Western Cultural Influences in Behavior Analysis as Seen from a Walden Two

Article excerpt


ABSTRACT: Some reflections made from a Walden Two about the dissemination of behavior analysis and behaviorism are presented. Although the progress of behavior analysis and its philosophy has been great, it has been seriously obstructed by the characteristics of a mentalistic Western culture. Our behavior as behavior analysts is exposed to multiple interrelated macrocontingencies. These macrocontingencies punish or extinguish behaviorist behaviors and reinforce mentalistic behaviors. Some western macrocontingencies which act against the progress of behavior analysis are described as well as strategies to reduce their effects. Making behavior analysis and behaviorism more accessible for the general public is emphasized since it is the public who finally shape the content of educational curricula. If behavior analysis becomes reinforcing for the public, it will be taught in more universities.

Keywords: Cultural design, dissemination of behavior analysis, macrocontingencies, Walden Two

Good morning. On behalf of Los Horcones I want to thank those who decided to give our community this award. We also thank all of you for being here. It is not mere behavioristic rhetoric to say that this award is also for those who in one way or another contributed to the foundation of Los Horcones. It is important to us to recognize the following people: Sidney and Janet Bijou, Ivar Lovaas, Francisco Cabrer, Angela Herrera, Francisco Montes and Maria Irueste, who introduced the founders of Los Horcones to behavior analysis thirty years ago.

Throughout this 20 minute presentation, we will share with you some reflections made from a Walden Two about how behavior analysis and behaviorism can be more effectively disseminated. First, we want to point out the significant progress made by the behavior analytic community in the dissemination of behavior analysis. In a few decades much has been accomplished, especially considering that what is being disseminated is not only an alternative view to human behavior but one that is incompatible with the dominant concept of human behavior in the current culture.

In 1985, B. F. Skinner wrote the article "What is Wrong with Daily Life in the Western World" (Skinner, 1985). He mentioned five cultural practices which are operating against the survival of our species. We believe that all these practices are related with mentalism, the basis of Western and Eastern cultures. Unfortunately, all behavior analysts are exposed to cultural contingencies where mentalistic behaviors are reinforced and behavioristic behaviors are extinguished or punished. We are all exposed to mentalistic macrocontingencies or cultural practices (Horcones, 1998). This is the cultural environment with which we interact, where our science and philosophy are trying to develop but with serious difficulties.

Two pertinent questions are: What can we do to effectively disseminate behavior analysis under such adverse cultural conditions? Which are the adverse cultural conditions and which are those that could promote its dissemination? We believe the best way to obtain answers to these questions is by experimentation.


Back in 1973, when we founded Los Horcones, we asked ourselves: Can we use behavior analysis to design a better culture? Can we build a culture that really promotes and takes into account the science of behavior in its design? (Horcones, 1982). In order to answer these questions, we needed to build a laboratory. But the lab we needed was not a place in a building. It was an experimental space at a cultural scale. We needed a group of people who could live 24 hours in this lab for many years, designing cultural practices, observing and measuring their effects on their own and their children's behavior and on the rest of the environment. …