Fr. 66.00

Understanding Behaviorism - Behavior, Culture, and Evolution

English · Paperback / Softback

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Understanding Behaviorism is a classic textbook that explains the basis of behavior analysis and its application to human problems in a scholarly but accessible manner.
* Now in its third edition, the text has been substantially updated to include the latest developments over the last decade in behaviour analysis, evolutionary theory, and cultural evolution theory
* The only book available that explains behavior analysis and applies it to philosophical and practical problems, written by one of today's best-known and most highly respected behaviorists
* Explores ancient concepts such as purpose, language, knowledge, and thought, as well as applying behavioural thinking to contemporary social issues like freedom, democracy, and culture
* Part of the new evolutionary perspective for understanding individual behavior in general and culture in particular - culminates with practical approaches to improving the lives of all humanity

List of contents

Preface to the Third Edition xv
Acknowledgements xvii
Part I What is Behaviorism? 1
1 Behaviorism: Definition and History 3
Historical Background 3
From Philosophy to Science 3
Objective Psychology 6
Comparative Psychology 7
Early Behaviorism 8
Free Will Versus Determinism 10
Definitions 10
Arguments For and Against Free Will 11
Social Arguments 12
Aesthetic Arguments 13
Folk Psychology 15
Summary 15
Further Reading 17
Keyterms 17
2 Behaviorism as Philosophy of Science 19
Realism versus Pragmatism 19
Realism 19
The Objective Universe 20
Discovery and Truth 20
Sense Data and Subjectivity 20
Explanation 22
Pragmatism 22
Science and Experience 24
Conceptual Economy 25
Explanation and Description 27
Radical Behaviorism and Pragmatism 28
Summary 31
Further Reading 32
Keyterms 32
3 Public, Private, Natural, and Fictional 33
Mentalism 33
Public and Private Events 33
Natural Events 34
Natural, Mental, and Fictional 35
Objections to Mentalism 37
Autonomy: Mental Causes Obstruct Inquiry 37
Superfluity: Explanatory Fictions are Uneconomical 38
Category Mistakes 40
Ryle and the Para-Mechanical Hypothesis 41
Rachlin's Molar Behaviorism 42
Private Events 46
Private Behavior 46
Self-Knowledge and Consciousness 49
Summary 52
Further Reading 54
Keyterms 55
Part II A Scientific Model of Behavior 57
4 Evolutionary Theory and Reinforcement 59
Evolutionary History 59
Natural Selection 60
Reflexes and Fixed Action Patterns 62
Reflexes 62
Fixed Action Patterns 62
Respondent Conditioning 64
Reinforcers and Punishers 66
Operant Behavior 66
Physiological Factors 68
Overview of Phylogenetic Influences 70
History of Reinforcement 70
Selection by Consequences 71
The Law of Effect 71
Shaping and Natural Selection 71
Historical Explanations 75
Summary 77
Further Reading 78
Keyterms 78
5 Purpose and Reinforcement 81
History and Function 81
Using Historical Explanations 82
History Versus Immediate Cause 82
Gaps of Time 82
Functional Units 83
Species as Functional Units 84
Activities as Functional Units 84
Three Meanings of Purpose 86
Purpose as Function 86
Purpose as Cause 87
Purposive Behavior 88
Purposive Machines 89
Selection by Consequences 90
Creativity 90
Purpose as Feeling: Self-Reports 92
Talking About the Future 92
Talking About the Past 92
Feelings as By-Products 93
Summary 94
Further Reading 95
Keyterms 96
6 Stimulus Control and Knowledge 97
Stimulus Control 97
Discriminative Stimuli 98
Extended Sequences and Discriminative Stimuli 100
Discrimination 101
Knowledge 102
Procedural Knowledge: Knowing How 103
Declarative Knowledge: Knowing About 105
Declarative Knowledge and Stimulus Control 105
What is a Lie? 106
Self-Knowledge 107

About the author

William M. Baum is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Hampshire and a Research Associate at University of California, Davis. He taught for seven years at Harvard University and for more than twenty years at the University of New Hampshire. He has published over one hundred journal articles. These have presented quantitative laboratory research, theoretical contributions, and philosophical contributions. His research interests include choice, cultural evolution, behavioural processes, and philosophy of behaviour.


Understanding Behaviorism is a classic textbook that explains the basis of behavior analysis and its application to human problems in a scholarly but accessible manner.


Synthesizing the principles of behavior analysis with contemporary understanding of evolutionary selection, Baum's account progresses systematically from basic pragmatic behavior all the way to the practices that constitute human cultural values. The resulting book is a modern equivalent of B.F. Skinner's ground-breaking Science and Human Behavior.--Philip N. Hineline, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Temple University, and President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
In clear, lively prose Baum's book gives students as well as laypeople an understanding of the cutting edge of behavioristic thought. In this third edition, Baum embeds behavioral psychology even more firmly than previously in its proper setting--that of evolutionary biology. The book is actually an instrument (like a telescope or a microscope) through which the reader may observe human life as it really is, rather than as common sense (that which says the sun goes round the earth) tells us it is.--Howard Rachlin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Stony Brook University
In some quarters in the human sciences the roles of reinforcement and punishment in shaping individual behavior and cultural evolution have been neglected. Understanding Behaviorism explains why this is a serious mistake.--Peter J. Richerson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of California Davis
A mainstay in my undergraduate learning course, Understanding Behaviorism is an excellent text covering the core concepts of both the philosophy of behaviorism and the science of behavior analysis. Dr. Baum provides a clear, accessible introduction that anyone interested in behavior analysis or psychology should read.--Matthew Bell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of California San Diego
What a thorough and highly intelligible piece of writing! By elucidating the bigger picture and the relation to its parts, this brilliant third edition truly facilitates understanding behaviorism and its relation to evolutionary theory. It will be my go-to-guide for many years of tuition and research to come.--Carsta Simon, Doctoral Student, Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway

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