Do behaviorists not have problems?

“Behaviorism holds that only observable behaviors should be studied, as cognition and mood are too subjective.”

How does a behaviorist define a psychological problem? Psychological problems are only problems from a subjective point of view. If the problem itself is purely subjective, why is the answer to the problem restricted to observable (i.e. objective) behaviors? Isn’t that a bit like saying if your house is burning down, the only allowed method for fighting the fire is to pour water on a house in the next town over?

Well, to a pure behaviorist, it wouldn’t matter whether there was a verifiable problem in the brain or what not, but only that the manifestation of it in the form of behavior might cause trouble for the person doing the behaving. So I dunno, I guess uh…yeah I dunno.

I’m sure they have problems though. I can just feel it.

What is a psychological problem without any behavioral manifestation?

I can’t think of any.

Think about it.

“I’m shy.” What does that mean, really? It is nonsense unless it is coupled with a behavior like, “I stutter when I am around people I don’t know,” or “I get really nervous talking to women.”

“I’m depressed.” What does that mean? That you can’t get out of bed in the morning? That your work ethic has been dropping lately? That your work ethic has increased dramatically lately because you are using it as an escape?

So why focus on these nebulous nothings that could really mean anything when we could focus on the actual problem(s) at hand: the behavior.

Behavior isn’t a problem unless it is subjectively determined to be a problem. Thus, there’s a kind of oxymoronic quality to “behavioral psychology”. Your opening question in this post has nothing to do with my OP.

I bet they have problems too. I can’t think of what an objectively established problem might be though. Which leaves only touchy feely subjective problems.

I don’t know if they are “subjective” inasmuch as they are “normative”. It could be argued that deviations from the norm are subjective, but they are “subjective” in the same way that everything in the social sciences is “subjective” so I’m not sure it makes sense to actually describe them as “subjective”. Know what I mean?

What I’m trying to say is there is no way to establish from within the behaviorist paradigm that particular “deviations from the norm” are, in fact, problems. There is nothing at all directly objective, scientific, empirical, or even rational about establishing “norms”. Norms in any context are subjective. Behavioral psychology, as a branch of materialistic philosophy, ignores “inner feelings” completely. Yet it is inner feelings that are the only source of any “problem”. So it follows that behaviorists would logically reject from the start the very basis of their discipline - that there are psychological “problems”.

I only have one disagreement anon, physical health can manifest itself into behavioral/physchological problems. Chemical imbalance is one physical problem that can cause mental health issues. Inner feelings at this point are most likely not real as in natural, they are a symptom. Physchologists and behaviorists tend to follow rule books just as any other proffesional does. How many people do you know that can think out of the box? that can go past the books and understand that which has not been understood?

Chemicals maybe have something, or even everything, to do with mental health issues, somehow. But manipulating my chemical makeup “externally” is very different than manipulating it “internally”. So for instance reducing behavioral/psychological “solutions” to a series of externally applied chemical remedies is a seriously deficient approach. And the very idea of “imbalance” is a purely subjective take on any situation. From an objective point of view there is no such thing as “imbalance”. There is only description of variety. To take this a step further - i.e. back to my original burning house analogy - if I have a problem with a particular person, and that person leaves town, does that mean my problem goes away? No, my problem will remain. Psychological problems, ultimately, have nothing to do with “external factors”. Though of course we can and do find temporary relief through manipulating situations.

Good point about following rule books. It’s like with cookbooks. Why don’t they include the reason behind a particular step? Instead of just claiming “this step is very important…”

If I’m not mistaken, a distinction needs to be made between behaviouralism and pharmaceutical treatment.

In any case, the “mind = black box” supposition of behaviouralism does present pretty obvious practical limitations to the scope of treatments. For instance, a severe condition such as borderline personality disorder has proven so far to be immune to both pharmaceutical and behavioural treatments, with only “dialectical behaviour therapy” showing promise … a talk based approach (or have the lines between behaviouralism and developmentalism become so smeared that psychotherapy could now be considered a stimulus?)

In my own field of autism, behaviouralism has officially ruled the day (in great part due to it’s relatively simple testability, and how that works in terms of funding mechanisms … but its efficacy remains very inconsistent, though no doubt useful). On the ground, though, it’s at the very least as important that a relationship-based developmental approach be provided in tandem with the behaviouralist applications.

I think a pharmaceutical emphasis is a natural result of behaviorist philosophy. I do recognize that they aren’t identical - I threw in that “for instance” in my post for that very reason. Perhaps that wasn’t enough recognition of the distinction though.

Thanks for this. I agree regarding the practical limitations. Nothing of any practical value is limitation-less. My points are more about behaviorism’s philosophical underpinnings, which strike me as very, very strange.

Your problem only remains if you think about that person or person’s like them. Otherwise your problem is gone. If I keep touching something that irritates me all that I have to do is stop touching it. I happen to like a specific berry but, the vine it grows on irritates my skin, Problem. Do I give up eating these delicious berries in order to stop itching or do I just live with the itch? I live with the itch until the berries are out of season, then end of problem til I cut back the vines for the next year,Yes these Dew berries are soooo worth it. :laughing:
mental problems are much the same way, get rid of the irritant, problems stop. the only thing that remains is a residual awareness, which fades after time. the one glorious thing about most of our brains is that misery tends to fade faster than happiness. Can you recall many painful things about being a toddler to 5 years old? compared to happy things? Most of us cannot recall the pain of discipline punishment that we all get as little ones, we do recall happy times far more clearly. I have lived just over 4 decades, I barely recall much misery of my 20s I do recall the good times much more clearly. I do know my 20s were hard but, specifics are blurred to faded.
External or internal they all work together to make us one mixed up crazy hairless ape species. :smiley:

Folks that write text books tend to expect you to have a teacher that will explain things. ROFL good joke eh? Most teachers never bother to find out they just follow the books. Its a terrible circle. Ever ask questions that your teachers could not answer? Its frustrating is it not?

Yes, but what is the irritant? The irritant needs to be identified. If you’re annoyed by some person, and you make them go away, does your annoyance end? Or does it find some other excuse? Triggers aren’t causes.

I disagree. Relative scales are employed all the time in hard sciences. I mean, heck, even decibles are relative!

But we needn’t even go that far. It is possible to take the position that deviations from the mean are bad as a given. It certainly is in the ethics of Aristotle, Nagarjuna, Confucius, and others.

Yes, it is possible. But doing so is a step that is excluded by definition from the behaviorist paradigm. According to behaviorism, “behaviors as such can be described scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as the mind.” Yet there is no need to deal with “behaviors as such” if there isn’t, firstly, a problem. There are no objective problems. There is only variety, there is no mean. If behaviorism allows for the existence of problems, which it must, then behaviorists must admit that they are treating problems as “hypothetical constructs”. This may in fact be more reasonable than even a hard core behaviorist supposes.

The mean isn’t a hypothetical construct though. We can assay for the mean pretty easily and identify those who deviate from it. Heck, we perform that task intuitively using heuristics most of the time.

For example, most people don’t masturbate in public. We can take samplings of the population and determine this pretty easily. Masturbating in public is, therefore, a behavior that deviates from the mean. So, we can approach this behavior and deal with it.

What I think you are getting at is that this approach has a dark side lurking underneath. What is a “bad” deviation from the mean and what is an “acceptable” deviation from the mean – much less a laudable deviation from the mean! Treatment is, obviously, only sought for the “bad” deviations.

Those are all value judgments. But I don’t think that value judgments need be ascientific. Indeed, science deals with value judgments like that all the time. Should I devote my time to identifying which molecules are associated with cancer or should I devote my time to counting the grains of sand in the Sahara?

Exactly - what is a good behaviorist doing valuing the mean? What is scientific about valuing the mean? The difference between behaviorism and real science is that behaviorists claim to be totally against the very thing that is the foundation of their discipline.

And of course a mean is a hypothetical construct. Find me the “average person”. No such person exists.

Sure they do.

Though we have two different ways of establishing it. In a post-genomic world, we have several wild-type humans. Any of those is, by definition, and average human being.

Or we could average any number of factors and create an expression of an average human from that.

Both approaches are routinely employed in real science.

I see what you mean but, its a two to tango thing. A seed lays dormant until it gets moisture. Which is the cause of the plant, the moisture or the seed? Take away one and no plant. Inside our brains, due to nature and nurture, are thought seeds waiting to grow, so to speak. Our own bodies can start the growth or some other external stimulus which = water. We take away the water and no growth. We can dissect our thoughts till the cows come home from overseas but, to what purpose?
Everytime we go into our thoughts we sow another seed then another, then another? You get the picture? Sometimes we can over think too much, way too much then we are no longer in control. We have too much growing inside our brains. it gets jumbled ,confused and bogs us down. Proffesionals are somewhat trained to sort out excessive growth and perhaps remove a part that bogs us down. Sometimes they find the seed and get rid of it and sometimes its better just to get rid of the water. Pros can only be trained so much they try their best to know as many possibles as possible. But take alook around you, You are surrounded by water. From sight to tactile to smell to hearing, to taste and any combination therein. Our senses is the water hose. It brings us us so much information in a day that we can flood our brains. We learn from babies to dismiss and or sort it all out with out thinking too much about it all.
Sometimes we can’t. There is a crap load of water stimuli out there in this world, sometimes we need help.

As are hypothetical constructs. Which is what you just described.

EDIT: As I said earlier, “The difference between behaviorism and real science is that behaviorists claim to be totally against the very thing that is the foundation of their discipline.” The problem isn’t in the use of hypothetical constructs. In fact, I suggested earlier that, ironically, in the end behaviorists may not take their own discipline seriously enough. There are no problems, objectively speaking.