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November 13 , 2008

Context and Cognition

Interpreting Complex Behavior


While the general wisdom has it that behaviorism is dead, it not only survives but is intellectually active in areas such as psychological theory, the analysis of language and cognition, and behavioral economics. It is a successful, albeit limited, source of behavioral science. Its chief difficulty arises when its practitioners look out from their laboratory windows and attempt to explain the complexities of human behavior that will never be amenable to direct experimental investigation. Behavior analysis has failed to establish a methodology of interpretation to deal fully with such complexity. The message of this essay is that it cannot do so without embracing intentional explanation in the form of an interpretive overlay that plugs the gaps in its explanations of life beyond the lab.

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