Radical Behaviorism

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Radical Behaviorism

Postby hyksos on March 24th, 2017, 5:20 pm 

I was wondering if we have any Radical Behaviorists on this forum, and/or people who adopt the position of Eliminative Materialism.

...

Radical Behaviorism is a kind of philosophy-of-mind and a particular theory of neuroscience. At base, the unifying motto of Radical Behaviorism is : "The brain mediates behavior."

In neuroscience, the methodology of RB will say that all we can ever really measure of the outward behavior of an animal or a person. But these mere fact is taken further, however. A radical behaviorist will go on to the claim that words like "belief" and "think" or "feel" are cultural lies that do not refer to anything real. The brain is not something that is seen to "think" or to "plan" or even to engage in "reasoning". Instead the brain is nothing but an organ that associates certain stimuli with certain rewards and punishments.

Phrases like "stimulus was paired with a primary reinforcer" translates to : the animal was rewarded with a treat whenever it did action X. The phrase "aversive stimulus was presented in conjunction with the prime", means "we shocked the mouse's feet with electricity whenever it went the wrong way in the maze".

Radical behaviorists are often very frustrating to communicate with. Whenever you give an examples which appears to fly contradictory to their theory, they proceed to explain it away with the clever use of "secondary reinforcers". The basic recurring theme is that brains merely connected rewards and punishments to certain actions, and that there is "no one home" in terms of a sentient person/actor in the brain or mind. Any references to a person planning, believing, feeling , reasoning are immediately dismissed as "wive's tales" that do not reflect how these things are actually happening at the level of physics. The brain mediates behavior, but there is "no one upstairs" (as it were).

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby Heavy_Water on May 4th, 2017, 6:33 pm 

I personally believe the school of Behaviorism had many valid and proven points. Much more so than several other psychological paradigms, such as Psychoanalysis, Dream interpretation, and even some of the tenets of Humanism. Or what we used to call the Client centered approach.

I don't consider myself a Radical Behaviorists, though. And I'm not even sure what you mean by that. Do you mean as in, pure Skinnerian? And that Rad Behaviorists would exclude even a few theories from other schools as having any degree of merit whatsoever? If so, then again, no. I'm a bit more Eclectic than that.

In fact I sort of consider myself a behaviorist. Much of its premises coincide with my primary field of study, and btw, subject of my MA thesis, Evolutionary Psychology.

I would, then, offer a correction to your first paragraph claim when you claimed that Behaviorists think that the brain controls our behavior.

This is to generalized. As some parts of the brain don't factor into behavioristic paradigms.

Rather, I'd say it's more accurate to say that we think Primal Drives and fears are what control most of human behavior. EP of course also adhere to this notion, and even builds on it and augments it with materialist evolution and biological facts.

Hope this helps.

Cheers.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby neuro on May 5th, 2017, 3:51 am 

well, HeavyWater,
I believe hyksos' point was more about the "radical" than about "behaviorism".
Meaning that if you get radical in the strict materialistic view about the brain then you tend to cut out and deprive of any meaning the word itself "psyche".

I believe that a complex system of information processing at a certain point reaches a level - in its elaboration - which gives rise to logics and maths, and this is no more mere biology, this moves in a field where rules and mechanisms in the processes are no more accounted for by the laws of physics and chemistry, i.e. we face a (weak as wish) form of emergence.

Then, when a brain applies logics to internal simulation, prefiguration and prediction of the experience, a further new level is entered.

And when the system attempts at evaluating and conciliating - over several distinct time scales - the conflicting requests of the body, the internal image of oneself, the need for love, social constraints, aesthetic sensibility, ethic evaluation, and long for some form of infinity...
then I believe it is useless to remind us that all arises from interactions between molecules.

The point is we have invaded a completely different territory, that we like to call psyche, a domain about which the laws of physics cannot tell us anything.

I may be wrong, but I believe that feeling ill-at-ease with radical behaviorists is perfectly comprehensible, because one may well agree that quantum physics and general relativity are the final explanation of everything, but they are totally inadequate to understand and explain psychic dynamics. We need a different perspective. We need to accept that there is a change in paradigm, in between. We need to accept that an emerging property (vague and debatable as this term may be) must be dealt with by studying high level mechanisms which do not derive directly from the elementary and fundamental laws of physics.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby Heavy_Water on May 5th, 2017, 12:56 pm 

I disagree that QM cannot explain psychic dynamics, as you said. (I prefer the term, psychological, or behavioral dynamics, btw. Psychic to me smacks of parapsychology woo. LOL)

But, yeah, how do you know that QM will not in fact confirm all the tenets that Behaviorists and Evolutionary Psychologists posit? You do not, my friend. Nobody does, yet, as that area has not been fully understood.

I also fail to see what general relativity has to do with human behavior. LOL

No offense, but I find it amusing sometimes how people, when attempting to be an apologist for a belief of theirs that is being lambasted as psuedo-science, have a propensity to drag "quantum mechanics" into the equation. Rupert Sheldrake does it for his whole Morphic Resonance woo. Astrologists do it. And the aforementioned purveyors of the paranormal and of psychic activity do it. So much so in fact that sometimes I find the phrase, "On a quantum level...." to be a bit of a red flag. LOL

The only reason people are sometimes uncomfortable with the ideas of Behaviorists is that they feel it diminishes their "humanism." Their feeling of being above just mere animal life form. It is the same reason Creationists are loathe to admit the validity of materialist and non-teleologic Evolutionary Theory.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby Braininvat on May 5th, 2017, 1:07 pm 

No offense, but I find it amusing sometimes how people, when attempting to be an apologist for a belief of theirs that is being lambasted as psuedo-science, have a propensity to drag "quantum mechanics" into the equation. Rupert Sheldrake does it for his whole Morphic Resonance woo. Astrologists do it. And the aforementioned purveyors of the paranormal and of psychic activity do it. So much so in fact that sometimes I find the phrase, "On a quantum level...." to be a bit of a red flag. LOL


Heavy Water, if you have a chance to try out our Search feature, we had quite a few threads a couple years or more back on the problems of dragging quantum theory into these fringey science areas. I can't guarantee they will be of interest, but I thought I'd just mention it. Penrose and Hameroff were targeted, and the other usual suspects. Sheldrake is kind of a neo-Platonist, isn't he?
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby hyksos on May 5th, 2017, 5:59 pm 

Some of you may be old enough to remember a large section of the early internet called newsgroups, or NNTP. There were very active in the late 80s and early 90s. There was an active artificial intelligence newsgroup, which should be defunct by now. It was comp.ai

So comp.ai had a collection of regulars by the time I showed up. Some of their primary claims was that "AI is already solved". "We already have strong AI". They often claimed that Reinforcement Learning has "solved AI". Reinforcement Learning is a particular narrow algorithm from symbolic AI. It is quite old as an approach.

Anyways, all of them were dyed-in-the-wool Radical Behaviorists. They would constantly berate you for disagreeing with them. Any references to "think" or "mind" or "feel" or et cetera would be attacked. Usually they would go on a diatribe to tell you that those are all made-up cultural stories we apply to the functioning of a brain. They are social myths and wive's tales, and do not correspond to anything real.

Those comp.ai guys were extremely far off the mainstream. They were regular users for years, and would coordinate their attacks on any newcomers to the newsgroup.

For a more reasoned approach, which should act as a gateway to this type of psychology, you should check out the books of Daniel Dennett.
Image
So while the rest of the academics on campus are decrying that Consciousness is a total mystery to science, and needs to be resolved : Dennett wrote a book that, (more-or-less) says that consciousness does not really exist at all. After reading Consciousness Explained, you will get a front-row-seat to how Radical Behaviorists might think about the mind and the brain and behavior. Radical behaviorists are a lot like Dennett , but take the logic and go with it : too far with it.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby hyksos on May 5th, 2017, 6:09 pm 

From wikipedia :

Dennett and his eliminative materialist supporters, however, respond that the aforementioned "subjective aspect" of conscious minds is nonexistent, an unscientific remnant of commonsense "folk psychology," and that his alleged redefinition is the only coherent description of consciousness.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby Heavy_Water on May 5th, 2017, 7:20 pm 

Braininvat » May 5th, 2017, 12:07 pm wrote:
No offense, but I find it amusing sometimes how people, when attempting to be an apologist for a belief of theirs that is being lambasted as psuedo-science, have a propensity to drag "quantum mechanics" into the equation. Rupert Sheldrake does it for his whole Morphic Resonance woo. Astrologists do it. And the aforementioned purveyors of the paranormal and of psychic activity do it. So much so in fact that sometimes I find the phrase, "On a quantum level...." to be a bit of a red flag. LOL


Heavy Water, if you have a chance to try out our Search feature, we had quite a few threads a couple years or more back on the problems of dragging quantum theory into these fringey science areas. I can't guarantee they will be of interest, but I thought I'd just mention it. Penrose and Hameroff were targeted, and the other usual suspects. Sheldrake is kind of a neo-Platonist, isn't he?



Thanks brain, I'll check out some past posts on that.

Yeah, Sheldrake. A gifted microbiologist. Oxford PhD. Once did some Nobel quality work in India doing gmo on crops and greatly enhancing the nation's agricultural output. Thing is, while in India he got caught up in some platonist Animism zeitgeist and tried to throw some of his biology into the mix and developed this morphic resonance Hypothesis. Very interesting stuff at first glance. But at the end of the day pure hoakum. Rupert has several books, has made a ton of dough, but has been fairly drummed out of the serious biology arena and was last seen as a visiting PhD at some Noetics institute in California. I do think anybody interested in biology or nature or botany should read one of his books, though. He's a witty and likeable chap, and his books are great entertainment. I wish there were just at least a week bit of support for his stuff, though.


http://www.sheldrake.org/
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby wolfhnd on May 6th, 2017, 9:36 am 

QM may or may not be relevant to psychology but it is worth exploring. More relevant I believe is the idea that the universe is an information system. I would not consider the later particularly radical. Many of these discussions are exercises in semantical formulation. Language even the language of math only approximates reality. To explain consciousness you first have to define what the term means to you.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby Heavy_Water on May 6th, 2017, 6:51 pm 

wolfhnd » May 6th, 2017, 8:36 am wrote:QM may or may not be relevant to psychology but it is worth exploring. More relevant I believe is the idea that the universe is an information system. I would not consider the later particularly radical. Many of these discussions are exercises in semantical formulation. Language even the language of math only approximates reality. To explain consciousness you first have to define what the term means to you.


So...by information system, do you mean is in something along the lines of an Akashic Record?

What exactly would the universe use as it's conveyed medium in disseminating it's store of information?

What types of mass could revive it? And how?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Cheers.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby neuro on May 7th, 2017, 1:16 pm 

Just a suggestion.
Basic physical laws certainly are not contradicted by actual human behavior.
Still, the reactions of different species to the same external stimulus differ. And even the reaction of two humans, or even of the same human in two different moments.

So, lots of other aspects have to be taken in account, which certainly are rooted in physic's laws, but have come about to regulate the behavior of a living organism through all the specific events of evolution that have led to that particular organism and all the specific events of individual experience that have brought that individual to behave differently from another.

If you split all these extra factors, which are specific of the animal species and partly of the single individual, from physics, then you realize you have a full set of problems, dynamics and possible laws, which can be faced by a number of theoretical approaches.

Stating that it's just physics (radical behaviorism) probably is not the most efficient way to deal with this set of specific history-derived extra factors and the laws and dynamics these have contributed.
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby hyksos on May 9th, 2017, 4:38 pm 

neuro - This is not a metaphysics discussion per se.

I mean the references and experiments tend to get a little convoluted. But it is believed today within neuroscience that even mice are capable of "ruminating on" the logic and consequences of their actions.

People outside of neuroscience might not be excited about these experiments. But on the inside of the discipline they were considered "earth-shattering landmark discoveries". (Without getting into the step-by-step details of the experiments), it has been established that lab mice can act contrary to their training. This was a huge blow to the Radical Behaviorist camp, whose theories requires such "contemplative action" to be impossible under their framework.

Behaviorists had animals and birds (and lab mice) as 'mindless' automatons who merely act in accordance with the accumulated reward that were reaped on the historical trials of a particular action. Behaviorists (and the Radical kinds) have no leadway in their theories for the idea that the brain of a mouse contains a 'mental space' where the mouse can imagine scenarios. A space where the mouse can play out the competing choices and then act on the predictions made during that "contemplative" fantasizing.

Disciplined science is often so tight in its requirements and so "uptight" in its skepticism. Such results must be presented with full statistical analysis, details of control groups, and then the experimental results must be duplicated by an independent laboratory. I think the trials are clear. Mice are mammals and have a cortex, and yes, they can fantasize about the future repercussions of their actions.

If the word "fantasize" and "mental space" bother you as a scientist : you can always aim your Gun-of-Skepticism lower. You could say, (for example) the results of these experiments cannot be explained by a behaviorist framework.

The mouse was run through an arm of a maze to get the treats for weeks. Same route. Every morning. Three times a day. Day in, day out. When a shortcut was given, he missed it a few times at first. But once he found it, he never went back to the old route again. He violated his "training". He mentally compared the two routes, and chose the shortcut.

(there is a lot more I can say about this experiment.. but I will await replies. That's good enough for now.)
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Re: Radical Behaviorism

Postby hyksos on May 9th, 2017, 4:46 pm 

So corralling the wagons here. Someone may stumble upon this thread and think "What? I thought it was just understood that mice can contemplate the future and act on their decisions. What is all this maze stuff that hyksos is carrying on about?"

Actually no. There were a cluster of people who said that mice don't do this. And then, (insult-to-injury) some real leftfield radical behaviorists on comp.ai even went as far as to say that HUMANS do not do this either! I'm not even joking. They would carry on for 30-course back-and-forth replies wherein they would explain all the actions of humans in terms of "Secondary reinforcers". The debates got thick and heated.

So yeah. I created this thread to see if we have any forum users who fit this bill.
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