The Theory of Interests and the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Correspondence relations

«At the level of abstract language, there is a correspondence between the experimental language of behavior analysis and the theory of interests […]; the latter fits more easily in dealing with the difficulties inherent in the explication of social phenomena. The relation between experimental language and abstract language (theory of interests) is based on the correspondence between the predicate “operant behavior” (minimal unit of analysis) and the (primitive) predicate “interest”. In this way, the concept of interest loses the motivational connotations that the common language ascribes to it and designates only instrumental sequences of operant behavior. Therefore, saying that an interest is satisfied or not satisfied (sacrificed) is equivalent to saying that a behavior is realized or is not realized.»

(A new paradigm for the integration of the social sciences, p.333)

Giulio Bolacchi

Conjunct Interrelation and Disjunct Interrelation of Interests

Correspondences

«It is possible to change from the abstract analysis of the theory of interests to the experimental (dynamic) analysis of behavior (founded on functions) by establishing a correspondence between the terms denoting interests and the terms denoting operant behaviors, in their different specifications given by the instrumental behavior (RS) and consummatory behavior (RC):

IFA.1   ↔   RCA.1

IFB.1   ↔   RCB.1

ISA.1   ↔   RSA.1

ISB.1   ↔   RSB.1»

(A new paradigm for the integration of the social sciences, p. 336)

Instrumentality Relation

«The instrumentality relation between two interests of the same subject corresponds to the process of secondary reinforcement. The mechanism of secondary reinforcement explicates how an instrumental interest arises in the subject’s field in relation to a final interest.

We make a final interest IF1 correspond to the behavior RC1 and the satisfaction of IF1 to the relation RC1 → S+.

Then, we make an instrumental interest IS1 correspond to the behavior RS1 and the satisfaction of IS1 to the relation RS1 → SD. The secondary reinforcement implies an instrumentality relation between IF1 and IS1, which has to be explicated by relating the satisfaction of IF1 with the satisfaction of IS1IT

(Processo di apprendimento e strutture ideologiche [Learning process and ideological structures], p. 25)

Conjunct Interrelation and Social Reinforcement

«In the case of conjunct interrelation there are the following social reinforcement relations:

(a) for subject A, RSA.1 is the behavior (corresponding to the interest ISA.1) reinforced by the behavior RSB.1 (corresponding to the interest ISB.1) of subject B. The latter behavior is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which A realizes the consummatory behavior RCA.1, which is reinforced by S+ (i.e., A satisfies its interest IFA.1);

(b) for subject B, RSB.1 is the behavior (corresponding to the interest ISB.1) reinforced by the behavior RSA.1 (corresponding to the interest ISA.1) of subject A. The latter behavior is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which B realizes the consummatory behavior RCB.1, which is reinforced by S+ (i.e., B satisfies its interest IFB.1). It is worth noting that both RCA.1   and RCB.1 are reinforced by the same reinforcer S+, since the interests IFA.1 and IFB.1 are positively involved.

On that account, the reciprocal complementarity of the two subsets of instrumental interests belonging to different fields of interests, which characterizes positive involvement, is specified on the experimental level by the reciprocal positive reinforcement of the corresponding sequences of operant behaviors.

(A new paradigm for the integration of the social sciences, pp. 336-337)

Disjunct Interrelation and Social Reinforcement

«In the case of disjunct interrelation there are the following social reinforcement relations:

(a) for subject A, RSA.1 is the behavior (corresponding to the interest ISA.1) reinforced by the absence of behavior RSB.1 (corresponding to the interest ISB.1) of subject B. The absence of RSB.1 is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which A realizes the consummatory behavior RCA.1, which is reinforced by S+ (i.e., A satisfies its interest IFA.1);

(b) for subject B, RSB.1 is the behavior (corresponding to the interest ISB.1) reinforced by the absence of behavior RSA.1 (corresponding to the interest ISA.1) of subject A. The absence of behavior RSA.1 is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which B realizes the consummatory behavior RCB.1, which is reinforced by S+ (i.e., B satisfies its interest IFB.1).

In the case of disjunct interrelation only one of the two subjects can realize an instrumental behavior and thence a consummatory behavior, i.e., only one of the two subjects can satisfy its own interest. In fact, interests IFA.1 and IFB.1 are negatively involved. This implies that only one of the two interests can be satisfied and therefore only the behavioral sequence corresponding to the interest which is satisfied can be realized.»

(A new paradigm for the integration of the social sciences, pp. 337-338)

The intensity of interest and the compactness of operant sequences

«Two different operant sequences carried out by the same subject can intersect (e.g., one can discuss business while having lunch). In that event, operants belonging to instrumental sequences followed by different reinforcers are distributed over time alternately.

The observation that a subject may alternate operants belonging to different sequences, followed by diverse reinforcers, suggests a way to give a meaning to the expression “intensity of an interest.” When starving, a subject will hardly discuss business at lunch; instead, that subject will postpone the discussion until sated. On the contrary, very urgent businesses will preferably be discussed, avoiding any interfering element. Thus, we can say a subject’s interest has a very high intensity when a compact operant sequence (i.e., a sequence containing no operants belonging to any other sequence followed by a diverse reinforcer) precedes the terminal operant, followed by the reinforcer (e.g., the agreement on a deal). Therefore, we take the compactness of the operant sequence as a definition of the intensity of interest.

For example, a student may stop from time to time while studying to take a brief break or to have a snack; or the student can study nonstop without even a break until he/she has completed all the homework. We say that, in the second case, the interest in studying has a higher intensity than in the first case because the operant sequence is compact, i.e., it does not contain operants belonging to any different sequence followed by a diverse reinforcer.

The problem of the intensity of interests relates to motivation. The higher the intensity of interest, the stronger the subject’s motivation. Reinforcers have a reinforcing character in that the organism is in a state of deprivation.» IT

(L’analisi scientifica del comportamento di scelta [The scientific analysis of choice behavior], I, pp. 151-152)

Power

Correspondences

We establish a correspondence between the terms denoting interests and as many terms denoting (operant) behaviors to translate the abstract structural analysis of power into a dynamic analysis:

IFB.1   ↔   RCB.1

IFC.1   ↔   RCC.1

IFC.2   ↔   RCC.2

ISB.1   ↔   RSB.1

ISC.1   ↔   RSC.1

ISC.2   ↔   RSC.2

Social Reinforcement and the Power Relation

Diagram no. 7 illustrates the social reinforcement relations between the behaviors of subject B (who belongs to the social group exercising power) and subject C (a potential deviant), which correspond to positive involvement mediated by power.

«In (a) RSB.1 is the behavior (response) of subject B (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.1) reinforced by subject C’s behavior RSC.2. The latter is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which subject B carries out the behavior RCB.1 reinforced by S+ (i.e., B satisfies the final interest IFB.1).

In (b) RSC.2 is the behavior (response) of subject C (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISC.2) reinforced by subject B’s behavior RSB.1. The latter is a discriminative stimulus in the presence of which subject C carries out the behavior RCC.2 reinforced by S+ (i.e., C satisfies the final interest IFC.2). The fact that the IFB.1 and IFC.2 are considered socially as two positively involved interests, i.e., that there is a social positive involvement between IFB.1 and IFC.2 implies that the behavior of subject B (who carries out the operant sequence RSB.1 → RCB.1), and particularly the behavior RSB.1, bars the operant sequence RSC.1→RCC.1 which subject C should carry out.» IT

(Concorrenza, collettivismo e pianificazione [Competition, collectivism and planning], pp. 21-22)

Punishment and Avoidance Behavior

Diagram no. 8 «illustrates how subject B’s behavior RSB.1 (which is positively reinforced by the absence of subject C’s behavior RSC.1) is a negative secondary reinforcer for subject C, i.e., a discriminative stimulus reinforcing subject C’s behavior RSC.x which is incompatible with the operant sequence RSC.1 → RFC.1.

Subject C’s behavior RSC.x and the operant sequence RSC.x → RFC.x is an avoidance behavior against RSB.1 (D) and is reinforced by S being removed (i.e., by ~S).

RSB.1 (D) is for subject C the anticipation of the non-satisfaction of IFC.2, that is, the impossibility for C to carry out the sequence RSC.2  → RFC.2, if C does not renounce to satisfy IFC.2, i.e., if C does not renounce to carry out the operant sequence RSC.1  → RFC.1.

Therefore, in the presence of RSB.1 (D) subject C carries out an avoidance behavior RSC.x precisely to avoid being prevented from carrying out the operant sequence RSC.2  → RFC.2, given that the intensity level of interest IFC.2, ɩC.2, is higher than the intensity level of interest IFC.1, ɩC.1; thus, subject C prefers not to satisfy the latter.» IT

(Concorrenza, collettivismo e pianificazione [Competition, collectivism and planning], p. 22)

The punishment relation

«Punishment consists in preventing subject C from satisfying the interest IFC.2, if it carries out the (instrumental) operant behavior RSC.1, which corresponds to satisfying the interest IFC.1. To achieve this, subject B makes the presentation of a negative reinforcer or the removal of a positive reinforcer contingent upon C’s behavior RSC.1. These are the two ways – in terms of operant behavior – through which subject B can put C in front of an exclusive disjunction (choice) between the renouncement of satisfying interest IFC.1 and the impediment of satisfying interest IFC.2 (the latter with higher intensity than IFC.1).

In this respect, it should be noted that both the presentation of a negative reinforcer and the removal of a positive reinforcer entail the interruption by subject B of an instrumental operant sequence carried out by subject C. This interruption is particularly evident in case a positive reinforcer is removed.»

«In case a negative reinforcer is presented, this schema may seem less evident because one is led to focus on the increase in the frequency of the escape behavior contingent on removing the negative reinforcer. However, the greater strength of the escape behavior compared to the instrumental operant underway and its incompatibility with the latter determine the interruption of an instrumental operant sequence (corresponding to IFC.2) in this case, too. It likewise must be explicated within the framework of frustration, except that here frustration occurs alongside learning an escape behavior.

Furthermore, in both cases, punishment has no bearing on the interests corresponding to prevented behaviors. That is to say, punishment temporarily bars an operant from being emitted but does not impact the interests corresponding to that operant. It means that the impediment to the satisfaction of subject C’s interest IFC.2, or the renouncement to the satisfaction of interest IFC.1.1 by subject C in no case results in the eradication of IFC.2 or IFC.1 from subject C’s field of interests. The only change in C’s field of interests is that an instrumental interest arises, which corresponds, in terms of operant behavior, to the escape or avoidance behavior that takes place when a negative reinforcer or a secondary negative reinforcer is presented.»

«As seen, a punitive relation always entails a situation of frustration. Several factors characterize the concept of frustration: (a) the subject’s aspiration level, that is, the degree of fungibility between the subject’s final interests; (b) the intensity level of the subject’s final interest corresponding to the frustrated or impeded instrumental behavior; (c) the frustrating stimulus.

If the subject’s aspiration level is rigid, that is, the degree of fungibility between its final interests is low, the subject’s state of deprivation (final interest) being frustrated does not disappear, despite the impediment barring the instrumental behavior. Where the subject’s interest has a high-intensity level, the frustrating stimulus barring the instrumental behavior acts as an eliciting stimulus related to a corresponding (elicited) emotional behavior of the subject. This elicited behavior can be an anxious-type or even aggressive-type behavior. Thus, the presence of an obstacle can determine emotional responses that manifest themselves at the level of operant behavior.» IT

(Processo d’apprendimento e strutture ideologiche [Learning process and ideological structures], pp. 18, 19, 21)

Exchange and Competition

Correspondences

We establish a correspondence between the terms denoting interests and as many terms denoting (operant) behaviors to translate the abstract structural analysis of exchange into a dynamic analysis:

IFA.2   ↔   RCA.2

IFB.2   ↔   RCB.2

ISA.1   ↔   RSA.1

ISA.2   ↔   RSA.2

ISB.1   ↔   RSB.1

ISB.2   ↔   RSB.2

Social Reinforcement and the Exchange Relation

Diagram no. 13 illustrates the social reinforcement relations between subject A’s and subject B’s behaviors, which correspond to a positive involvement mediated by the exchange.

«In (a) RSA.2 is subject A’s behavior (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISA.2) reinforced by the absence of subject B’s behavior RSB.1 (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.1). The absence of RSB.1 is a discriminative stimulus under which subject A carries out the consummatory behavior RSA.2 reinforced by S+.

Given that two pairs of interests are negatively involved in the exchange interaction, in (b), the reinforcement relations corresponding to the second pair of negatively involved interests are shown. Here, RSB.2 is B’s behavior (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.2) reinforced by the absence of A’s behavior RSA.1 (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISA.1). The absence of RSA.1 is a discriminative stimulus under which subject B carries out the behavior RCB.2 reinforced by S+.

In (c), RSA.2 is subject A’s behavior (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISA.2) reinforced by subject B’s behavior RSB.2 (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.2). The latter is a discriminative stimulus under which subject A carries out the behavior RCA.2 reinforced by S+ (i.e., A satisfies the final interest IFA.2).

In (d), RSB.2 is subject B’s behavior (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.2) reinforced by subject A’s behavior RSA.2 (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISA.2). The latter is a discriminative stimulus under which subject B carries out the behavior RCB.2 reinforced by S+ (i.e., B satisfies the final interest IFB.2).» IT

(Concorrenza, collettivismo e pianificazione [Competition, collectivism and planning], pp. 28-29)

Correspondences

We establish a correspondence between the terms denoting interests and as many terms denoting (operant) behaviors to translate the abstract structural analysis of competition into a dynamic analysis:

ISA.1   ↔   RSA.1

ISA.2   ↔   RSA.2

ISB.1   ↔   RSB.1

ISB.1′   ↔   RSB.1′

ISB.2   ↔   RSB.2

ISC.1   ↔   RSC.1

ISC.2   ↔   RSC.2

IFA.2   ↔   RCA.2

IFB.2   ↔   RCB.2

IFC.1   ↔   RCC.1

IFC.2   ↔   RCC.2

Social Reinforcement for Producer into Exchange

Diagram no. 16 illustrates (in a, b, c, d) the social reinforcement relations between the producer involved in the exchange (subject A) and the consumer (subject B).

«In (a), RSB.2 is subject B’s behavior (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISB.2) positively reinforced by the absence of subject A’s behavior RSA.1 (corresponding to the instrumental interest ISA.1). The absence of RSA.1 (~RSA.1) is a discriminative stimulus under which subject B carries out the consummatory behavior RCB.2 reinforced by S+ (i.e., B satisfies the final interest IFB.2).

In (b), the reinforcement schema corresponding to the exchange between the two subjects, A and B, is shown. The reinforcement schema in (a) corresponds to the disjunct interrelation between ISA.1 and ISB.2; the reinforcement schema in (b) corresponds to the disjunct interrelation between ISA.2 and ISB.1. Here, RSA.2 is A’s behavior positively reinforced by the absence of B’s behavior RSB.1. The absence of RSB.1 (~RSB.1) is a discriminative stimulus under which subject A carries out the consummatory behavior RCA.2 reinforced by S+ (i.e., A satisfies the final interest IFA.2).

In (c) and (d), two reinforcement schemata are shown, corresponding to the conjunct interrelation between A’s interest ISA.2 and B’s interest ISB.2, resulting from the fact that A’s final interest IFA.2 and B’s final interest IFB.2, which are both satisfied, are positively involved because of exchange. Thus, in (c) RSB.2 is B’s behavior positively reinforced by A’s behavior RSA.2; the latter is a discriminative stimulus under which B carries out the behavior RCB.2 reinforced by S+. Given that every conjunct interrelation between two interests always corresponds to two reciprocal reinforcement schemata, in (d) RSA.2 is A’s behavior positively reinforced by B’s behavior RSB.2; the latter is a discriminative stimulus under which A carries out RCA.2 reinforced by S+IT

(Concorrenza, collettivismo e pianificazione [Competition, collectivism and planning], pp. 34-36)

Social Reinforcement for Producer out of Exchange

Let us continue with the analysis of Diagram no. 16 .

In (e) and (f), two reinforcement schemata are shown, corresponding to the disjunct interrelation typical of the relation between B (which symbolizes the consumer who exchanges with producer A) and C (which symbolizes the producer excluded from the exchange).

Given that every disjunct interrelation between two interests always corresponds to only one reinforcement schema, in (e) the reinforcement schema corresponding to the disjunct interrelation between B’s interest ISB.2 and C’s interest ISC.1 is shown, while in (f) the reinforcement schema corresponding to the disjunct interrelation between C’s interest ISC.2 and B’s interest ISB.1′is shown. Therefore, in (e) RSB.2 is B’s instrumental behavior positively reinforced by the absence of C’s instrumental behavior RSC.1; the absence of RSC.1 (~RSC.1) is a discriminative stimulus under which B carries out a consummatory behavior RCB.2 reinforced by S+. In (f) RSC.2 is C’s behavior positively reinforced by the absence of B’s behavior RSB.1′; the absence of RSB.1′ (~RSB.1′) is a discriminative stimulus under which C carries out RCC.2 reinforced by Sx+ (the latter differs from the reinforcer S+ in the previous schemata).

In (g) and (h), two reinforcement schemata corresponding to the two disjunct interrelations characterizing the relation between A (which symbolizes the producer who exchanges with consumer B) and C (which symbolizes the producer excluded from the exchange) are shown.

As seen, two disjunct interactions exist between producers: one between A’s interest ISA.1 and C’s interest ISC.1; the other between A’s interest ISA.2 and C’s interest ISC.2.

Thus, in (g) RSA.2 is A’s behavior positively reinforced by the absence of C’s behavior RSC.2; the absence of RSC.2 (~RSC.2) is a discriminative stimulus under which A carries out RCC.2 reinforced by S+. In (h), RSC.1 is C’s behavior positively reinforced by the absence of A’s behavior RSA.1; the absence of RSA.1 (~RSA.1) is a discriminative stimulus under which C carries out RCC.1 reinforced by Sx+ (the latter differs from the reinforcer S+ that appears in the previous schema).» IT

(Concorrenza, collettivismo e pianificazione [Competition, collectivism and planning], pp. 36-37)

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