Behavioral and cognitive approaches

What´s the difference between them?

Studies of mental functions, behaviors and the nervous system.

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Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#1  Postby seeker » Jun 21, 2011 3:47 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:I hear this a fair bit but I can never find why people think this. Usually it's the result of misunderstanding what behaviorism is, like the SEP page on 'behaviorism' does. The key thing to understand is that behaviorists don't actually reject mental states; the furthest they go is arguing that mental states are only part of the causal chain, and aren't the actual cause of some behaviors. And behaviorism is an integral part of cognitive science, firstly for the simple fact that you can't do cognitive science without all the contributions of behavioral psychology, and secondly, cognitive psychology is behaviorism (and behavioral psychology is cognitive psychology). The distinction is illusionary - they both study the same phenomena, using the same methods and come to the same conclusions. The only difference is terminology.
It's quite funny because through university there is a bit of rivalry between the two approaches, and each side will refer to the others as "those silly cognitivists/behaviorists, they don't know what they're doing!". Then when you get into the real world and start studying in cognitive labs where the two "approaches" are lumped together into one, you realise that they're doing the exact same work. This is why nobody is surprised that some of the best work in things like signal detection theory (traditionally viewed as an anti-behaviorist area) has most of it's work, and at least it's seminal work, done by pure behaviorists. That's a bit of a derail though.

Here I´ve found an article that analyses some epistemological differences between behavioral and cognitive approaches (or, perhaps more specifically, between the contextualistic versions of behaviorism represented by behavior analysis, and the mechanistic versions of cognitivism, which is also a kind of methodological behaviorism):
Hayes and Brownstein. (1986). Mentalism, Behavior-Behavior Relations, and a Behavior-Analytic View of the Purposes of Science.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... 3-0041.pdf
The proposal is that behavioral and cognitive approaches have different purposes and different views of explanation (contextualism and mechanism). What do you think? Is this an accurate description of both approaches and of their differences?
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#2  Postby Imza » Jun 22, 2011 7:57 pm

seeker wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:I hear this a fair bit but I can never find why people think this. Usually it's the result of misunderstanding what behaviorism is, like the SEP page on 'behaviorism' does. The key thing to understand is that behaviorists don't actually reject mental states; the furthest they go is arguing that mental states are only part of the causal chain, and aren't the actual cause of some behaviors. And behaviorism is an integral part of cognitive science, firstly for the simple fact that you can't do cognitive science without all the contributions of behavioral psychology, and secondly, cognitive psychology is behaviorism (and behavioral psychology is cognitive psychology). The distinction is illusionary - they both study the same phenomena, using the same methods and come to the same conclusions. The only difference is terminology.
It's quite funny because through university there is a bit of rivalry between the two approaches, and each side will refer to the others as "those silly cognitivists/behaviorists, they don't know what they're doing!". Then when you get into the real world and start studying in cognitive labs where the two "approaches" are lumped together into one, you realise that they're doing the exact same work. This is why nobody is surprised that some of the best work in things like signal detection theory (traditionally viewed as an anti-behaviorist area) has most of it's work, and at least it's seminal work, done by pure behaviorists. That's a bit of a derail though.

Here I´ve found an article that analyses some epistemological differences between behavioral and cognitive approaches (or, perhaps more specifically, between the contextualistic versions of behaviorism represented by behavior analysis, and the mechanistic versions of cognitivism, which is also a kind of methodological behaviorism):
Hayes and Brownstein. (1986). Mentalism, Behavior-Behavior Relations, and a Behavior-Analytic View of the Purposes of Science.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... 3-0041.pdf
The proposal is that behavioral and cognitive approaches have different purposes and different views of explanation (contextualism and mechanism). What do you think? Is this an accurate description of both approaches and of their differences?


I've always had a hard time completely tracking the historical roots of cognitive psychology from behavioral psychology. The book I'm reading right now on radical behaviorism (conceptual foundations of radical behaviorism by Jay Moore) actually looks at the history and associates modern cognitive psychology fully with S-O-R or neo-behaviorist theories. However, doing some google searches with those terms one immediately finds that not all cognitive psychologist would agree that neobehaviorism is the same as modern day cognitive psychology. I myself would agree in part that at some level all cognitive psychology is based on behavioral psychology one way or another, as both disciplines study "behavior" and there is no way of getting around that. I think the fundamental difference is in the inferences and conclusions that are made, which I think are very different between cognitive psychology and radical behaviorism.

As for the Hayes's article, I read through it quickly but I'm not sure if I agree with their distinction between the different goals/emphasis of the two fields. I think while the mechanistic cognitive psychology view does focus more on explanation (or one form of explanation), it also equally attempts to focus on control and prediction. The common quarrels that I'm familiar with in at least education psychology is related to behavioral psychologist arguing that certain concepts such as executive functioning, different cognitive types of learners, etc, are not useful within the classroom or creating educational strategies. However, cognitive psychologist are very active in research areas where the focus is heavily on control and prediction so I'm not sure if the distinction that Hayes & Brownstein are making is a solid one. I'd be really interested to hear directly from cognitive psychologist (possible on these forums) about what their perspective is on this issue.
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#3  Postby seeker » Jun 24, 2011 4:40 am

Imza wrote:I've always had a hard time completely tracking the historical roots of cognitive psychology from behavioral psychology. The book I'm reading right now on radical behaviorism (conceptual foundations of radical behaviorism by Jay Moore) actually looks at the history and associates modern cognitive psychology fully with S-O-R or neo-behaviorist theories. However, doing some google searches with those terms one immediately finds that not all cognitive psychologist would agree that neobehaviorism is the same as modern day cognitive psychology.

I don´t think Moore is saying that “it´s the same”. He´s saying that cognitive psychology derives from S-O-R behaviorism, and preserves its core epistemological assumptions.

Imza wrote:The common quarrels that I'm familiar with in at least education psychology is related to behavioral psychologist arguing that certain concepts such as executive functioning, different cognitive types of learners, etc, are not useful within the classroom or creating educational strategies. However, cognitive psychologist are very active in research areas where the focus is heavily on control and prediction so I'm not sure if the distinction that Hayes & Brownstein are making is a solid one.

Which are those research areas of cognitive psychology, where the focus is heavily on control and prediction?
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#4  Postby Imza » Sep 03, 2011 7:24 pm

Which are those research areas of cognitive psychology, where the focus is heavily on control and prediction?


Sorry for the delayed response, I lose track of discussions when it gets busy at school. One area I would say cognitive psychology heavily "attempts" to focus on control and prediction is educational psychology. I'm sure there are others but I'm most familiar with this area simply because I'm in the field of school psychology. Some examples of this include learning styles or trying to determine if students with different "processing styles" require different instruction that would be most beneficial for students. In this case, it could be said that the cognitive theories are trying provide control through instructional modification to maximize achievement. In terms of prediction, I would say there are tons of studies related to IQ tests as well as other factors such as self-efficacy, which are used to try to predict academic and life success. I'm not necessarily saying they are successful at prediction and control but I do think it is a shared goal of cognitive psychology.
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#5  Postby beefheart » Feb 03, 2012 10:16 am

according to Hayes & Brownstein (1986) all kinds of mentalistic explanations will disrupt the focus of experimental control.
--
i´d like to recommend Michael J. Doughers article "A bigger picture" (1995), where he discusses the cognitive accounts of self-efficacy (Bandura) and the disagreement from behavior analyst (among others A. C. Catania).

"...a far more fundamental disagreement than whether behavior analytic or cognitive accounts of self-efficacy are more convincing. The deeper disagreement represents what may be the closest thing to a true paradigm clash that psychology has to offer. The fundamental differences certainly have ontological implications, but the real disagreement is at the epistemological level, beginning with questions pertaining to the nature of science, causality, explanation, and theory, and extending to the proper subject matter of psychology, units of analysis, and how data should be collected and interpreted" (Dougher, 1995, p. 215).

"Of particular importance is the difference in their scientific objectives. Mechanistic frameworks have as their objective correspondence. That is, an explanation is true to the extent that it corresponds with observed events. Prediction is the most stringent form of correspondence, and has been adopted as the truth criterion for mechanistic explanations (Hayes & Brownstein,1986)" (Dougher, 1995, p. 216).

"Behavioral control in principle can only be obtained when the manipulable determinants of behavior are identified. Thus, while explanations of behavior that appeal to internal mechanisms or processes may very well predict behavior, they are considered inadequate with respect to the goal of control or effective action unless the environmental determinants of the internal mechanisms or processes are clearly stipulated" (Dougher, 1995, p. 216).

Dougher, M. (1995) A bigger picture: cause and cognition in relation to differing scientific frameworks Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 26 (3) 215 – 219.
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#6  Postby Asta666 » Apr 30, 2012 10:59 pm

Hello, I'm very interested in this topic. Anyone could recommend me some readings that focus on theoretical integration and not so much in differences?
Personally, I see the methodological approaches pretty similar (I think both are mechanistic), which is good. Neurological correlational evidence seems to help to avoid the ocean of mental concepts and hypothesis that behaviorists always condemned, but only to some extent :think:.
Also I think that claims like these:
"Behavioral control in principle can only be obtained when the manipulable determinants of behavior are identified. Thus, while explanations of behavior that appeal to internal mechanisms or processes may very well predict behavior, they are considered inadequate with respect to the goal of control or effective action unless the environmental determinants of the internal mechanisms or processes are clearly stipulated" (Dougher, 1995, p. 216).
are a few decades outdated, given the progress for instance in the development of psychotropic drugs. Anyway, I'm more interested in theoretical explanation so ideally both factors (internal states and environmental determinants) should be taken into account.
The behavioral account sets the task for the physiologist. Mentalism on the other hand has done a great disservice by leading physiologists on false trails in search of the neural correlates of images, memories, consciousness, and so on. Skinner
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#7  Postby Mr.Samsa » May 01, 2012 3:54 am

Asta666 wrote:Hello, I'm very interested in this topic. Anyone could recommend me some readings that focus on theoretical integration and not so much in differences?
Personally, I see the methodological approaches pretty similar (I think both are mechanistic), which is good. Neurological correlational evidence seems to help to avoid the ocean of mental concepts and hypothesis that behaviorists always condemned, but only to some extent :think:.


Well behaviorists accept the fact that cognition and internal states influence behavior, so basically any book written by a behaviorist will include an integration of the two, just usually not explicitly stated. You might be interested in the works of Staddon though, for example:

Consciousness and Theoretical Behaviorism

The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society

Adaptive Dynamics: The Theoretical Analysis of Behavior

Ainslie and Rachlin's "molar behaviorism" also explicitly links to the two fields, so you might be interested in this book:

Breakdown of Will

Asta666 wrote:Also I think that claims like these:
"Behavioral control in principle can only be obtained when the manipulable determinants of behavior are identified. Thus, while explanations of behavior that appeal to internal mechanisms or processes may very well predict behavior, they are considered inadequate with respect to the goal of control or effective action unless the environmental determinants of the internal mechanisms or processes are clearly stipulated" (Dougher, 1995, p. 216).
are a few decades outdated, given the progress for instance in the development of psychotropic drugs. Anyway, I'm more interested in theoretical explanation so ideally both factors (internal states and environmental determinants) should be taken into account.


I think the use of psychotropic drugs to change behavior is covered by Dougher's quote there. The "environment" is anything which can be identified to affect the behavior of an organism, which includes internal components and physiological mechanisms. To simplify what Dougher is saying, his only point is: "To change behavior, we have to focus on variables which can be modified (as opposed to those that can't), and to be able to modify these variables we need to be able to clearly define what they are". Which, as far as I can see, must be absolutely true.
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Re: Behavioral and cognitive approaches

#8  Postby Asta666 » May 01, 2012 1:39 pm

Yeah I was assuming the claim implied that environmental = external variable, but I totally agree with the way you put it. Anyway, thanks for the links, they look pretty interesting. It's a pity that in my country that kind of literature is almost non existent and banned from psychology colleges, but thanks to the internet one can get around it :smile: .
The behavioral account sets the task for the physiologist. Mentalism on the other hand has done a great disservice by leading physiologists on false trails in search of the neural correlates of images, memories, consciousness, and so on. Skinner
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