Define methodological behaviorism, as described by B. F. Skinner.

Radical Behaviorism

In 1974, B. F. Skinner published About Behaviorism and more fully developed the concepts of radical behaviorism, with emphasis on the importance of seeking to identify observable and measurable environmental events, rather than mentalistic constructs, to explain all behavior, including internal behaviors (such as thinking) which could not be directly observed. This further solidified the approach that continues to guide inquiry and practice in applied behavior analysis to this day.

To prepare for this discussion, select one of the scenarios below:

Scenario 1

Olivo is a 15-year-old who acquired a brain injury in a car accident. Prior to the injury, Olivo functioned typically for his age and was a sophomore in high school. He had no significant academic or behavioral challenges at home or at school. Since the accident, there have been notable changes in function and behavior. Olivo is easily frustrated when he cannot have what he wants and often becomes anxious. He has limited tolerance for waiting. Sometimes, Olivo decides to have a tantrum to get his way. The therapist working with Olivo has suggested that, when he is anxious or frustrated, his parents show him cards with his favorite items and have him point to what he wants. Olivo does not seem to like the cards because when they are presented, he throws them.

Scenario 2

Maxi is a 35-year-old resident at an inpatient rehab center. She is receiving treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. Her therapist suggests that Maxi tends to use substances when she is angry or stressed. The therapist suggests that it would be helpful to identify alternative activities to self-soothe when she is feeling these emotions.

Please respond to the following:

  • Define methodological behaviorism, as described by B. F. Skinner.
  • Next, define radical behaviorism, as described by B. F. Skinner, and differentiate it from methodological behaviorism.
  • Based on the scenario you selected:
    • Identify whether the description of the case and the suggestions for treatment are representative of a radical behavioral approach. Why or why not?
    • In your analysis, identify at least three of the mentalistic terms and conceptualizations in the case scenario and present an alternative.
    • What explanatory terms need clearer definition?
    • How could this case study be reframed to constitute explanation and intervention in more behavioral terms (i.e., with a focus on observable and measurable causes of behavior that are found in the environment)

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