Behavior Analysis and Learning: A Biobehavioral Approach, Sixth Edition
Behavior Analysis and Learning has come a long way since 1995. The experimental analysis of behavior has also come a long way. Many things have changed and some have not—behavior is still a function of its consequences; reinforcement still works; resurgence still happens in extinction; differential reinforcement of successive approximations still shapes new responses; and the Skinner Box is still a major component for exploring environment–behavior interactions. As things change they also remain the same. Students still have to be taught by skilled, attentive teachers; labeling and inferences about behavior are still just that and the behavior of the organism itself remains an important subject for scientific investigation; people still act as if non-physical, invented cognitive constructs such as mental maps, mindlessness, or other explanatory fictions provide a scientific account of human behavior.
In this sixth edition of our textbook, we have continued to expand the presentation of neurophysiological mechanisms as context for the experimental analysis of behavior, believing that the contributions of neuroscience and neurobiology will substantially improve our ultimate explanation of where behavior comes from and how it can be controlled. The “grand synthesis” is growing exponentially. One might say that the scientific study of behavior is working its way back into biology from whence it should never have left.
We maintain the world view or paradigm of selection by consequences at the biological, behavioral, and cultural levels and are impressed by the growing number of evidenced-based studies that support this position. We continue to promote the broad practice of applied behavior analysis and the growing literature illustrating diverse applications of behavior science. Several professional organizations have come into existence whose members express, either in research or application, Skinner’s philosophy of radical behaviorism in the analysis of behavior. The discovery of the way behavior works upon the world is illuminated by the experimental analysis of behavior in learning and genetics laboratories, free-ranging animal environments, programmed instruction for classrooms, training centers for explosive sniffing dogs, care and treatment of zoo animals, early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism and developmental disabilities, computer labs and human learning environments, applications to business and organizations, and university behavior laboratories investigating control by contingencies of reinforcement with a variety of organisms. To ensure we stay current with the scientific analysis of behavior–environment relationships, we have added approximately 300 new references to the sixth edition, some from traditional sources like the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and other citations from generalist and biological journals, including Science and Nature. Refinements of technology, research design, and data treatment together with an increased number of active investigators has vastly expanded the field of behavior analysis and therefore the topics and sources to present to students and readers. We have been driven by the breadth of related and contributing findings that appear from a huge scientific literature and media coverage to peruse and select only some of the relevant, emerging material. We suggest teachers recommend their students access original sources to more fully appreciate the new lines of research and evolution of specific topics.
Chapter titles and their order have remained virtually the same as the fifth edition. The addition of more recent citations, however, has necessitated the removal of a substantial number of references, in many cases older papers. However, we consider many early papers in the experimental analysis of behavior to remain as relevant today as ever. It may be that we assume most readers or instructors to be somewhat familiar with older terms and findings when they are not. In which case, we recommend perusing the references of cited papers in the sixth edition to locate original sources.
The appropriate application of behavior principles in society at large is progressing. The basic behavior principles such as reinforcement, discrimination, and generalization have always been in operation, but many times these principles are used poorly, inaccurately, or under a different name. Committed students of behavior science are growing in number and even President Obama ordered agencies of the US government to be informed by the findings of behavior science. Nonetheless, as epigenetic transmission of the knowledge of behavior science does not seem viable in the foreseeable future, more traditional forms of education appear necessary. Enter Edition 6 of Behavior Analysis and Learning.
For this edition we began with the desire to include aspects of neuroscience as it contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the behavior of organisms. Epigenetic research, optical excitement of neurons, computer/neural interfacing, and gut bacteria influences may seem a far cry from schedules of reinforcement or errorless learning, but as a biological organism all such elements contribute to the whole. We might recall that B.â•›F. Skinner did his major research work in the physiological labs at Harvard. The point is, however, that BFS could see that behavior in and of itself was a separate field of biology and it deserved a special level of analysis. So, no matter how thoroughly we understand the neurobiological operations of the organism, principles of selection by consequences remain at work at the level of behavior. We may become more sophisticated about the overlap of frontal lobe circuitry and the nuanced action of synaptic neurotransmitters, but it will remain functional to distinguish between behavior under the influence of fixed-ratio or variable-interval schedules when accounting for specific instances of behavior on a given occasion. Recently, Skinner’s functional approach for the analysis of language as verbal behavior has received empirical support by the wider scientific community, findings at odds with Chomsky’s nativist, linguistic perspective. A final issue that has not changed is our deep appreciation to the memory of W. Frank Epling, PhD, an original author. Our friend and colleague was instrumental in generating what we consider the best available source for behavior analysis and learning based on a consistent philosophy, research program, principles and examples of application. It should also go without saying that we acknowledge the origination of a science of behavior to B.â•›F. Skinner. He discovered and articulated the basic principles of how the world works through selection by consequences as the operating process.
W. David Pierce
Carl D. Cheney
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