Biography of Arthur Staats

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Arthur Staats was born in New York in 1924, the youngest among four children. His Jewish mother, whose maiden name was Jennie Yollis, came from Tetiev, Russia. Her grandfather was a Talmudic scholar, devoted only to study. Her father, after his own study, became an atheist and radical thinker. When Staats was 3 months old, his father Frank died suddenly, several days after the family arrived in Los Angeles after a voyage through the Panama Canal; his mother never remarried.

Through primary and secondaiy schools he scored veiy high on standardized tests but remained, by his account, a bored underachiever and a disappointment to his teachers. An otherwise happy childhood was devoted mostly to omnivorous reading and athletic play. With a family tradition of radical thought, he was feychological



Arthur Personality

exposed, especially by his sister and an uncle, to left-progressive literature and discussions, and began to form at a very early age a world view and an interest in political-social-economic affairs that has continued throughout his life. Raised in a family that was very poor, atheist in a Jewish ethnic tradition, vegetarian, and politically radical, Staats always felt different. He thought differently than his peers, he read different things, he questioned ideas that others accepted, and progressively he became a radical and original thinker, in ways that permeated every aspect of his life, including his various fields of study.

After serving in the Navy in World War II, Staats became a serious college student. In graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles (LTCLA), his wide interests, combined with his drive for analysis in terms of basic principles, led him to complete the requirements for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology while taking his degree in General-Experimental Psychology. With his objective view of human behavior, he found valuable elements in behaviorism's science philosophy and conditioning principles. However, he saw deep and widespread weaknesses also, including behaviorism's focus on animal research, its rejection of traditional psychology, and its divisive internecine rivalry. While still in graduate school, he began a research program to extend learning principles broadly in the systematic study of human behavior, a new development. The approach he constructed was a behaviorism, but not an ordinary behaviorism. It became "psychologized" because it incorporated essential elements of psychology, but it "behaviorized" those elements, so it remained a consistent, unified approach, later called psychological behaviorism.

In 1955 he became an instructor at Arizona State LTniversity (ASLT), advancing to Professor in five years. Beginning his own human behavioral program, within a few years he also succeeded in bringing in Jack Michael, Israel Goldiamond, and Arthur Bachrach to help begin the predominant center of the time for psychological behaviorism and radical behaviorism. While conducting intensive research in selected areas, he habitually placed it conceptually in a broad framework that lay the foundations for general development; then he would move on to the next needed development. For example, at ASLT he began a human-oriented behaviorism that provided a critical foundation for the fields of behavior modification, behavior therapy, behavior analysis, and behavioral assessment. By the early 1960s, when others were just beginning to use reinforcement to change human behavior, he had been using it for ten years. He was already laying the foundations for developments into areas such as cognitive behavior therapy, behavioral assessment, personality, and personality measurement.

He had met his wife Carolyn at LTCLA. When he went to ASLT, she became his assistant, completed her dissertation on a study in his research program, and contributed to two chapters in his first book. When they had a daughter in I960, he soon devised training procedures to study and produce her language-cognitive and sensory-motor development, using his psychological behaviorism principles. He states that his children— Jennifer Kelley, a child psychiatrist, and Peter, an Associate Professor in pain medicine at Johns Hopkins—were the first children raised systematically within behaviorism. In this and other "experimental-longitudinal" child research Staats claims invention of the "timeout" procedure that today is a household word, as well as the token reinforcer (token economy) system that he used in training dyslexic children.

His psychological behaviorism is set in a conceptual framework that involves unification with the biological sciences, from below, and the social sciences and humanities, from above. That perspective yields a philosophy of science, called unified positivism. Within the theoretical and philosophical paradigm, Staats projects significant developments for many areas of psychology, including personality. In 1998 the Arthur W. Staats

Unifying Psychology Lecture was established in the American Psychological Association as an annual event to foster such developments.

Accepting behaviorism's assertion that behavior is maintained by reinforcement, Staats considered the implications of this concept for human behavior. Two of the inteiventions he used early on have become widespread. One of these was described earlier in this chapter: a token-reinforcer or token-economy system, in which desired behavior is reinforced with tokens that can be exchanged later for other reinforcers (O'Leary & Drabman, 1971). The other is a time-out procedure. Staats reasoned that a child who is misbehaving is being reinforced for that behavior. Taking the child out of the environment where the problematic behavior occurs will often remove the reinforcer, and with a "time out from reinforcement," the troublesome behavior is diminished or eliminated. Staats reports introducing the concept of time-out with his own daughter in 1961-1962 and describing it to colleagues, who began using time-out procedures in their research (Staats, 1971). The procedure has become commonplace in elementary schools, where undesirable behavior can be controlled without using aversive punishment. Disruptive students are placed in time-out rooms, where they will not be reinforced for misbehavior.

In contrast to Skinner's (1975) radical behaviorism, which did not specify in advance what would be reinforcing but left that to empirical analysis, Staats asserts that stimuli that elicit emotional responses have the additional function of serving as reinforcers in new learning (Staats, Gross, Guay, & Staats, 1988; Carlson, 1973)- It is because a stimulus elicits an emotional response that it will serve as a reinforcer. If a positive emotional response occurs, behavior is strengthened; if a negative emotional response, behavior is weakened. The stimuli to which we respond in everyday life are more emotional than the lights and geometric shapes that often serve as discriminative stimuli in a Skinner box. In addition to reinforcing behavior, emotional responses can provide incentives that cause us to approach or, in the case of negative emotions, to avoid them. Anything we feel emotional about can either reward or punish us, as well as attract or repel us. These basic principles make our emotional responding a very central determinant of our behavior. In addition, the theoretical recognition of emotions permits behaviorism to include classical as well as operant conditioning, and thus to be a more comprehensive theory (Staats, 1988).

The behaviors that are of interest to personality psychologists are built up through extensive learning experiences, beginning early in life and continuing onward for decades. Skinner (as described above) suggested that many human behaviors are developed by chaining, but this theoretical statement needs to be supplemented by a detailed description of the particular behaviors that humans develop. Staats answers this need, proposing that personality consists of behavioral repertoires, which, like traits, vary from one person to another and lead to different behaviors (see Figure 10.2). Most important are those repertoires that are the stepping stones for subsequent learning: basic behavioral repertoires (BBRs), built up through learning from birth onward.

Staats agrees with traditional personality approaches that personality (in the form of BBRs) is a cause of behavior. By identifying some behavioral repertoires as "basic," he ic Behavioral Repertoires ic Behavioral Repertoires

10.2 Personality as a Basic Behavioral Repertoire behavioral repertoire (personality)

talking to new acquaintances; dining in high-class restaurants with ease knowing how to make small talk; knowing table manners for high-class restaurants; knowing how much to tip a maître-d1

talking to new acquaintances; dining in high-class restaurants with ease

Personality consists of a person's basic behavioral repertoire (BBRP), which is produced by past environmental experiences. Together with the current environment, personality influences current behavior.

provides a behaviorist's version of a concept expressed by psychoanalytic and other theories: that early human learning has special importance for personality. Learning does not end with these basic behavioral repertoires; learning is "long term, cumulative, and very complex" (1996, p. 35). Typically, behavior is built up of combinations of component behaviors, including aspects from each of the three types of BBRs described below (Riedel, Heiby, & Kopetskie, 2001). If the basics are not learned, later learning is necessarily compromised. Fortunately, through carefully planned interventions, it is sometimes possible to teach the basics in remedial programs. For example, adolescents suffering from Down syndrome have been taught basic social skills, such as saying hello and introducing themselves, through a behavioral intervention that includes modeling and role-playing (Soresi & Nota, 2000).

Staats identifies three types of BBRs: the language-cognitive, the emotional-motiva-tional, and the sensory-motor (see Table 10.2). As basic behavioral repertoires, behaviors in these categories, once learned, provide the basis for later, more complicated learning. LTnless a child knows the fundamentals of holding a pencil, for example, learning to write will be impossible, and performance on intelligence tests will suffer. Intervention to teach such fundamentals leads to improved scores on relevant intelligence scales (Staats & Burns, 1981). Similarly, certain emotional responses must be learned before more elaborate motivations can be formed. Whether because of a neglecting early environment or a neurological deficit, a child who does not learn basic experiences of pleasure in interpersonal situations will not develop normal social behaviors. Once we have analyzed the crucial basic behaviors, we are in a better position to deal with life tasks, such as raising children, as well as to develop appropriate interventions to change behavior, based on learning principles (cf. Staats & Eifert, 1990).

Each human, with a unique set of environmental conditions, learns emotional responses to a huge number of stimuli. That constitutes the individual's unique emotional-motiva-tional BBR. Some of the emotional responses to stimuli are built into us by biology: positive emotional responses to food, negative emotional responses to painful stimuli. Other

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  • amaranto
    Which Arthur described human behavior?
    3 years ago
  • tiffani
    Which year did Arthur Staats behaviourist theory come up?
    3 years ago

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