substitute the
can cause physical events to occur. word "brain" for "mind" and then to
This argument is not about terms. If engage in precisely the same kinds of
someone wanted to call all events "men- analyses as before.
tal," there could be no objection, though Cognitivists use talk of the brain for
it would distort our normal understand- two purposes. One is simply to claim that
ing of the term. The concern is more di- "mental functioning is not a mysterious,
rected at literal dualism: "What is lacking nonphysical event" (Ellis & Hunt, 1983,
is the bold and exciting behavioristic hy- p. 7), that is, to emphasize the rejection
pothesis that what one observes and talks of literal dualism. The second reason is
about is always the 'real' and 'physical' more subtle. As we have described above,
world (or at least the 'one' world)" (Skin- in the kind of hypothetico-deductive
ner, 1945, p. 276, emphasis added). As theorizing naturally promoted by mech-
the last phrase in this quote shows, rad- anism, there is no requirement that terms
ical behaviorism is monistic, but not used in the analysis of events refer to
physicalistic in the sense of naive realism other events outside the original domain
or related perspectives. of interest. In order that there can be a
The second major objection to literal proper division of labor among the sci-
dualism is that it leaves a gap in the do- ences, however, scientists must take a
main of science. Who is to predict and complete scientific account to the point
control mental events and relate them to at which the determinants of a given phe-
behavioral events if they are not in the nomenon are themselves being analyzed
purview of science? (Skinner, 1953, p. by other scientists.
258). This objection is a metatheoretical In psychology, contextualism naturally
one, and it applies equally forcefully to does this because it leads to the identi-
mentalistic theorizing that explicitly de- fication of events outside the behavioral
nies dualism. system, as we have already discussed.
These events are themselves to be ex-
Mental Physiology plained by others. Behavior analysis, for
For the above reasons, virtually all sci- example, does not attempt to understand
entists avoid obvious forms of literal how operant chamber key lights work. It
dualism in their scientific work. A variety is enough to known the conditions under
oflinguistic practices, however, have the which key lights can function as stimuli.
same metatheoretical problems as literal The study of electrical lights is turned
dualism. One such practice is the creation over to another science. Conversely,
of a pseudophysiological analysis to re- mechanism (though it need not do so)

can leave a hole in the fabric of science Mental Activity as Private Behavior
because scientifically adequate analyses
rro~ this pe~s~ective can stay entirely
Watson and "behavior." "Behavior"
mSIde the ongmal domain. Behavioral is commonly taken to refer to a certain
events, or processes inferred from them subset of organismic action. For exam-
can be explained by other behaviorai ple, it is quite typical to hear theorists
events, or processes inferred from them. speak of "thoughts, feelings and behav-
Although philosophically permissible in ior" as if behavior can be ~asily distin-
mechanism, this kind of circularity is in- guished from events called "thoughts" or
~uitively unappealling, even to cognitiv-
"feelings. "
IStS. Confusion over this issue can in part
By appearing to study brain processes, be attryb~ted to Watson. Watson's (1925)
however, cognitive psychologists can behavIOnsm had both methodological
identify causes that appear to go outside and metaphysical components. His
m~thodolo~cal. behaviorism essentially
of the behavioral system itself. Cognitive
psychology can superficially present itself saId that SCIentIsts must be behaviorists
under the umbrella of the neurosciences. because science can only deal with the
publicl~ observable. Thus, even though
If we actually understood how the struc-
ture of the nervous system was influenced other kinds of human action may exist,
by events, and exactly how any current we can only deal with behavior because
structure produced behavior we would only behavior is publicly observable. This
indeed have one type of c~mplete ac- position might be thought of as implicitly
count (in fact, one quite comfortable to dualistic because it recognizes that be-
~a~ior is only a subset of organismic ac-
mechanists). But studying behavioral ac-
tivity called "mental" is no more inher- tIVIty, and encourages a study that is nec-
ently a study of the brain than studying essarily incomplete since science can only
any behavioral activity. In order to main- deal with that subset, rather than the en-
ta~n a proper division of labor among
tire set, due to rules of proper scientific
SCIences, the connection between brain methodology.
and mental activity would have to be Watson also made a second somewhat
studied explicitly. It is clear that cogni- contradictory point. He see~ed to say
tivists do not actually intend to study the that even if we could solve the problem
brain or its connection with mental ac- privacy p~ese!lts to a scientific analysis,
tivity: behaVIOr IS stIll all that could be studied
because only behavior exists. Although
~f course, brain. ~ctivity can be. studied physiolog-
it is possible to read Watson to mean
ICally, but cogmtIve psychologists use a different simply that nonspatiotemporal events do
appr.oach. Since the brain activity ofinterest cannot not exist, his emphasis on the peripheral
be directly observed (for example, we have no idea locus of such phenomena as thinking (e.g.,
what happens in the brain when a person remem- Watson, 1920, 1925) can be and was tak-
bers a grandmother), we must infer the existence of
these processes and then describe the processes in en to m~an that thoughts, feelings, and
abstract language. (Ellis & Hunt, 1983, p. 7) other pnvate events are not real in their
own terms. This position can be termed
In summary, mental activity can be "Watsonian metaphysical behavior-
thought of as nonspatiotemporal activi- ism."
ty, in which case it steps outside of sci- What is important to note in all of this
ence ~ltoge~h~r. It may be thought of as is that the use of the word "behavior"
a bram actIVIty, but then psychologists keeps changing. In Watsonian method-
sometimes act as if we need not explain ological behaviorism, behavior is viewed
how the structure of this activity itself as a subset of organismic action that is
came to be. There is a third way to view publicly observable and is therefore sub-
"mental activity," however-as behav- ject to a scientific analysis. In Watsonian
ior.This is the view taken by radical be- metaphysical behaviorism behavior is
haviorism, to which we now tum. .
vlewed '
as the totality of organismic ac-

tion, but there is the implication that only of contextualism, the scientific value of
events that are publicly observable (at an observation in behavior analysis is ul-
least potentially) should be thought of as timately determined by the degree to
real. which it enables prediction and control.
Radical behaviorism and "behavior." The essence of Skinner's (1945) criti-
Radical behaviorism can be distin- cism of operationism was thus that pub-
guished from these other types ofbehav- lic agreement provides no assurance of
iorism in part by the view it takes in re- the proper sources of control over sci-
gards to «behavior" and the nature of entific observation, nor of its pragmatic
scientific observations (Skinner, 1945, value. Conversely, in principle, obser-
1963). As in Watsonian metaphysical be- vations of private events can be tightly
haviorism, behavior is taken to be the set controlled by these events themselves,
of all organismic action. The word "or- given the proper history, and can be high-
ganismic" is important. Actions by sub- ly useful. In this sense, observations of
organismic units (e.g., a single neuron fir- private events are no more or less sci-
ing) are not usually considered to be the entific than public events based on their
behavior of organisms, but under certain privacy per se. In radical behaviorism,
conditions they may if they can con- behavior can thus be defined as all ob-
veniently be viewed as the integrated ac- servable organismic action, not all pub-
tion of a whole organism. For example, licly observable organismic action (cf.
the controlled heart rate of a person in a Heidbreder, 1933, and her discussion of
biofeedback training program would the flaws of classical behaviorism). Skin-
probably be thought of as the behavior ner (1974) has made the point quite clear-
of an organism, while the beating of a ly:
heart removed from the body clearly [Radical behaviorism] does not insist upon truth
would not. by agreement and can therefore consider events tak-
Unlike earlier forms of behaviorism, ing place in the private world within the skin. It
however, radical behaviorism makes no does not call these events unobservable, and it does
commitment to public observability per not dismiss them as subjective. (p. 16)
se as the defining characteristic of sci- In this view, then, no objection can be
entifically valid events (Skinner, 1945). made to talk of events such as thinking
Rather, observations are scientifically or feeling. This talk is not trivialized by
valid or invalid based on the contingen- insisting it is only the talk itself that is
cies controlling these observations. Sci- scientifically legitimate (Skinner, 1945).
ence is an enterprise that promotes the A specific instance of thinking is viewed
development of verbal statements of re- as a scientifically accessible event- a cov-
lations between events based on verifi- ert behavior. We may eventually find
able experience. Scientific verbal behav- ways of identifying specific covert be-
ior thus should be under the control of haviors in others. For example, we cur-
the subject matter of the science and the rently have ways of knowing when re-
value of this verbal behavior is deter- ports of private speech are in fact
mined through the impact it has on oth- occasioned by the specified private speech
ers attempting to come under the control (Hayes, 1986).
of that same subject matter.
Science attempts to restrict sources of Mental Causality as Behavior-Behavior
control over scientific observation
through the scientific method. Its pur- Relation
pose is to ensure that scientific obser- Thoughts as behavior. One might ask:
vations are controlled primarily by events Why insist that thinking be regarded as
in the relevant subject matter and not by covert behavior when the physical prop-
states of deprivation, audience factors, or erties appear so different from overt be-
similar sources of control over verbal be- havior? Why not call thinking "mental
havior (Moore, 1981). Consistent with activity" or even a "brain process"? If
the "successful working" truth criterion "behavior" is defined so broadly, doesn't

this make the concept of "behavior" but it is not a mere repetition of axioms.
meaningless? Such questions have often It is an identification of possibly mis-
been forcefully raised. For example: chievous contingencies over the behavior
of psychologists, one that the history of
The omission of [mental] states left [Skinner] with psychology gives us every reason to take
an inadequate vocabulary, which he then expanded
by moving some stimuli inside the organism ("pri- seriously.
vate stimuli"), and by treating all other aspects of When a radical behaviorist is less than
mental states as responses. Seeing became behavior, enthusiastic about an account of behav-
and imagination became "seeing without the thing ior that predicts that someone will re-
seen." But these are assertions, not demonstrated
facts. They may serve as the axioms of a parsi- spond in a given way after thinking a
monious behavioral system, and that is largely how particular thought, it should be an ab-
Skinner used them. But they cannot then also be sence of enthusiasm resulting from the
used as arguments against other systems, or against incompleteness of the account rather than
behavioral systems with augmented axioms, such from the reference to a thought. The im-
as the assumption that covert events are sufficiently
different from overt ones to deserve separate treat- mediate question then becomes what are
ment as a separate category of events. (Killeen, 1984, the determinants of that thought and
p.27) (even less obviously) what are the con-
Skinner himself (1974) is quite clear tingencies that lead to a relation between
that the issue is not one of parsimony per a given instance of thinking and overt
se. Asking himself how we could decide responding in this individual.
between behavior analysis and mental- In behavior analysis, the view that
ism, he replies: thinking causes overt behavior distills
down to the view that one behavior can
We cannot say that one is simpler than the other cause another. In these terms, when we
... [but] accessibility [for use in control] is another ask such questions as "What role does
matter. No one has ever directly modified any of thinking play in the control of behav-
the mental activities or traits .... for most practical
purposes they are changed only through the envi- ior?", we are actually asking about the
ronment .... A decision [between the two posi- nature of a behavior-behavior relation.
tions] is perhaps more difficult if we simply want Behavior-behavior relations are very im-
to predict behavior .... [Traits] are ... useless in portant in behavior analysis in a variety
control but they permit us to predict one kind of of areas, and they are as worthy of study
behavior from another kind. (pp. 208-209)
as is any behavior. No matter how dy-
Behavior-behavior relations as incom- namically one behavioral event may be
plete accounts. By referring to "mental intertwined with other behavioral events
events" as behavior we do three things. within the same individual, however, for
First, we eliminate consideration of a contextualist a behavior-behavior re-
"mental events" that cannot be thought lation is a phenomenon to be explained
of as observable organismic activity, such by appealing to particular contextual ar-
as purely hypothetical constructs. Sec- rangements (e.g., contingencies of rein-
ond, we emphasize that it is the task of forcement) that might permit prediction
psychology to predict and control these and control of the behavior-behavior re-
events. And third, we focus on analyses lation itself. A behavior-behavior rela-
that can accomplish these two goals. If tion cannot be a complete explanation of
"mental events" are a separate category behavior, except to a mechanist, whose
of events, then they can be used to ex- world view does not insist on control as
plain behavioral events and perhaps need a necessary goal of science.
not themselves be explained by behav- "We may object, first, to the predilec-
ioral scientists. Mental events that can- tion for unfinished causal sequences"
not be translated into behavioral obser- (Skinner, 1969, p. 240). Killeen (1984)
vations are particularly prone to this has criticized this concern:
problem because by definition they are
Skinner notes that after we have explained a re-
seemingly a separate category of events sponse in terms of mental states or activities of
from behavior. The problem can be used feeling, we still need to explain the mental state.
as an "argument against other systems," But there is nothing wrong with that. Experimental

analysis of one of the links in a causal chain should involved are clearly in the behavioral do-
not necessarily be faulted because it does not in- main. For example, a researcher may no-
clude the previous ones; analysis must inevitably
stop at some point short of the Ultimate Cause." tice that many good Monopoly players
(pp.27-28) are also good poker players. Few of us
would be tempted, however, to claim that
For a complete account, however, be- people play poker well because they play
havior analysts must take analysis to the Monopoly well or vice versa. Both of
point at which prediction and control are these actions are obviously in the behav-
directly possible in principle. Behavior ioral domain. Events outside of this do-
of the individual being studied can never main must be found to explain the first
satisfy that criterion. behavior, and equally important, to ex-
Thus, despite the fact that environ- plain the relation between the two be-
ment and behavior are always involved haviors. That is, what actual events lead
in a dynamic interrelation, it is not ar- to good Monopoly playing, good poker
bitrary (Bandura, 1978, 1981) to insist playing, and their interrelation? This need
that analysis proceed to the environmen- seems relatively clear when the two events
tal level. An environmental cause can in are obviously from the same domain. Be-
principle be used directly; given the tech- havior-behavior relations are seldom
nical ability to manipulate it, effective mistaken for causal analyses adequate for
action can be based on it. A rule pointing the purpose of prediction and control
to a behavioral "cause" might help locate when they are clearly stated as behavior-
causal environmental events and rela- behavior relations.
tions, but it is also likely, if one is not Note, however, that when behavioral
careful, to stop the search for causes that events are apparently in different do-
could permit a complete account. Skin- mains, the mistake is readily made. Ifwe
ner (1974) has said this explicitly: observed that good poker players feel self-
It has been objected that we must stop somewhere confident (not "behave self-confident-
in following a causal chain into the past and we ly"), have aggressive personalities (not
may as well stop at a psychic level ... It is true that "behave aggressively"), and are intelli-
we could trace human behavior not only to the gent (not "show intelligent behavior"),
physical conditions which [cause it) but also to the
causes of those conditions and the causes of those we might feel as though we have at least
causes, almost ad infinitum, but there is no point a partial explanation of their skill even
in going back beyond the point at which effective though this is in principle identical to the
action can be taken. That point is not to be found obviously less satisfactory claim that good
in the psyche. (p. 210)
poker playing comes from good Monop-
Thus, "the initiating action is taken by oly playing. To most people feelings, per-
the environment" (Skinner, 1974, p. 73, sonalities, intelligence, and the like, ifnot
emphasis added; see also Skinner, 1984). explicitly termed types or qualities of be-
If we explain behavioral events in terms havior, often seem to be something else.
of events that are in the domain of other Such things are then easily mistaken for
sciences, we move toward the compre- causes of behavior.
hensive knowledge that we desire. But if Insisting that we call "mental events"
we explain behavioral events in terms of by the name "behavior" should not be
other behavioral events of the same in- done to diminish the interest in these so-
dividual, then a significant gap is left to called mental events, any more than call-
be filled. If we will not fill it, who will? ing a public behavior in a behavior-be-
If not now, when? havior relation by the name "behavior"
The effect of calling thinking "behav- should be done to diminish interest in
ior." By calling all organismic activity public behavior. Behavioral scientists
appropriate to psychological study "be- should call events "behavior" to keep
havior," we naturally inoculate ourselves clear the fact that it is their job to explain
to some degree against incomplete ac- such events and to avoid incomplete ac-
counts. Acceptance of an incomplete counts based on these events.
analysis is much less likely when all events A brief summary seems in order. The

purpose of this paper has been to place sons for them. Other goals or values make
the behavior-analytic rejection of mental alternative practices and beliefs justifia-
causes into the larger context of the goals ble, and with these we can have no quar-
of science embraced by behavior analy- rel, provided only that the researcher
sis. Both critics and supporters ofbehav- honestly states what these goals are. For
ior analysis seem at times to confuse the example, if a particular field of psychol-
various reasons for the behavior-analytic ogy wishes to eschew control as the end
concern with mentalism. Literal dualism product of science, it has the obligation
is rejected because it is scientifically un- to make that clear to all, whether the per-
tenable and because it leaves claimed son is a psychologist, a client seeking help,
sources of control over behavior outside a congressman, or a taxpayer helping fund
the scientific enterprise. This rejection of federal research.
literal dualism, however, is common to We see no relative disadvantage for a
virtually all scientific forms of psychol- radical behavioral approach when pre-
ogy. The rejection of mentalism on the diction and control are being pursued.
grounds of the requirements of scientific We do not mean to say, of course, that
method, as done by early forms of meth- research generated by nonbehavioral
odological behaviorism, is not recog- psychologists necessarily results in in-
nized as legitimate by radical behavior- complete analyses as viewed from a con-
ism. Neither is the attempt to define away textualistic perspective. See, for example,
the independent existence of private Ornstein and Naus's (1978) demonstra-
events, as in Watsonian metaphysical be- tion that recall was increased after the
haviorism. What, then, is unique about manipulation of environmental events
the radical behavioral rejection of men- controlling overt rehearsal. We must
talism? guard against responding to the quality
Our point has been that the primary of language rather than to the quality of
radical behavioral objection to mental- the analysis. The issue is not the form of
ism (other than literal dualism) is a meta- science but its function. It is the quality
theoretical one. Nondualistic analyses of the analysis that is at issue rather than
based on mental causality usually boil an attempt to urge that some simple
down either to pseudophysiologizing, to physical correspondence exists between
theorizing based on hypothetical con- private and public behaviors.
structs, or to elevating disguised behav-
ior-behavior relations to causal status. Examples of the Danger
The concern with all of these maneuvers
is that they interfere with the behavior- Behavioral analyses that implicate
analytic agenda of predicting and con- "covert behavior," rather than "mental
trolling behavior. As we have tried to events," are equally incomplete if they
show, this agenda is not an arbitrary ele- fail to extend the analysis to environ-
ment of behavior analysis. It is a required mental variables. Indeed, there are sev-
element for the successful functioning of eral topics within behavior analysis that
the perspective. Thus, mental causality share with mentalistic accounts some of
is a form of theorizing rejected because the same potential metatheoretical prob-
its pursuit threatens the successful op- lems of encouraging incomplete ac-
eration of science as viewed from the counts.
standpoint of behavior analysis. Self-rules. There can be little doubt that
humans talk to themselves. Presumably,
these verbal events can relate in reliable
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF NON- ways to other behavior. To explain other
MANIPULABLE CAUSES behavior simply in terms of "self-rules,"
however, is not adequate behavior-ana-
We believe that much of the criticism lytic explanation. As in the cases dis-
of the behavioral approach arises from a cussed earlier, the term "self-rules" does
failure to recognize its goals and the rea- not obviously place these events in the

same category as "behavior." Thus, when image seen (in favor of the more "be-
talking of a relation between a self-rule havioral" term "response-produced
and behavior, it is not always obvious stimuli") it is troublesome.
that it is a behavior-behavior relation that Responses obviously usually produce
is at issue. Because it is, we must explain stimuli. For example, all operants, by
both how external events gave rise to the definition, do so. The concept of re-
private talk, and how the private talk sponse-produced stimuli, however, is
came to control the behavior of interest. usually invoked when there is no possi-
When this is done, "self-rules" may par- bility of discerning or manipulating the
ticipate in an overall causal relation, but stimuli independently of the behavior it-
they should not themselves be seen as self. The danger is that, because stimuli
causes. are apparently in a different class than
When behaviorists say they have lo- behavior, explanations based on "re-
cated a "cause," it seems they should have sponse-produced stimuli" will be ac-
identified a relation that can perform the cepted as complete even when we have
functions required of a scientific relation in principle no hope of manipulating or
within a behavioral perspective, namely, even discerning these stimuli indepen-
prediction and control. In a sense, causes dently. Explanations are not complete
are not objective independent facts in the under these conditions. We move no
world. All events in a thoroughgoing con- closer to prediction and control simply
textualistic system are "events" only be- by replacing a behavior-behavior rela-
cause construing them that way serves a tion with a "behavior-response-pro-
purpose. A causal relation can only be duced stimuli-behavior" relation unless
tested as a verbal construction, and only we have independent access to the stim-
when this verbal statement of a relation uli. It is useless to "explain behavior by
serves the purposes of science should it appealing to independent variables which
be called a "cause." Perhaps when we have been inferred from the behavior thus
have finished a complete analysis of a explained" (Skinner, 1969, p. 264). The
behavior-behavior relation, we could radical behavioral objection to hypo-
think of the first behavior as a kind of thetical constructs (when they are used
"intermediate cause" (e.g., see Skinner's as other than merely a shorthand for be-
reluctant agreement on this point, 1984), havior) has the same metatheoretical ba-
but it is surely safer not to do so. Some sis as the primary objection to mental-
other term is needed. "Controlling be- ism. In some cases, "response-produced
havior" suggests itself because of Skin- stimuli" can have the status of a purely
ner's use ofthe term to serve this function hypothetical construct.
in his analysis of self-control. For ex- This objection does not necessarily
ample, self-rules might be said to func- mean that we should stop using the term
tion as controlling behaviors as parts of "response-produced stimuli." We should
an overall causal relation. They are not distinguish, however, between three types
themselves causes, at least not in the be- of situations. In the first, the "stimuli"
havior-analyticallyacceptable sense ofthe referred to are clearly in the domain in
word "cause." which control is possible in principle. An
Response-produced stimuli. At times, ordinary operant is an example. A key-
behaviorists have used the term "re- peck that produces food is producing
sponse-produced stimuli" to explain be- food-related stimuli. That is presumably
havior-behavior relations. The apparent why this behavior occurs in the first place.
effects of private behaviors on other be- We could speak of the food as response-
haviors may be explained on this basis. produced stimuli. In this case, we are us-
For example, we may say that a person ing the term "response-produced stim-
visualizes one's bedroom, and due to the uli" in a manner totally consistent with
stimuli produced by this behavior, re- the goals of science as seen by behavior
members where the car keys were left. analysts because we can manipulate these
Even ifthe analysis avoids the idea of an stimuli independently from the behavior

that produced them and discern their ef- behavior-environmental restriction-

fects on behavior. behavior relation.
In the second situation, the stimuli The examples of self-rules, response-
cannot currently be controlled due to produced stimuli, and self-reinforcement
technical limitations, but control is pos- show that behavior analysts are also sus-
sible in principle. Analyzing back- ceptible to the tendency to dress up be-
scratching in terms of sensory reinforce- havior-behavior relations in the cloak of
ment maybe an example. Here, when we nonbehavioral events and then to forget
claim that the back scratch is due to re- that they have done so. The cost of this
sponse-produced stimuli we are engaging action is the same as the cost of mental-
in interpretation, and in the future we istic talk or pseudophysiological talk-
mayor may not find the interpretation incomplete analyses are inappropriately
to have provided a complete account. We accepted as complete and a resultant gap
may ultimately find ways to block the in knowledge is produced.
suggested sensory stimulation and to dis-
cern the effects of this manipulation. CONCLUSION
Finally, there are times when direct An embrace of mentalism is not a sure
control is impossible in principle. A claim road to an appreciation of the richness
that we have unconscious thoughts and of private phenomena, and trivialization
that these produce stimuli might be an is not the necessary result of behavioral
example. Here, we are using the term translation. Behavior analysts should re-
"response-produced stimuli" solely to ject mentalistic terms precisely in order
provide a consistent account, but at a to study the actual phenomena associ-
considerable cost. We have disguised an ated with them in a more thorough way
analysis that cannot in principle meet all and in a way more satisfying to the goals
the goals of science from a behavior-an- of science as viewed by behavior ana-
alytic viewpoint in the cloak of termi- lysts. Allowing behavioral causes made
nology that suggests these goals can be seemingly less incomplete by calling them
met. "mental" ultimately tends to stop causal
Behaviors as self-reinforcers. Even rad- analysis before the point at which effec-
ical behaviorists sometimes claim that tive action is possible. We need to un-
one behavior can be maintained by the derstand the actual phenomena pointed
person involved providing other behav- to by mentalistic terms, or terms such as
iors as "self-reinforcers" (e.g., Malott, in self-rules or self-reinforcement for that
press). The task of behavior analysis must matter. The analytic discipline supplied
be to explain both behaviors and their by the assumptions inherent in radical
relation. When the contexts giving rise to behaviorism is needed most in exactly
such behavior-behavior relations have such difficult endeavors, not in order to
been manipulated experimentally, how- pursue analytic discipline for its own sake,
ever (e.g., Hayes, Rosenfarb, Wulfert, but in order to develop a more thor-
Korn, & Zettle, 1985), the apparent in- oughly adequate explanation of human
fluence of self-reinforcing behaviors have behavior.
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