The Private World

Contemporary behavior analysts include internal events as part of an organism's environment. This point is often misunderstood; internal functioning like an upset stomach, full bladder, low blood sugar, and so on are part of a person's environment. Internal physical events have the same status as external stimuli such as light, noise, odor, and heat. Both external and internal events regulate behavior. Although this is so, behavior analysts usually emphasize the external environment. This is because external events are the only stimuli available for behavior change. The objective procedures of psychological experiments are giving instructions and observing how the person acts. From a behavioral view, the instructions are external stimuli that regulate both verbal and nonverbal behavior. Even when a drug is given to a person and the chemical alters internal biochemistry, the direct injection of the drug is an external event that subsequently regulates behavior. To make this clear, without the drug injection neither the biochemistry nor the behavior of the person would change.

Many psychological studies involve giving information to a person in order to change or activate cognitive processes. In the cognitive view, thoughts are used to explain behavior. The problem is that the existence of thoughts (or feelings) is often inferred from the behavior to be explained, leading to circular reasoning. For example, a child who peers out the window about the time his or her mother usually comes home from work is said to do this because of an expectation. The expectation of the child is said to explain why the child peers from the window. In fact, there is no explanation, because the cognition (expectation) is inferred from the behavior it is said to explain. Cognitions could explain behavior if the existence of thought processes were based on some evidence other than behavior. In most cases, however, there is no independent evidence that cognitions caused behavior, and the explanation is not scientifically valid. One way out of this problem of logic is not to use thinking and feeling as causes of behavior. That is, thinking and feeling are treated as more behavior to be explained.

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