Thursday, February 19, 2009

later that same day...

I think to determine if the example below would be considered entitled behavior would require some social validity work, i.e., how many people would see the behavior described below as "entitled." I can certainly see how it could be construed that way. The verbal behavior that the patient displayed seems to be in accordance with my noting that one would anticipate the use of mands at a higher frequency among those considered to be entitled. I would suggest that the patient is manding the nurse..."i ain't taking your meds...where [the fuck] is my treat me like this..." Similarly, this VB could be considered "verbally aggressive," yes? The question is, how is "verbally aggressive" behavior materially different than non-verbally aggressive behavior? Change in decibels? pitch? use of certain verbal operants as opposed to others, other bodily movements?

My attempt at this was to identify certain behavioral topographies that if demonstrated to a group of naive observers, the general understanding would be that at least one person (recall I noted that it needs at least two; in the case below it is the nurse and the patient) was engaging in "entitled" behavior. I see this as a way of grounding those fictions that we started this thread with. We all acknowledge that there is something called "entitlement," the question is how does that manifest behaviorally? There must be some kind of necessary and sufficient topographies that would result in people calling (tacting?) that behavior "entitled."

I don't work in the field of autism, but basically, there is some standard that BA's are using when teaching kids with ASD how to make contact with more reinforcers in their natural environments. I would suspect that aside from developing the specific behavioral sequence (chaining) that is done, there is relatively little thought given to why THIS behavioral chaining? In other words, when teaching kids (autistic or otherwise) how to make contact with reinforcers, we are teaching them a "standard" way of doing something. Many parents want to teach their kids to be polite. Polite is a construct. Behaviorally, what does "polite" look like? We all know it when we see it, so it should be easy to identify the material properties of it. What my little exercise taught me is that it ain't that easy!
what is entitlement, really????

post to a behavior analysis list...(I'm getting braver)

I realize that XXX was posing the question below in jest, but it got me to thinking...entitlement is one of those fictions/constructs that is similar to pornography ("don't know how to define it, but know it when we see it"). certainly, the notion of "entitlement" is an explanatory fiction, but it does have certain behavioral topographies, yes? desirous of maintaining a behaviorological accounting of entitlement, I started wondering what those topographies might look like; specifically, how do we know that someone is entitled? or acting entitled?

I decided to use XXX's example of the landed aristocracy as a starting point. Not having spent time with landed aristocracy (that I know of!) nor having made any systematic, observational study of them, I can only speculate based on my imagination of what those behavioral topographies might look like. Since it takes at least two to "produce" entitlement, I will consider what behavioral topographies one might observe from the "entitled" and from the "deferential" (for lack of a better term). Note that I am not addressing the contingencies which produce the topographies, but merely attempting to identify those that would most likely be observed.

(when in the presence of the entitled) bowing, kneeling, head lowering, eyes lowering, eventually body/eyes becomes stationary, "flat affect," verbal behavior only in response to verbal/non-verbal behavior initiated by one of the entitled. Frequent use of verbal behavior such as "Sir, sire, madam, your grace, your excellency, etc." Rapid, yet precise movements when given a mand.

(when in presence of deferential) standing or sitting in positions that result in the least amount of physical discomfort, or walking, frequent use of mands, eye movement, movement of arms, hands.

Whew, that is hard to do! Incomplete due to my inability to find precise terms (and not constructs!!!) to describe the behavior. Maybe others can continue, edit, etc.

I am interested in this as a form of analysis as in my Soc courses, we of course discuss "normal" behavior. I tell my students that normal is just a description and what it generally refers to is behavior that a seeming majority of people engage in at one time. Hence, "normal classroom behavior" for students is sitting, not talking, facing the board, and other bodily movements that are restricted to a particular area of the desk or table. "Abnormal" behavior would be jumping up and screaming. Many times when I ask what is normal behavior in classrooms, they say, "listening" -- I always laugh and say I can't tell if you are listening or not! Unless one is deaf, there is good likelihood of the vibrations coming from my mouth are vibrating bones in your ears, but beyond that, I have no clue what might be happening.

Interesting exercise to try and capture the topographies that are associated with the constructs that we use daily. Difficult to do (at least for me).
Wait, you mean I don't exist?

"I" is not an independent variable.
exorcise those reified demons and be healed!!!!!

post to a sociology reference to this article.

That said, I do think that we owe it to our students (especially those taking soc courses) to explain to them how arbitrary a "grading system" is. I mean, why do have a 100 point scale (generally)? Where did that come from? I don't know, but I do know that it was not a command from on high and it does not represent any particular human property that can be measured with any precision (learning, knowledge, information, etc.). We forget that a 100 point scale does not mimic anything in nature; in other words, nature doesn't care about our grading scales, letter grades, IQ tests or any of the other stuff we have created over the last few millennia. Nature produces human beings which are subject to "learning" but there is no "grade" for that learning in nature other than the ability of the human being to survive. It seems that we have forgotten that grades are human creations; we have reified them so much so that we really believe that they are accurate measures of something related to humans, something that has discernable, material properties. They do not.

If you stop and think about it, how do we know that our students have learned anything? We "know" because they are able to respond a certain way (by answering questions, "correctly," i.e., presumably differently than that would have absent our "teaching"). In other words, it is a behavioral indication. We presume (without any empirical evidence) that this behavioral indicator is representative of some kind of immaterial property of the brain/human called intelligence, learning, knowledge, etc. These things are not amenable to empirical investigation as they have no material properties; like many of our colleagues in other behavioral/social sciences, however, we are pretty much convinced that they DO exist. This is our error.

I understand that we have an expectation of students getting an "education" (whatever that is and however that manifests behaviorally), but I think many students are savvy enough to know that there is a particular, material object that is going to provide them with tangible benefits that may far outweigh whatever it is that they learned in school and that is, of course, the diploma...a piece of paper that we have reified as yet another object that supposedly is evidence of something called an "education." Is that a bad thing? I don't know. I do think that we have an obligation to discuss these things (including "grading systems") with our students, however.