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Behaviorology in Context

To the Editors:

Stephen F. Ledoux’s article “Behaviorism at 100” (January–February) is a breath of fresh air! As a practicing behaviorist in human services for nearly five decades, I have observed much of the advancement of behaviorism that has resulted in an accelerating accumulation of data from research and theoretical studies. Correlated with these results were changes in nomenclature for the discipline. These name changes were used to reflect a growing body of evidence as it approached its rightful status as behaviorology, a natural science.

Those of us who have participated in this growth process remember how we taught undergraduate and graduate classes and practiced as clinicians under various psychology subtitles such as theories of learning, experimental analysis of behavior, behavior modification, behavior therapy, behavior analysis and applied behavior analysis. We provided innovative, exemplary services but remained ever vigilant of the restrictions imposed by the mandates of psychology departments and administrators. I can recall receiving a memo from a state director of psychology services informing me that I was not to use the words “behavior modification” in treatment plans for clients.

Dr. Ledoux’s article should elicit gratitude from all who are interested in understanding human behavior and, in doing so, making the world a better place. At last, behaviorology has freed us from the shackles of agential interpretations and thereby permitted us to pursue the study of human behavior as a natural science. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!

John B. Ferreira
Tucson, AZ

To the Editors:

I read with great interest the articles by B. F. Skinner and Stephen Ledoux in the January–February issue of American Scientist. The Skinner article, “The Experimental Analysis of Behavior,” is—as advertised—a classic and a good representative of where things stood 50 years ago. Although Ledoux’s article illuminates certain aspects of the field, the review of behaviorology (applied and philosophical behaviorism) does not address the contributions and the limitations of behavioral analysis in modern biology. It ignores developments in behavioral and molecular genetics, neurochemistry and neurophysiology, ethology and animal behavior, and cognitive science and neural network analysis—to name just a few areas that have come into their own since Skinner’s observations. I urge the editors to identify suitable exponents to discuss the major themes and potential integration of the science of behavior into modern biology. The topic is important and timely.

Ovide F. Pomerleau
University of Michigan

Editors’ note: Because of space constraints, we were unable to ask Dr. Ledoux to cover the relation of behaviorology to the numerous other biological fields that shed light on behavior. Although we have no immediate plans to publish other articles on that subject, we hope that the works by Skinner and Ledoux have stimulated much thought about the natural science of behavior.

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