Behavior, Cognition And Theories Of Choice

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Fall 1978

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Critics have argued that behaviorism must necessarily be inadequate to account for complex human behavior whereas cognitive psychology is adequate to account for such behavior. Recently, Fodor (1975) has focused this criticism on certain situations in which humans choose among a set of alternatives. We argue that this criticism applies to forms of behaviorism that are reductionistic but not to non-reductionistic behaviorisms like that of Skinner. Non-reductionistic behaviorism can be used to interpret human choice situations of varying degrees of complexity. Such interpretations run into difficulty in accounting for certain aspects of verbal behavior, but so do cognitive theories. Although nothing, in principle, prohibits either type of theory from accounting for complex human behavior, neither current behavioral theory nor current cognitive theory is developed enough at the present time to do so.

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