Misrepresentation: Behavior analysis focuses on behavior and therefore misses the
essential nature of people. These essentials include consciousness awareness, feelings, and
states of mind.
Clarification: Behaviorists and non-nonbehaviorists must explain the same facts.
Behavior analysis offers an alternative to mentalism that accounts for the same phenomena
in a consistent way but without:
(1) The problems dualism raises such as how the mind and body interact, the
nature of mind, etc.
(2) The confusion operationalism entails when, for example, phenomenological
terms defined are defined as physical events or computer science terms are used to
To argue that complete accounts of behavior must refer to mental events is to
unnecessarily restrict oneself to a very short list of theoretical possibilities.
Consciousness, self-knowledge, perception, and stimulus control. To be conscious
is to be under stimulus control. Lower animals are ‘conscious” of their environment in the
sense that they respond differentially to food, danger, sexually relevant stimuli, etc. Self-
consciousness involves training individuals to describe themselves: Their behavior, the
conditions under which they behave, their physiological activity (feelings) , etc. Skinner
discussed how self-knowledge is established and why it is so faulty: The verbal behavior
responsible for self-knowledge is trained by a community without access to the individual’s
private events. Therefore establishing precise control is difficult. To the extent that public
correlates of private events are available, such as cuts, being struck by sharp-vs-blunt
objects, alleviating an aversive condition, etc., the verbal community can establish self-
descriptions that are accurate and useful.
Like self-knowledge, perception results from contingencies of reinforcement. Ear training
in music creates highly accurate sound discrimination. This is accomplished by
environmental contingencies–not by manipulating one’s “perception of sound”. The same
is true in painting: Artists learn to make fine-grained discriminations between colors,
textures, etc. Child-rearing and education produce many similar phenomena. For example,
children learn to discriminate between “b” and “d” by juxtaposing these with other letters
and being reinforced for correctly labeling them. Once these conditions are identified, it
adds nothing to say that a child is “conscious” of the differences between “b” and “d”.
Such expressions point away from the environment that produced the discrimination.
The study of consciousness, self-knowledge, etc. is the study of stimulus control, much of
which is established by a verbal community. No mind-body stuff is assumed and none is
needed to explain these examples of stimulus control, most of which result from training in