This book attempts to synthesize two apparently contradictory views of psychology: as the science of internal mental mechanisms and as the science of complex external behavior. Most books in the psychology and philosophy of mind reject one approach while championing the other, but Rachlin argues that the two approaches are complementary rather than contradictory. Rejection of either involves disregarding vast sources of information vital to solving pressing human problems--in the areas of addiction, mental illness, education, crime, and decision-making, to name (...) but a few. Where previous books have focused either on psychology as an abstract science of the mind or as a strictly empirical approach to behavioral problems, this is the only book that attempts to show how the best modern theoretical work on mental mechanisms relates to the best modern empirical work on complex behavioral problems. It will be of considerable interest to psychologists and philosophers across many disciplines and perspectives. (shrink)
There seem to be two kinds of pain: fundamental pain, the intensity of which is a direct function of the intensity of various pain stimuli, and pain, the intensity of which is highly modifiable by such factors as hypnotism, placebos, and the sociocultural setting in which the stimulus occurs.
Self-control, so important in the theory and practice of psychology, has usually been understood introspectively. This target article adopts a behavioral view of the self (as an abstract class of behavioral actions) and of self-control (as an abstract behavioral pattern dominating a particular act) according to which the development of self-control is a molar/molecular conflict in the development of behavioral patterns. This subsumes the more typical view of self-control as a now/later conflict in which an act of self-control is a (...) choice of a larger but later reinforcer over a smaller but sooner reinforcer. If at some future time the smaller-sooner reinforcer will be more valuable than the larger-later reinforcer, self-control may be achieved through a commitment to the largerlater reinforcer prior to that point. According to some, there is a progressive internalization of commitment in the development of self-control. This presents theoretical and empirical problems. In two experiments temporal patterning of choices increased self-control. (shrink)
If sensations were behaviorally conceived, as they should be, as complex functional patterns of interaction between overt behavior and the environment, there would be no point in searching for them as instantaneous psychic elements within the brain or as internal products of the brain.
Plato's dialogues may be interpreted in a number of ways. One interpretation sees Plato's concept of The Good as a precursor of maximization theory, a modern behavioral theory. Plato identifies goodness with an ideal pattern of people's overt choices under the constraints of everyday life. Correspondingly, maximization theory sees goodness (in terms of "value") as a quantifiable function of overt, constrained choices of an animal. In both conceptions goodness may be increased by expanding the temporal extent over which a behavioral (...) pattern is integrated. (shrink)
Many situations in human life present choices between (a) narrowly preferred particular alternatives and (b) narrowly less preferred (or aversive) particular alternatives that nevertheless form part of highly preferred abstract behavioral patterns. Such alternatives characterize problems of self-control. For example, at any given moment, a person may accept alcoholic drinks yet also prefer being sober to being drunk over the next few days. Other situations present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial (...) (or harmful) to the individual that would nevertheless be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Such alternatives characterize problems of social cooperation; choices of the latter alternative are generally considered to be altruistic. Altruism, like self-control, is a valuable temporally-extended pattern of behavior. Like self-control, altruism may be learned and maintained over an individual's lifetime. It needs no special inherited mechanism. Individual acts of altruism, each of which may be of no benefit (or of possible harm) to the actor, may nevertheless be beneficial when repeated over time. However, because each selfish decision is individually preferred to each altruistic decision, people can benefit from altruistic behavior only when they are committed to an altruistic pattern of acts and refuse to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
Maximization theory, which is borrowed from economics, provides techniques for predicing the behavior of animals - including humans. A theoretical behavioral space is constructed in which each point represents a given combination of various behavioral alternatives. With two alternatives - behavior A and behavior B - each point within the space represents a certain amount of time spent performing behavior A and a certain amount of time spent performing behavior B. A particular environmental situation can be described as a constraint (...) on available points (a circumscribed area) within the space. Maximization theory assumes that animals always choose the available point with the highest numerical value. The task of maximization theory is to assign to points in the behavioral space values that remain constant across various environmental situations; as those situations change, the point actually chosen is always the one with the highest assigned value. (shrink)
In response to Ainslie & Gault: The value of a temporally extended behavioral pattern depends on relationships inherent in the pattern itself. It is not possible to express that value as the simple sum of the discounted present values of the pattern's component acts.
I will argue that the autonomy of a particular act of a particular person depends on the pattern of behavior in which it is embedded. I call this conditional autonomy. A person's act is conditionally autonomous or not, relative to other acts at other times. Consider an example of a person crossing the street. On the one hand, this act might not be done for its own sake, but may fit into some ongoing long-term behavioral pattern that is personally beneficial (...) to the person crossing the street—such as regularly buying groceries in the supermarket . On the other hand, crossing the street might be done simply for its own sake. If such an act were considered to be autonomous, regardless of its temporal context, its autonomy would be unconditional. However, I will argue that whereas conditional autonomy is a highly useful social concept, indeed a necessary concept, for any human society, unconditional autonomy is a useless concept that actually impedes our efforts to understand and explain human behavior. (shrink)
Some commentators have argued that all particular altruistic acts are directly caused by or reinforced by an internal emotional state. Others argue that rewards obtained by one person might reinforce another person's altruistic act. Yet others argue that all altruistic acts are reinforced by social reciprocation. There are logical and empirical problems with all of these conceptions. The best explanation of altruistic acts is that – though they are themselves not reinforced (either immediately, or delayed, or conditionally, or internally) – (...) they are, like self-controlled acts, part of a pattern of overt behavior that is either extrinsically reinforced or intrinsically reinforcing. (shrink)
Altruism may be learned (behavioral evolution) in a way similar to that proposed in the target article for its biological evolution. Altruism (over social space) corresponds to self-control (over time). In both cases, one must learn to ignore the rewards to a particular (person or moment) and behave to maximize the rewards to a group (of people or moments).
Complex cases of self-control involve processes such as guilt-avoidance, inhibition, self-punishment, conscious thought, free will, and imagination. Such processes, conceived as internal mediating mechanisms, serve the function in psychological theory of avoiding teleological causation. Acceptance of the scientific legitimacy of teleological behaviorism would obviate the need for internal mediation, redefine the above processes in terms of temporally extended patterns of overt behavior, and clarify their relation to selfcontrol.
Behavioral momentum is a useful metaphor reminding us that with constant conditions, ongoing behavior – in the form of response rate – would be expected to remain constant. But despite an impressive array of behavioral experiments, the concept has not yet been applied in a way that would make it useful as a general behavioral law.
The essence of a mental event such as self-deception lies in its function – its place in the life of an animal. But the function of self-deception corresponds to that of interpersonal deception. Therefore self-deception, contrary to Mele's thesis, is essentially isomorphic with interpersonal deception.