J.E.R. Staddon – Skinner, Darwin and Memorial Hall: Reflections on the past and future of operant conditioning

Free presentation! Due to presentation length, not eligible for CE Credit. 

**Because this is a non-credit free course, users will not receive a certificate of completion**

About the presentation:

Operant conditioning reached a high point in the basement of Memorial Hall at Harvard in the early 1960s. Two figures dominated: S. S. “Smitty” Stevens and R. J. “Dick” Herrnstein (B. F. Skinner was no longer actively involved in laboratory research at that time.) Laws were the thing: Weber-Fechner and the power law at Stevens’ end of the basement; the ‘molar’ (average-rate) matching law of choice in the pigeon lab at Herrnstein’s end. I will show how the power law is based on Weber-Fechner; and how the matching law and a later development, behavioral ‘momentum’, both follow from a principle that incorporates competition from “other” behavior. It turns out that molar laws tell us little about what the subject is actually doing moment-by- moment. In fact, a very simple Darwinian selection/variation law-of- effect process seems sufficient to explain many choice effects.

Upon completion of this presentation attendees will be able to:

  • Describe latent responses
  • Understand how Weber-Fechner and the power law are related
  • Know the difference between concurrent and multiple schedules

About the presenter:

J. E. R. Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, Emeritus, at Duke University. He got his undergraduate degree from University College, London and his PhD in Experimental Psychology from Harvard. He has worked in many universities around the world: MIT, University of Toronto, Oxford University (UK), University of São Paulo (Brazil), the University of Mexico, the Ruhr Universität and Universität Konstanz, (Germany), and the University of Western Australia. He has written and lectured on public-policy issues such as evolution and education, IQ, traffic control, smoking and the effects of social and biological processes in finance and economics. He has published more than 200 research papers and seven books, including The Malign Hand of the Markets (2012, McGraw-Hill), The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society. (Psychology Press, 2 nd edition 2014) Adaptive Behavior and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 2 nd edition 2016) and The Englishman: Memoirs of a psychobiologist. (University of Buckingham Press, 2016).