Bridging the Schism between Behavioral and Cognitive Analyses

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

The Behavior Analyst





Publication Date

Spring 1994

First Page


Last Page



A major schism in modern scientific psychology has occurred between behavior analysts and cognitive psychologists. The two groups speak in different languages, but the languages can be translated so that they are mutually understandable; when either language is translated into the other, similarities emerge from seeming differences. We draw an analogy between the basic units of behavior analysis (the operant and the establishing operation) and cognitive psychology (the production). We argue that both units describe behavior as a function of motivative and discriminative antecedents. In addition, the two perspectives account in analogous ways for ongoing changes in motivation and for control by verbal statements. Adherents of the two perspectives have experimentally analyzed some of the same problems and fashioned similar solutions for applied problems. We conclude that many of the commonly cited differences between the two perspectives are the result of misunderstanding, and that the real differences need not preclude communication and collaboration. The schism can be bridged.