Behaviorism and interbehaviorism

An Evaluation of Kantor's Perspective on Behaviorism and Interbehaviorism

In The Scientific Evolution of Psychology, Volume 2 (1969), J. R. Kantor identifies that Behaviorism was significant in the shift in focus of psychology (p. 357). Kantor states that Behaviorism not only clearly defined its subject matter but it also began to establish psychology as a science (1969, p. 357). With these two events, Behaviorism brings psychology closer to the non-transcendentalism of the Hellenic period of the Greeks (1969, p. 357).

However beneficial Behaviorism was to the development of the science of psychology, Kantor asserts that Behaviorism still has traces of the dualistic notions that inundated psychology in its earlier years (1969, p. 366). Kantor offers the interbehavioral field theory as a solution to establish a purely naturalistic psychology. This paper will identify benefits and criticisms of Behaviorism according to Kantor, briefly describe Interbehaviorism and the field construct and give a critical analysis of Kantor's views. Unfortunately, a detailed and extensive analysis of Behaviorism and Interbehaviorism is outside the scope of and space provided for the present paper.

Kantor's Analysis

Restrictions of Behaviorism

Although Behaviorism attempted to abandon attribution to supernatural events or constructs such as the mind (1969, p. 360), Kantor states that there is "no clear-cut effort to break with the established methods of description and interpretation (1969, p. 366). In other words, Behaviorism still has traces of the mentalistic characteristics of its counterparts of psychology even though it appears to be more naturalistic. In addition to its dualistic model, Kantor states that some of these characteristics that are confining Behaviorism to mentalism include specialism, analogism, reductionism, and organocentrism.

Kantor states that the narrow focus and specialization of fields of work has hindered the success of Behaviorism (1969, p. 366). Specifically, Kantor says that the fields of work have been selected by behaviorists "arbitrarily (1969, p. 366). Here, behaviorists focus their research on a particular area of interest and then extend the findings to other behaviors. For example, some behaviorists researched basic animal behavior and then projected the results to higher-order human behavior. Since behaviorists view the results of basic research can explain complex human behavior, they are not conducting research in such areas.

Another criticism of Kantor's on Behaviorism is analogism. Some behaviorists would create analogies when interpreting behavior. Kantor says that this analogism is somewhat reminiscent of the time when psychologists and philosophers described the body in terms of mechanics (1969, p. 367). This comparison was made in terms of the human body possessing a soul. Therefore, in addition to the analogy, this "throwback (1969, p. 367) highlights the dualistic notion of body and soul.

Reductionism is another criticism of Behaviorism. Various behaviorists, in their effort to reject mentalism, have reduced psychological events to physiological and anatomical movements (p. 367). Some of these behaviorists have even suggested that a physiologist or a biologist of the future will further explain various psychological events that behaviorists cannot. Although it is not directly stated, it seems as if Kantor may be talking about Skinner here since Skinner has talked about a futuristic physiologist working together with behaviorists (Skinner, 1971). Kantor states that reductionism separates one from observing or evaluating the actual events (1969, p. 367). According to Kantor, physiological events are not the same as psychological events. Therefore, to understand psychological events, one cannot simply just observe physiological events.

The final criticism that Kantor has of Behaviorism is that Behaviorism is organocentrism. "This is the attitude that the data of psychology are all exclusively concentrated in the organism (1969, p. 367). In other words, the psychological event is found within the organism. For example, playing the piano does not just involve the individual who is engaging in that behavior. One could not play the piano without a history with respect to a piano, a motivational event of some sort to play the piano, a piano itself, and other various environmental factors. Furthermore, the behavior of playing the piano is not localized in the fingers. One could not play the piano if one did not have a central nervous system, a brain, blood flowing through the body and other various processes of the organism. Therefore, the psychological event is not found within the organism or within a particular part of the organism. It is in the interaction of the whole organism, its history, and with its surrounding environment that constitutes a psychological event (Kantor, 1969, p. 376). This organocentric assumption seems to be akin to the transcendentalism of the soul being the originator of behavior or the brain being the main organ of behavior.

Solution to Behaviorism's Restrictions

In response to his own criticisms of Behaviorism, Kantor offers interbehavioral fields as a solution to the restrictions of Behaviorism. Kantor defines the essence of field constructions is "that all events are to be regarded as complex interactions of many factors in specified situations (1969, p. 369). Specifically, the field is a description of an event that one looks at and the construct is the verbal behavior describing the field. Kantor says that it is essential to understand field constructs as "a series of interacting factors in a given system (1969, p. 370). In other words, to fully grasp the notion of the field, one must include a whole system of features to aid in the description and explanation of events (1969, p. 371). As opposed to the organocentrism of Behaviorism, the psychological event is found by observing the interaction of the organism with setting factors and stimulating objects and conditions (1969, p. 371).

For Kantor, Interbehaviorism, a branch of psychology embracing the field theory, encompasses the positive aspects of Behaviorism without it previously mentioned criticisms. With respect to dualistic notions, Kantor states that Interbehaviorism is not an extension of traditional mentalistic psychology. It has only focused on observing and evaluating events just as they are, without imposing any cultural influences on the interpretation of such events (1969, p. 376). Additionally, Interbehaviorism rejects reductionism, specialism, and analogism. Interbehaviorists do not create analogies or extensions to explain complex human behavior that they have yet to study. Furthermore, they do not wait for a scientist of another field to explain the dynamics of a psychological event.

Critical Observations

Field theory and Interbehaviorism, as described by Kantor, seems to purify psychology from the transcendental factors and restores the Naturalism to psychology as it once was during the Hellenic era. Like Aristotle, Kantor clearly describes his subject matter and studies it with as little of cultural influences as possible. Although Behaviorism attempts to do the same thing, various behaviorists seem to be Materialists as opposed to Naturalists. Materialism is dualistic in nature (1969, p. 186 190). Although it tends to focus on "matter, for something to be identified as matter, it must have a counter part that is immaterial. Materialists kept the traditional notion of mind complement to matter, even though the focus was on the latter. For example, Kantor says that Watson was satisfied in investigating animal behavior and felt no need to theorize about mentality (1969, p. 360). This statement seem to suggest a notion of Mentalism on the part of Watson. Like mentalists, he does not deny that the mind exists, he just prefers to study material events.

Another benefit of the use of interbehavioral field theory is the bi-directionality of a stimulus with the behavior of the organism. Skinner's behaviorism seems to depend on a linear relation of antecedent stimulus impelling a behavior followed by a consequence. It can be mistaken for a cause-effect relationship. The notion of cause and effect can give rise to mentalistic notions of purpose and intention. The bi-directional interaction within the interbehavioral field seems to lack this assumption of cause and effect, allowing for a more naturalistic account of behavior. Kantor states that "the interbehaviorist assumes that the complex interrelation of the particular items of interbehavioral fields provides a sufficient basis for explaining what happens without resorting to illegitimate autistic creations (1969, p. 381).

Interbehaviorism also seems to have the flexibility to investigate, observe, and analyze various complex human behaviors that Behaviorism has not been able to. Although Behaviorism has extended descriptions of basic behaviors to complex, non-researched behaviors, it is still waiting for the physiologist or biologist of the future to explain "private events (Skinner, 1971). These private events give rise to organocentrism which alludes to mentalism. Interbehaviorism and the notion of field constructs does not suggest that complex human behaviors such as thinking, judging, remembering, and the like occur somewhere inside the body and are only observable to the individual whose body in which they are occurring. As previously mentioned, field constructs incorporate various setting factors, environmental stimuli, the interaction between the organism and such events in addition to the history of the organism and the interaction with the events. By taking this perspective, psychology is not limited to the type of behaviors it can scientifically investigate. Granted, these behaviors have been extensively evaluated; however, such investigations have been inundated by transcendental factors, giving rise to an unscientific account. By excluding such transcendental factors, it seems as if Interbehaviorism can scientifically account for such complex human behaviors.

Kantor describes a scientific enterprise consisting of "the building of constructs about events on the basis of contacts with them (1963, p. 17). It is then through evaluation and manipulation that laws are formed regarding the events and their interactions (1963, p. 17). Influences can contaminate such a scientific enterprise. Interbehaviorism, with the use of the field construct, seems to eliminate as much of these influences as possible. With the emergence of Behaviorism, psychology grew closer to a naturalistic science; however, as Kantor highlights, there were fundamental restrictions from achieving this goal. Interbehaviorism seems to be what Behaviorism strived to be: a naturalistic account of behavior lacking transcendental factors with the ability to be applied to a vast amount of behaviors that most individuals seem to be interested in.


  • Kantor, J. R. (1963). The Scientific Evolution of Psychology: Volume I. Chicago, IL: The Principia Press.
  • Kantor, J. R. (1969). The Scientific Evolution of Psychology: Volume II. Chicago, IL: The Principia Press.
  • Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

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