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Is the Operant Contingency Enough for a Science of Purposive Behavior?

William Timberlake
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 32, No. 1, The Study of Behavior: Philosophical, Theoretical, and Methodological Challenges (2004), pp. 197-229
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759478
Page Count: 33
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Is the Operant Contingency Enough for a Science of Purposive Behavior?
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Abstract

The operant contingency remains the most powerful and flexible single technology for the production and control of purposive behavior. The immediate aim of this paper is to examine the conceptual and empirical adequacy of the operant contingency as the basis for a science of purposive behavior. My longer-term goal is to improve the effectiveness of operant contingencies and our understanding of how and why they work. I explore three aspects of the operant contingency: its development as a closed definitional system, its empirical adequacy as a technology, and the appropriateness and usefulness of related theoretical assumptions. I conclude that the efficacy of the operant contingency can be improved further by continued analysis of its implementation, mechanisms, and assumptions and by increasing its links to other approaches and concepts.

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