Thursday, February 19, 2009

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).

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