Questions on the Nature of memory, personality, etc.

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at
Tue May 18 18:27:29 EST 2004


[. . .]

>Okay... perhaps that does not sound like something you may call
>"Cognitive" Science. But it sure is interesting.

>GS: Hi Robert,

>Just a few comments on the above: all of psychology, and neurosciences that
>have as their focus whole-animal behavioral preparations, manipulate the
>environment and measure behavior. The ploy of non-behavioristic psychology
>since the late 1940's has been to "operationalize" mental terms (like
>"attention," "fear," "belief," etc. etc.). That is, one manipulates the
>environment and measures behavior, but claims that one is "really"
>manipulating something else, i.e., the mental "thing" that is being

LZ: Sure, this is a reasonable observation. Except that behaviorism does
exactly the same thing in different terms. Behaviorism operationalizes
everything measured as behavior, just using different referrents. And
neither discipline defines or explains those referrents mechanically
except by reference to other equally ambiguous terms of the same genre
with equally disastrous intellectual and scientific consequences.

GS: Not much of this makes any sense. Sorry. If you can say it in a way that
isn't gibberish, I might be able to respond.

Nothing could have been more disastrous, and the price
>paid is mainstream psychology, which I do not even regard as a science -
>because science is actually a balance between facts, theories and concepts;
>and mainstream psychology is utterly devoid of any careful analysis of
>concepts (cf Machado et al "Facts, Theories, and Concepts: The Shape of
>Psychology's Epistemic Triangle). The hallmark of mainstream psychology
>most of behavioral neuroscience) is that "any term is OK as long as there
>an operational definition." The problem is that the way mainstream
>psychology partitions behavior is misguided. That is, they lump things
>together that should be separate, and they classify as different things
>are similar.

LZ: Why shouldn't any term be OK for experimental purposes as long as
there is an operational definition?

GS: Well, that's the million-dollar question. And you have given the
fifty-cent answer.

LZ: The real question is should the
experimental analysis of sentient behavior[.]

GS: What is ".the experimental analysis of sentient behavior?" You accuse
behaviorism of using ambiguous terms (in one of the few sentences that make
sense) and you bandy about a word like "sentient?" But, anyway, you had the
"real question" before.

LZ: [.]accept behaviorism's view
of the way behavior should be classified, lumped together, and
partitioned, or should it accept that of cognitive science?

GS: BTW, what is behaviorism's view of how behavior should be classified,
lumped together, and partitioned?

LZ: Your main
complaint seems to be that it accepts the latter and not the former.
And in the absence of any mechanical relationship for the dependency
between experimental manipulation and behavioral measurement, there is
no way to tell because all terminological references are speculative.

GS: Sorry, this is mostly gibberish again, Lester. On the one hand, you seem
to admit that there IS a relationship between experimental manipulation and
behavioral measurement. It is good that you admit this because it is exactly
what is undeniable about the hard-headed empiricism of behavior analysis.
But if you admit that there IS a relationship, then the "terminological
references" can't be all that "speculative."  But, again, like most of the
stuff you say, it is nearly incomprehensible.

>                   For example ask yourself, "What is the connection
>"attention" and "stimulus control" and "conditioned reinforcement?" or
>another way: "What are two ways in which the term "attention" is used and
>what known behavioral processes are involved?" Hint: Sometimes "attention"
>merely refers to the fact that behavior may be controlled by only certain
>features of some stimulus (i.e., shape rather than color etc.) and the
>animal is said to "pay attention" to one aspect. On the other hand, the
>is sometimes a reference to subtle aspects of behavior that function to
>enhance the behavioral effect of the stimulus. These may ultimately be
>related, but one thing is certain - "attention" is all about discriminative
>stimuli and conditioned reinforcers. For example, Skinner loved the
>"observing procedure*" because he felt that it was essentially an
>amplification, so to speak, of what the cognitive people were referring to
>as "attention." But "attention" remains some mysterious "executive
>in modern cognitive "science" but it is behavior, and it is behavior that
>easily examined. Why don't more people know this? What I'm saying is that
>behavioral neurobiology should be wedded to the experimental analysis of
>behavior but, instead, it has aligned itself with cognitive "science," and
>has gone off in search of phlogiston and the vis-anima. People like O'Regan
>and Noe are refreshing, but in the same breath that they dismiss the ghosts
>of cognitive psychology they trash behaviorism or, at least, what they
>perceive to be behaviorism (more on O'Regan and Noe, below).

LZ: In the end what makes the mentalist operational referrents more
palatable is that cognitive science knows the mechanical definitions
of its terminological referrents are open ended whereas behaviorists
pretend those of behaviorism are not and that behaviorism represents
the one true gospel for those engaged in the experimental analysis of
sentient behavior.

GS: Surprise surprise! Mostly gibberish again.

LZ: That's the whole problem in a nutshell. If you or
other behaviorists want to pretend that behaviorism has all the
answers you're going to have to identify the mechanical nature of the
dependency between the independent variables of environmental
manipulation and dependent variables of behavioral measurements

GS: You have said this many, many times, but that doesn't make it true (to
the extent that it is even comprehensible). Behavior analysis does NOT seem
to have to "identify the mechanical nature of the dependency between the
independent variables of environmental manipulation and dependent variables
of behavioral measurements explicitly." given that that phrase can even be
made comprehensible. Behavior analysis directly demonstrates control over
the subject matter by manipulation of independent variables. It demonstrates
relationships and allows one to predict and control behavior - at least to
some extent, and to an extent that seems mostly unrivaled in psychology.

LZ: And until that is done people will choose terminological
referrents they feel describe the situation most accurately, claims
and speculative arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

GS: I have a different explanation as to why people choose "explanations"
couched in "mental" terms.

"Lester Zick" <lesterDELzick at> wrote in message
news:40aa1e6e.57612461 at

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