Name: Kelvin Fonseca
Type: MSc dissertation
Publication date: 20/03/2019
Advisor:

Namesort descending Role
Diego Zilio Alves Advisor *

Examining board:

Namesort descending Role
Diego Zilio Alves Advisor *
Elizeu Batista Borloti Internal Examiner *
Kester Carrara External Examiner *
Paulo Rogério Meira Menandro Internal Alternate *
Rafael Rubens de Queiroz Balbi Neto External Alternate *

Summary: Behavior analysis defines itself as the science which studies the behavior of organisms, but the “organism” doesn’t receive the same attention “behavior” does. In coursebooks of basic principles and vocabularies it’s not possible to find an explicit and consensual definition of this “organism”, and despite the term being present in the title of one of the most significant works of behavior analysis, B. F. Skinner’s The Behavior of Organisms, its status seems uncertain, and its function has been the subject of debate. Also, in introductory books of psychology and non-behavioral-analytic literature can be found some critiques of behavior analysis that portray the field as presupposing a simplistic conception of the human being. Since the absence of a straightforward formulation can result in conceptual confusion in research inside the field as well as the perpetuation of misguided critiques outside of it, this work has sought to make it clear if there is a definition for the term in the field. With the Conceptual Interpretation of Text Procedure (PICT), we analyzed a sample of the behavioral-analytic literature and of Skinner’s works seeking to find a formulation for the term. We noted the “organism” is a locus WHERE multiple discussions in behavior analysis flow to, and that far form having a single and homogeneous meaning, at least 10 different conceptions of the term can be found in 86 years of the literature, and it appears in at least 15 different contexts in Skinner’s writings. From 10 of these conceptions found in the behavioral analysis literature, 9 were about individual organisms and one about an organismic metaphor ofPalavras-chave: análise do comportamento, organismo, pesquisa conceitual, análise comportamental de termos psicológicos society; they were divided into three big groups, depending on how they dealt with the demarcation between organism and environment: morphological conceptions took the skin as the relevant border, transdermal conceptions found such criterion lacking and proposed other alternatives, and organismical conceptions proposed the elimination of the term. In Skinner’s writings, we created categories based upon the texts, and after a description of some of them, we argue that there are at least three ambiguities in his writings regarding the demarcation criterion between organism and environment, to the phylogenetic role in the constitution of the organism, and the metaphorical extension of the individual organism as a model of society. Finally, we suggest four possible criteria to guide our choice or creation of a new conception of organism inside behavior analysis: the skin is not as important as a boundary, behavior arises from the activity of the organism as a whole, organism-environment mutuality, and the behavior is always right. The choice for these criteria was due not to these propositions being new in any way but rather to the extension of its implications, since the scientific activity of organisms writing about conceptions of organisms has long overarching consequences over time and space to other organisms, since it can describe the range and the limits of these organisms to change and to be modified by the world.

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