Self Awareness

Skinner (1974) believed that humans not only have consciousness but are also aware of then consciousness; they are not only aware of their environment but are also aware of themselves as part of their environment; they not only observe external stimuli but are also aware of themselves observing that stimuli.

Behavior is a function of the environment, and part of that environment is within one's skhi. This portion of the universe is peculiarly one's own and is therefore private. Each person is subjectively aware of his or her own thoughts, feelings, recollections, and intentions. Self-awareness and private events can be illustrated by the following example. A worker reports to a friend "I was so frustrated today that I ahnost quit my job." What can be made of such a statement? First, the report itself is verbal behavior and as such, can be studied in the same way as other behaviors. Second the statement that she was on the verge of quitting her job refers to a non-behavior. Responses never emitted are not responses and of course, have no meaning to the scientific analysis of behavior. Third a private event transpired "within the skin" of the worker. This private event, along with her verbal report to the friend can be scientifically analyzed. At the tune that the worker felt like quitting, she might

Emotions are subjectively real and may have observable concomitants, but they are not directly observable themselves.

have observed die following covert behavior: "I am observing within myself increasing degrees of frustration, which are raising the probability that I will inform my boss that I am quitting." This statement is more accurate than sayhig "I almost quit my job," and it refers to behavior that, although private, is within the boundaries of scientific analysis.


From the viewpoint of radical behaviorism, drives are not causes of behavior, but merely explanatory fictions. To Skinner (1953), drives shnply refer to the effects of deprivation and satiation and to the corresponding probability that the organism will respond. To deprive a person of food increases the likelihood of eating; to satiate a person decreases that likelihood. However, deprivation and satiation are not the only correlates of eating. Other factors that hicrease or decrease the probability of eathig are internally observed hunger pangs, availability of food and previous experiences with food reinforcers.

If psychologists knew enough about the three essentials of behavior (antecedent, behavior, and consequences), then they would know why a person behaves, that is, what drives are related to specific behaviors. Only then would drives have a legitimate role in the scientific study of human behavior. For the present, however, explanations based on fictionalized constructs such as drives or needs are merely untestable hypotheses.

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