Title

Making Sense of Sensitivity in the Human-Operant Literature

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Behavior Analyst

Volume

21

Issue

1

Publisher

Association for Behavior Analysis International

Publication Date

1998

First Page

1

Last Page

12

Abstract

Human operant behavior is often said to be controlled by different variables or governed by different processes than nonhuman operant behavior. Support for this claim within the operant literature comes from data suggesting that human behavior is often insensitive to schedules of reinforcement to which nonhuman behavior has been sensitive. The data that evoke the use of the terms sensitivity and insensitivity, however, result from both between-species and within-subject comparisons. We argue that because sensitivity is synonymous with experimental control, conclusions about sensitivity are best demonstrated through within-subject comparisons. Further, we argue that even when sensitivity is assessed using within-subject comparisons of performance on different schedules of reinforcement, procedural differences between studies of different species may affect schedule performance in important ways. We extend this argument to age differences as well. We conclude that differences across populations are an occasion for more precise experimental analyses and that it is premature to conclude that human behavior is controlled by different processes than nonhuman behavior.

Comments

Originally published by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Publisher's PDF and article fulltext available through remote link via PubMed Central. This article appeared in the Behavior Analyst.
Note: Gregory Madden was affiliated with the University of Vermont at time of publication.

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