The New Behaviorism
By John Staddon
Psychology Press – 2014 – 282 pages
This groundbreaking book presents a brief history of behaviorism, the dominant movement in American psychology in the first half of the 20th Century. It then analyzes and criticizes radical behaviorism, as pioneered by B.F. Skinner, and its philosophy and applications to social issues.
This second edition is a completely rewritten and much expanded version of the first edition, published nearly 15 years earlier. It surveys what changes have occurred within behaviorism and whether it has maintained its influence on experimental cognitive psychology or other fields.
The mission of the book is to help steer experimental psychology away from its current undisciplined indulgence in "mental life" toward the core of science, which is an economical description of nature. The author argues that parsimony -- the elementary philosophical distinction between private and public events, even biology, evolution and animal psychology -- all are ignored by much contemporary cognitive psychology. The failings of radical behaviorism as well as a philosophically defective cognitive psychology point to the need for a new theoretical behaviorism, which can deal with problems such as "consciousness" that have been either ignored, evaded or muddled by existing approaches.
This new behaviorism provides a unified framework for the science of behavior that can be applied both to the laboratory and to broader practical issues such as law and punishment, the health-care system, and teaching.
"Behaviorism has been dying a slow death, but John Staddon, in this lively volume, gives it a much-deserved shot in the arm. By letting go of Skinner’s "radical behaviorism," Staddon is able to rebuild a thoroughly modern behaviorism that steers clear of mentalism and seeks an economical science of behavior without denying the need for essential elements of any science, such as theory. He does all this in a witty and engaging style that will win readers over to his New Behaviorism." -Clive D.L. Wynne, Ph.D., Arizona State University
"The first edition of Staddon’s "The New Behaviorism" sits, full of marks and annotations, within easy reach of my desk. I use it and refer to it frequently for its theoretical clarity, sharp insights, and lucid explanations of difficult concepts. The present edition extends these virtues nicely to recent developments in Staddon’s own thinking and to that of other new behaviorists." -Howard Rachlin, Ph.D., Stony Brook University
"Staddon presents a clever, provocative and well argued defence of a classic view that has often been misleadingly oversimplified: that mental events as causes for observed behaviour are best kept to a minimum. The present blooming of comparative cognition research, where concepts such as mental representation, empathy, theory of mind and so on are frequently invoked unparsimoniously, makes this intelligent piece of advocacy timely and important reading." -Alex Kacelnik, Ph.D., Oxford University, UK
"If asked to free associate with the word Behaviorism, what would come to your mind? Would Rationality, Free-Will, Truth, Utopia, Values, or Consciousness be included in your list? Probably not, and yet, according to John Staddon, one of the most creative contemporary psychologists, only a new Behaviorism can truly shed light on the nature of Truth, the place of Values in a science of behavior, the stuff of Consciousness, or the relation of free-will to determinism and causality. Covering a wide range of issues with well-crafted, thought-provoking, and occasionally also humorous arguments, The New Behaviorism is sure to surprise, inform, and educate you." -Armando Machado, Ph.D., University of Minho, Portugal
"Staddon’s inimitable pen affirms that not only is behaviorism not dead, but it has attained new levels of sophistication and scope—including theoretical and pragmatic treatments of such daunting issues as consciousness, justice systems, and health care. In the development of what he deems "theoretical behaviorism," neither Skinner’s radical behaviorism nor cognitive psychology are spared withering appraisal. Drawing from an astonishing range of sources Staddon’s revision is a delightful read—as fun as it is serious—and should properly provoke scientific psychologists and philosophers of mind to reassess many of their most basic assumptions." -Jack Marr, Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology
Part 1: History. 1. Early Behaviorism. 2. Behaviorism and Learning Psychology. Part 2: Radical Behaviorism. 3. Radical Behaviorism, I: Method. 4. Radical Behaviorism, II: Explanation. 5. Skinner and Theory. 6. Variation and Selection. 7. Behavior-Evolution Parallels. 8. Rationality. 9. Truth, Science and Behaviorism. 10. Free Will and Utopia. 11. Values. 12. Skinner and Mental Life. Part 3: The New Behaviorism. 13. Cognitivism and the New Behaviorism. 14. Theoretical Behaviorism. 15. Internal States: The Logic of Historical Systems. 16. Consciousness and Theoretical Behaviorism. Postscript to Parts 1-3: Alchemy of the Mind. Part 4: Behaviorism and Society. 17. Law, Punishment and Behaviorism. 18. Health-Care, I: The Schedule. 19. Health-Care, II: The Context. 20. Reinforcement and ‘Socialized’ Medicine. 21. Teaching.
John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Emeritus Professor of Biology and Neurobiology at Duke University, and an honorary visiting professor at the University of York, United Kingdom. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and has a Docteur, Honoris Causa, from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals, and the history and philosophy of psychology, economics and biology. He is past editor of Behavioural Processes and Behavior & Philosophy, and is the author of more than 200 research papers and five books. He writes and lectures on a wide range of important public policy issues.