Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Toward an Analysis of Emotions as Products of Motivating Operations

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Toward an Analysis of Emotions as Products of Motivating Operations

Article excerpt

Within the behavior analytic tradition, the term motivation has historically referred to interactions between organisms and their environments that alter the efficacy of events as reinforcers or aversive stimuli. As the value of some event as a reinforcer is increased via an organism's exposure to particular environmental circumstances, a concomitant increase in the frequency of the organism's behavior with respect to that event is also observed. In other words, we observe an increase in the class of responses that have been followed by that reinforcer in the past. As such, the behavior analytic approach to food motivation, for example, is concerned with functional relations between motivating interactions (e.g., a certain number of hours during which food is not ingested) and the behavior of the whole organism (e.g., an observable increase in the frequency of the organism's food-related behavior). The study of motivation from a behavior analytic perspective, then, involves the identification of relations between motivating interactions and subsequent changes in organisms' behavior with respect to certain events as reinforcers or aversive stimuli.

A number of behavior scientists have suggested that organism-environment interactions commonly associated with the class of phenomena we describe as emotions have motivational properties in the sense that they alter the value of events as reinforcers and aversive stimuli (Michael 1993; Rescorla and Solomon 1967; Skinner 1953, 1957). Perhaps the most comprehensive behavior analytic account of emotion was offered by B. F. Skinner, who wrote, "...the fields of motivation and emotion are very close. They may, indeed, overlap." (Skinner 1953, p. 165). According to Skinner, a full account of emotions would be provided by discovering the functional relations between the observable behavior presumed to be associated with emotions (tendencies toward certain sorts of behavior) and the environmental conditions of which that behavior is a function (Skinner 1953, p. 167). This approach is consistent with the behavior analytic approach to motivation described above.

While behavior analytic interest in motivation has grown in recent years and has led to the wide acceptance of the motivating operation concept (lwata, Smith, & Michael, 2000; Laraway et al. 2003; McGill 1999; Michael 1982, 1993; Sundberg 2004), emotions have received relatively little conceptual or experimental attention from behavior analysts in the last 50 years (Anderson, Hawkins, Freeman, and Scotti 2000; Friman, Hayes, and Wilson 1998a). A survey of popular behavior analytic textbooks reveals little to no coverage of the topic, and what coverage there is does not adopt the aforementioned analysis of emotions as motivational variables. The recent paucity of behavior analytic research on emotions may be attributable in part to the general controversy surrounding the role of private events in behavior analysis (e.g., Baum 2011; Friman, Hayes, and Wilson 1998b; Hayes and Fryling 2009; Lamal 1998; Moore 2011), while others have suggested that the imprecise and metaphorical nature of the language historically used to discuss emotions in traditional psychology and by the lay public has served to discourage behavior analytic inquiry (Fantino 1973; Friman, et al. 1998a). Although all of the conditions under which emotional terms are invoked by the lay population may not withstand a scientific analysis, the problems with emotion as a scientific term should not preclude the study of these ubiquitous and important psychological phenomena. Despite their shortcomings, conventional lay descriptions of psychological events refer to common observations about behavior and point out potentially important areas for scientific inquiry and clarification (Skinner 1953). The consideration of such phenomena is especially important in light of recent calls within behavior analysis for translational and interdisciplinary research of broader relevance (Critchfield 2011; Poling 2010; Vyse 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.