Volume 26, Number 3, Summer

Some Historical and Conceptual Background to the Development of B.F. Skinner’s “Radical Behaviorism” — Part 3

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 2005, Volume 26, Number 3, Pages 137–160, ISSN 0271–0137

The present article is the third in a series of three that outlines the historical and conceptual background of B.F. Skinner’s radical behaviorism as a philosophy of science. Of special interest in this article is the intellectual context of a paper on operationism Skinner published in 1945, in which he first used the term “radical behaviorism” in print. Overall, Skinner’s radical behaviorism was a thoroughgoing behaviorism that provided a naturalistic account of the full range of human functioning, including the influence on both verbal and nonverbal behavior of phenomena identified as “subjective.”

Requests for reprints should be sent to J. Moore, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201. Email: jcm@uwm.edu

The Placebo Effect and Its Implications

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 2005, Volume 26, Number 3, Pages 161–180, ISSN 0271–0137 

Often regarded simply as a nuisance in clinical drug trials in which the aim is to separate drug response from placebo response in a statistically significant manner, the placebo response has important implications. These implications relate to the nature of illness, the study of non-specific factors in the treatment setting that are related to clinical improvement, methods of enhancing these non-specific sources of benefit, and the neurobiology that is associated with the placebo response. Specific sources of clinical improvement in medical and psychological treatment generally consist of drugs or clear interventions (e.g., surgery, specific therapeutic modalities) that appear to directly contribute to the desired treatment. Non-specific factors, on the other hand, include the clinician–patient relationship, installation of hope, relationship with authority, and other such factors that are more implicit to treatment and may contribute to the placebo response. Our understanding of how these non-specific aspects of treatment relate to clinical improvement and ways of enhancing these non-pharmacological elements of therapy may form important aspects of treatment. Furthermore, an important, albeit potentially overlooked element of the placebo response are clinical-trial designs and methodologies, themselves. Specific neurobiological changes also appear to be associated with the placebo response in at least some cases. Finally, it is suggested that the placebo response may in some instances represent a type of brain plasticity in which expectation and desire — agency — can result in specific changes in brain function that either may mirror or differ from the effects of certain drugs. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dawson Hedges, M.D., 1130 SWKT, Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.

Acategoriality as Mental Instability

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 2005, Volume 26, Number 3, Pages 181–206, ISSN 0271–0137 

Mental representations are based upon categories in which the state of a mental system is stable. Acategorial states, on the other hand, are distinguished by unstable behavior. A refined and compact terminology for the description of categorial and acategorial mental states and their stability properties is introduced within the framework of the theory of dynamical systems. The relevant concepts are illustrated by selected empirical observations in cognitive neuroscience. Alterations of the category of the first person singular and features of creative activity will be discussed as examples for the phenomenology of acategorial states.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Harald Atmanspacher, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Wilhelmstrasse 3a, 79098 Freiburg, Germany. Email: haa@igpp.de

Book Reviews

Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness 
Book Author: 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 2005, Volume 26, Number 3, Pages 207–214, ISSN 0271–0137 

[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] The question of how a physical system gives rise to the phenomenal or experiential (olfactory, visual, somatosensitive, gestatory and auditory), is considered the most intractable of scientific and philosophical puzzles. Though this question has dominated the philosophy of mind over the last quarter century, it articulates a version of the age-old mind–body problem. The most famous response, Cartesian dualism, is on Daniel Dennett’s view still a corrosively residual and redundant feature of popular (and academic) thinking on these matters. Fifteen years on from his anti-Cartesian theory of consciousness (Consciousness Explained, 1991), Dennett’s frustration with this tradition is still palpable. This frustration is primarily aimed at philosophers. The “Sweet Dreams” of Dennett’s title are the rationalist thought experiments of wishful thinking philosophers who, neglectful or unaware of empirical evidence, generate premature conclusions “of unexamined presuppositions and circularly defined elaborations” (p. 79). The nature of such presuppositions renders these thought experiments no more than “intuition pumps,” ostensibly succeeding in stale-mating or in some cases check-mating any moves in the direction of a unified science of consciousness. The extent to which Dennett believes these “pumps” have skewed theorising about consciousness is captured in his remark: “I had no idea philosophers still put so much faith in the authority of their homegrown intuitions. It is almost as if one thought one could prove that the Copernican theory was false by noting that it ‘seems just obvious’ that the Earth doesn’t move and the Sun does” (p. 108). 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Leslie Marsh, Centre for Research in Cognitive Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, United Kingdom. Email: l.marsh@sussex.ac.uk

The Neuropathology of Dementia (second edition) 
Book Author: 

The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 2005, Volume 26, Number 3, Pages 215–218, ISSN 0271–0137 

The Neuropathology of Dementia is an excellent comprehensive review of our current understanding of the pathology of dementing illnesses. This new edition is 30% larger than the first and has twice as many contributors. Much of the material has been reorganized, e.g., Pick’s disease is now subsumed under the heading of Sporadic Tauopathies. The chapter on the definition of dementia has been rewritten and significantly improved. There are new chapters on molecular diagnosis, neuropathology of ageing, neuroimaging, and transgenic mouse models. This new edition will appeal to a larger audience but will remain an invaluable resource to the neuropathologist. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Stanley van den Noort, M.D., Department of Neurology, Gottschalk Medical Plaza, University of California, Irvine, California 92697. Email: svandenn@uci.edu