What Should Be in a Library? An MI Expert Explains

In August 2018, MI Expert Dr. Thomas R. Hoerr, Emeritus Head of School at New City School and Scholar In Residence, UMSL College of Education in St. Louis, MO, wrote an article about the questions that informed the design of the Learning Library at the New City School.

Below, the article is printed in full and prefaced by a brief comment from Dr. Howard Gardner.

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If you are over fifty, it’s likely that your education was based heavily on reading newspapers, articles, and books, and, for you, the word “library” connotes a collection of many written words and volumes.

Nowadays, of course, nearly everyone picks up information and skills through interactions with a variety of media. And even when one is reading words, it’s likely that one is reading them on a screen, with the chief variable being the speed and the size of the machine.

Quite a few years ago, Tom Hoerr and his colleagues at the New City School in St. Louis began to rethink the meaning and the use of the school’s library. The result is a learning environment which presents information in a variety of ways and which encourages young people to  draw on, as appropriate, their several intellectual strengths or  intelligences.

I am grateful to Tom Hoerr for writing a blog, in which he describes the School’s experiences with the Learning Library. And I want to take this opportunity to thank Tom for his unstinting support of appropriate educational uses of MI Theory.

- Dr. Howard Gardner

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A Learning Library

by Thomas R. Hoerr

What should be in a library? This is a more fun and complex question than it might appear!

Our initial response is probably a quick one, as we envision shelves and shelves of books, monitored by a stern librarian who can quiet the room simply by raising her eyebrows. Indeed, that is what most of us experienced. A library was a space filled with books and periodicals. It was a place where we went to do research, to look for books, or maybe it was just a quiet and calm setting where we could study or do our homework. Of course, the library was also a place where we could link up with our friends, but it was a pretty solemn place, so after that linking we would need to go elsewhere to talk and laugh.

That traditional library, whether in a school to be used by students or located in a neighborhood and open to the community, was designed to support the way that intelligence and learning have historically been viewed. From the advent of libraries thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt and Greece, when words were written on clay tablets or papyrus, until the 21st century, libraries have been designed for a singular, linguistic, view of intelligence. Dictionary.com says that a library is “a room, a set of rooms, or building where books may be read and borrowed.”

Today, however, we understand a great deal more about learning than when libraries were first created. We know that each of us possess  more than a single intelligence, so we recognize that the design of traditional libraries fails to support different ways of learning. Going beyond being a repository for books and magazines, what if we designed a library to support how people learn?

A learning library is designed to enable to use their multiple intelligences (MI) in acquiring information and solving problems. While a library can be linguistically-based, it should also offer people opportunities to use their logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, intrapersonal, and interpersonal intelligences in learning. Its art and furniture will be attractive and reflect that we each have a different intelligence profile. I know that creating this kind of library is possible and I have seen the positive impact that it can have on learners and learning because we created an MI library in the school that I led.

In 2006, the New City School in St. Louis, MO had been using MI for 20 years. We knew the power of enabling students to learn through all of their intelligences and we also saw how students’ use of MI made their learning more engaging and fun in classrooms. Consequently, when we decided to build a new library, it was obvious that enabling students to use their MI should be integral in our design.

Our MI library opened in 2006. It has thousands of books and scores of periodicals, but that’s just the beginning, because it also contains pathways for other intelligences. The library includes a space for creating art with white-board walls and tile floors, huge fish tanks and a bird-nesting area outside a second-floor window, a musical area with earphones, board-games and tables, games that require use of small muscles and coordination, chairs and comfortable spaces for alone-time, other chairs and desks to support collaboration, private rooms and meeting spaces, and small amphitheater for student presentations and performances. Designed by architect Kevin Kerwin, the space is remarkably inviting and attractive, and is also used for faculty, parent, and community meetings. An article from the School Library Journal that describes it can be found here: https://www.slj.com/2013/12/industry-news/a-meeting-of-the-minds-the-first-multiple-intelligences-library/#_ .

It’s worth noting that we intentionally did not put computers or technology in our library (other than those needed to monitor book usage). Our feeling was that kids’ access to technology was pervasive, and we wanted to provide a space that allowed – required – them to use other intelligences. We have not regretted that decision.

While ours was the first MI library, I recently learned that MI was incorporated in the Jackie and Hal Spielman Children’s Library section in a public library in Port Washington, WA. It is described here: https://nyrej.com/port-wash-library-lhsadp-stalco-scc-finish-2-8m and in more detail here: https://www.newsday.com/long-island/li-life/port-washington-children-s-library-1.20609067. The article notes that the library was designed to stimulate children’s curiosity and desire to learn, and it is clear that they have succeeded in doing this. I know that this was also the case at New City School: Our library was everyone’s favorite place and was always filled with learning and smiles!

When we conceive of a library that supports how people learn, we go far beyond collections of pages. How would you design a learning library?

 

New York Children’s Library Inspired by MI

In June 2019, the New York Real Estate Journal posted an article about a major redevelopment of the children’s section of the Port Washington Public Library in Port Washington, NY. According to a quote from Nancy Curtin, Port Washington Public Library director, the goal of the project was to create a modern library space that took into account the many ways children learn. At the heart of the new library is a “Tree of Knowledge,” inspired by the theory of multiple intelligences. The colorful tree is made of eight branches–one for each intelligence–each of which leads to a different learning area within the library.

 

Port Washington Public Library Children's Room 925 med

It is exciting to see multiple intelligences present in such an important learning hub for children of all ages. We hope that the children and families of Port Washington, NY will be inspired to take an MI approach to learning and knowledge.

 

Photo credit to the New York Real Estate Journal

To read the article in full, click here: http://nyrej.com/port-wash-library-lhsadp-stalco-scc-finish-2-8m

Mensa Research Journal Devotes Issue to Work of Howard Gardner

The latest issue of the Mensa Research Journal, Mensa’s triannual publication of scholarly articles related to intelligence, is devoted to the work of Howard Gardner. This dedication follows Howard Gardner’s receipt of the Mensa Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. The issue features eight research articles related to the theory of multiple intelligences, including a previously unpublished address Howard Gardner delivered upon receiving an honorary degree from José Cela University in Madrid, Spain, and the Prince of Asturias Prize for Social Science in Madrid, Spain.

mensa journal

 

Photo sourced from mensafoundation.org

Click here to read more about the issue: https://www.mensafoundation.org/about-the-mensa-foundation/news/inside-mrj-49-1/

Harvard Gazette Interviews Howard Gardner About His Life and Work

In the summer of 2017, Howard Gardner had a series of conversations with reporters from the Harvard Gazette, Harvard University’s official news website. The topics of these discussions ranged from Gardner’s early life and family to his lifelong scholarly work.

In May 2018, the Gazette released an in-depth profile of Gardner based on these conversations. We are pleased to share this interview with you, accessible by clicking here. In this piece, Gardner talks about the influences, challenges, surprises, and regrets that have influenced his personal life and career trajectory as a scholar and researcher.

(Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer)

 

MI After 35 Years

On Saturday, March 24, 2018 Dr. Gardner and three of his colleagues, Dr. Branton Shearer, Dr. Thomas Armstrong, and Dr. Tom Hoerr presented at the ASCD Annual Conference in Boston, MA. Below is an excerpt from the ASCD newsletter, Volume 27, Number 6, written by Dr. Hoerr, that provides a portrait of the event.

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Last month featured a really interesting presentation at the ASCD Annual Conference, “MI After 35 Years.” Yes, it’s been 35 years since Howard Gardner’s book, Frames Of Mind, changed how we view intelligence. Recognizing that intelligence is problem-solving, Garner identified the many different ways – the multiple intelligences – that people use to solve problems. Real-world problems, Gardner knew, are not limited to multiple-choice questions. Philosophically, understanding MI means that intelligence is not uni-dimensional and that each person possesses an array of intelligences. Pragmatically, understanding MI, we don’t ask “Who’s the smartest student in the class?” Rather, we ask, “How is each of these students smart?”

Branton Shearer, Thomas Armstrong, and I each spoke about MI from our perspectives, and then we were joined by Howard Gardner, who fielded questions from the audience and facilitated a discussion. I am biased, I know, but it was a great affirmation of the power of MI.
MI Group_HG, Branton Shearer, Tom Hoerr
L to R: Armstrong, Hoerr, Shearer, Gardner.

Branton Shearer, creator of the MIDAS, an MI assessment tool, shared his experiences from administering the survey and seeing its utility as a tool to aid in learning. Thomas Armstrong, author of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, talked about how MI is research-based yet many psychometricians find it difficult to grasp. For sure, change is hard! I spoke from the perspective of leading an MI school for 30 years. I saw the power of MI each day, I said, in students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

When Howard Gardner spoke, he noted that MI encompasses both individualization and pluralization. In using MI, we can individualize how we teach; we are able to teach to students in the ways that they learn. And MI pluralizes because it offers a variety of ways for students to learn and to show what they know. In using MI, we learn more about our students and we are better able to serve them.

This enthusiasm about MI – both from the four of us who presented as well as the 130+ in the audience – was evident. This causes one to wonder, “What happened to MI? and “Why aren’t there more MI schools?” (I used to hear that a lot when I lead New City School.) Branton Shearer offers a very good explanation of this in the following article!

Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD
thomasrhoerr.com
Scholar In Residence at UM-St. Louis
Emeritus Head of the New City School
Facilitator of the ASCD MI Professional Interest Community

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To view the entire newsletter, click here: http://custapp.marketvolt.com/cv.aspx?cm=1148481588&x=46336138&cust=24175573

Study Finds Game-Based Learning Can Increase Intelligences in Students

In January 2018, M. Esther del Moral Pérez, Alba P. Guzmán Duque, and L. Carlota Fernández García published an article titled, “Game-Based Learning Increasing the Logical-Mathematical, Naturalistic, and Linguistic Learning Levels of Primary School Students” in the Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research. Howard Gardner comments below:

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In the educational literature, there is continuing discussion of whether games can contribute to learning and, if so, in what ways.  As the title indicates this study of game-based learning provides suggestive evidence that three discrete intelligences can be enhanced by weekly hour-long sessions.

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Abstract:

Game-based learning is an innovative methodology that takes advantage of the educational potential offered by videogames in general and serious games in particular to boost training processes, thus making it easier for users to achieve motivated learning. The present paper focuses on the description of the Game to Learn Project, which has as its aim not only to promote the use of serious games and digital mini-games for the development of Multiple Intelligences, but also to analyse whether this methodology results in increased learning. Teachers assessed the level achieved by primary education students (N=119) in each learning category, before and after participating in the project, by means of a qualitative instrument. Finally, after corresponding analysis through descriptive statistical techniques, bivariate correlations, and ANOVA, the results showed significant differences between children’s learning levels in logical-mathematical, naturalistic and linguistic abilities before and after their participation in this innovative project, thus revealing a widespread increase in every indicator.

To read the full article, click here: Game-Based Learning Increasing the Logical-Mathematical, Naturalistic, and Linguistic Learning Levels of Primary School Students.

Naturalist Intelligence in the Age of the iPhone

In January 2018, Laura Jeliazkov published an article titled “An iPhone in Hand…Worth Two in the Bush?” in The Darthmouth newspaper. In the article, Jeliazkov considers the modern attachment–or perhaps addiction–to our mobile devices and the seemingly endless digital media they offer. As a way of understanding our cognitive relationship to our devices, Jeliazkov cites Naturalist Intelligence. Howard Gardner comments below:

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Since the original publication of Frames of Mind, I have added only one intelligence to the original seven—that of the naturalist. (Though, I have speculated about other possible intelligences.) As described in recent publications, the naturalist intelligence initially evolved so that we humans could make consequential distinctions in our natural environment—what to eat, what to spurn, what to hunt, what to avoid, how the weather might change in the next day or the next month.

In the modern era, however, most of us do not have to use the naturalist intelligence to survive in our built-up urban environments. But I’ve argued that the mind and brain capacities that evolved initially for life in the tundra are now readily called upon as we decide what to buy at the supermarket, what clothing to wear, how to decorate our homes, etc.

And now, there is a new powerful force in the environment: our smart devices, with their numerous (soon, innumerable) apps. In dealing with these devices, we not only make available all items for which one could conceivably shop. But also, as is pointed out in the accompanying article by Laura Jeliazkov, we have the opportunity to present and re-present ourselves as often as we want—as well as the chance to get the reactions of others—in words, in still pictures, or in live video. That’s a lot for the naturalist intelligence to do—as Jeliazkov suggests, perhaps too much! While I don’t remember it, she quotes me as saying, “If we went back into the woods to be with our naturalist intelligences, people would have time to think again. But today this may not be possible.”

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To read the full article, click here: http://www.thedartmouth.com/article/2018/01/an-iphone-in-hand-worth-two-in-the-bush

A New Possibility for Musical Intelligence

On January 16, 2018 the New York Times published an article by Maureen Towey, titled The Force of Sound, Captured in VR. Dr. Howard Gardner comments on this article and its implications for MI below.

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According to the criteria that I devised almost 40 years ago, an intelligence is not equivalent to a sensory system (there are no visual or gustatory or tactile intelligences).  Rather, intelligences are best construed as mental computers that operate on information, irrespective of the sensory system (or, technically, transducer), through which the information initially passes. Thus, for example, linguistic intelligence operates on language messages, whether they are heard, read, or (in the case of the blind) perceived through touch.

This criterion has always posed a difficulty for musical intelligence. While there are certainly aspects of music (rhythm, meter, perhaps timbre) that can be accessed through various sensory systems, the key elements (pitch, harmony) are best accessed through the ear.  We can create visual or tactile versions of pitch or harmony but these are, at best, metaphoric.

With respect to music, the situation is changing. Visual patterns that change over time (as in the screen patterns on your computer) capture some of the musical experience (the composer Alexander Scriabin believed that music was by its nature synesthesic—with the various sensory systems being linked to tones, chords, harmonies). Cochlear implants improve hearing to the extent that musical signals become accessible to many who could not previously listen to or enjoy music. And now, as indicated in this essay from the New York Times, through the technology of virtual reality, yet more aspects of the musical experience can be experienced by someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.  As the caption indicates, it’s now possible to explore “what music feels like to a deaf person.”  I believe that in the coming years, the dependence of music on the ability to hear will continue to diminish–even if it does not totally disappear—hence helping many who were once considered disabled and, as a dividend, bolstering one of the tenets of “MI theory.”

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Read the full article, originally published online on November 5, 2017, here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/05/insider/how-we-used-vr-to-explore-what-music-feels-like-to-a-deaf-person.html

Audi Piloted Driving Showcar Uses “8 Intelligences”

In September 2017, Audi unveiled the Aicon, a four-door, electric, self-driving car. In a recent advertisement for the Aicon, Audi used MI Theory to illustrate the car’s various features. Howard Gardner comments below:

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My friend, Tom Hoerr, a leading authority on the theory of multiple intelligences, brought this advertisement to my attention. When I developed this concept thirty five years ago, I never anticipated how much mileage (!) others might get out of the idea of multiple intelligences. As I quipped to my children, they may get a kick out of this, but not a kickback—the idea of multiple intelligences has always been in the public domain.

Follow this link to see the full advertisement: http://www.audi.com/en/innovation/piloteddriving/ai_aicon.html

Contrasting Views of Human Behavior and Human Mind: An Epistemological Drama in Five Acts

Introduction

The theory of multiple intelligences emerged at the time when psychology was taking a sharp turn toward the cognitive scientific approach. And a major player in the ‘cognitive revolution’ was the linguist Noam Chomsky. Among many other contributions, Chomsky thought of the ‘language faculty’ as a kind of computer, and that metaphor affected my thinking. Also, Chomsky thought that the mind consisted of various ‘mental modules’, and has over the years been sympathetic to “MI theory”.

Those critiqued by Chomsky, by other cognitivists, and by me have scarcely been silenced. As a way of conveying a bitter scholarly struggle, whose remnants are still visible today, I present here a lively debate in five acts.

Contrasting Views of Human Behavior and Human Mind: An Epistemological Drama in Five Acts

Last month, I received an unexpected communication from Dr. Henry (Hank) Schlinger, a scholar whom I did not know. As he pointed out, this was a somewhat delayed communication, since it referred to an article of mine written quite some time ago.

In his note to me, Dr. Schlinger argued that I had been mistaken in my assertion that his brand of psychology—called behaviorism—has been discredited and that another brand of psychology—called cognitive psychology—had taken its place. And he took issue with the way in which I had dramatized this process—I had dubbed the change “the cognitive revolution”—and personalized it, citing the work of linguist Noam Chomsky as being a principal factor in challenging the behaviorist account of ‘verbal behavior” put forth by B.F. Skinner, a well-known psychologist.

After some reflection, I decided both to respond to Dr. Schlinger and to share the correspondence with Noam Chomsky, whom I have known for many years. (I also knew “Fred” Skinner, who was a neighbor, and who befriended my young son, Benjamin, with whom he walked around the neighborhood.) Chomsky responded and, with this permission, I quote his response here.

There ensued one more round of letters. I reproduce the exchange here. I would like to think that it is an example of how scholars can disagree profoundly but do so in a respectful way. I thank both Hank Schlinger and Noam Chomsky for their cooperation.

Act I Opening Foray from Hank Schlinger

Dear Professor Gardner,

I know I’m a bit late to the game, but I just read your article “Green ideas sleeping furiously” (1995), and I have the following comments.

In your article, you said the following:

“Chomsky’s review of Verbal Behavior was a major event in the movement that was to topple behaviorism and itself become a new orthodoxy,” and “His own research, however, was quite specifically grounded in linguistics and took a decidedly unusual perspective on human language”

As for Chomsky’s research, I’m curious what you’re referring to because I just looked at all the articles he lists on his CV and didn’t see one research article; that is, no experiments.

As to Chomsky’s review toppling behaviorism, I find that curious too because I’m a radical behaviorist and the last time I looked, I’m still here and teaching behavior analysis classes at my university. And there are thousands of other behavior analysts like me all over the world who belong to numerous professional organizations and who publish in journals devoted to the experimental, conceptual, and applied analysis of behavior.

As to the new orthodoxy, again I’m curious what that was or is. It certainly wasn’t Chomsky’s “theory” of 1957, because that “theory” is gone and his positions have changed with the intellectual wind as one would expect of a non-experimental, rationalist.

As I wrote in 2008 on the 50th anniversary of Skinner’s book:

It seems absurd to suggest that a book review could cause a paradigmatic revolution or wreak all the havoc that Chomsky’s review is said to have caused to Verbal Behavior or to behavioral psychology. To dismiss a natural science (the experimental analysis of behavior) and a theoretical account of an important subject matter that was 23 years in the writing by arguably the most eminent scientist in that discipline based on one book review is probably without precedent in the history of science. 

To sum up the logical argument against Chomsky’s “review” of Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior in a rather pithy statement, a neuroscientist at Florida State University once asked rhetorically, “What experiment did Chomsky do?”

And for all of Chomsky’s and your diatribes against Skinner, his book, and the science he helped to foster, his book has been selling better than ever and is now being used as the basis of language training programs all over the world for individuals with language delays and deficits.

Science doesn’t proceed by rational argument, but by experimentation. The experimental foundation of behavior analysis is without precedent in psychology and the principles derived therefrom not only parsimoniously explain a wide range of human behaviors—yes, including language—but they have been used successfully to ameliorate behavioral problems in populations ranging from people diagnosed with autism to business and industry. And what have Chomsky’s “theories” enabled us to do?

I would say that the proof is in the pudding. The fact that some psychologists have not been convinced says a lot about them, but nothing about the pudding.

In case you’re interested, I’ve attached a couple of articles that bear on the subject. You might also want to check out this relevant article:

Andresen, J. T. (1990). Skinner and Chomsky 30 years later. Or: The return of the repressed. Historiographia Linguistica, 17,(1-2), 145 –165.

Sincerely,

Hank Schlinger

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Act II Howard Gardner responds

Dear Dr. Schlinger,

I appreciate your taking the time to write to me.

Clearly, we have very different views of science. As I understand it, for you science is totally experimental and good science has to change the world, hopefully in a positive direction.

I have a much more capacious view of science—going back to its original etymology as ‘knowledge’. There are many ways to know the world and that includes many forms of science. Much of Einstein’s work was totally theoretical; Darwin’s work was primarily observational and conceptual; whole fields like astronomy (including cosmology), geology, and evolutionary biology do not and often cannot carry out experiments.

An even more fundamental difference: I basically accept Thomas Kuhn’s argument, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that the big changes in science involve the adoption of fundamentally different questions and even fundamentally different views of the world. Physics in Aristotle’s time turns out to have been a wholly different enterprise than it was for Newton; Einstein, and then quantum mechanics entailed paradigm shifts again. A similar evolution/revolution occurred in other fields, ranging from biology to geology.

In the field that we both know—psychology—there were what are often called mini-paradigm shifts from the associationism and structural-functionalism of the nineteenth century to the behaviorism of the early decades of the 20th century, to the cognitive revolution (which I chronicled in The Mind’s New Science,) and now-again—the emergence of cognitive neurosciences, including psychology.

These paradigm shifts occur for many reasons—and the shifts are not all progressive—but they affect what promising younger scientists (whether theoretically or empirically oriented) consider to be questions/ problems worth investigating and how they proceed to investigate them.

It’s in this spirit, and on the basis of this analysis, that I, and many others, claim that over the last several decades, the behaviorist approach was replaced by a cognitive approach to psychological (and related) issues and questions. Neither Skinner nor Chomsky caused this change; but they serve as convenient ‘stand ins’ for a process that involved many scientists doing many kinds of theoretical and empirical work in many societies.

Turning to your specific point, neither I (nor, I believe Chomsky) dismiss the belief that one can affect behavior by rewards and punishment. Indeed, nearly everyone in the world believes this—including the proverbial grandmothers. From our perspective, the behaviorist approach has two crippling difficulties:

l. When results come out differently than anticipated—for example, behavior changing for all time because of one positive or negative experience or behavior failing to change despite several experiences—then the analysis is simply reconfigured to account for the results. If a behavior changes, then it must have been reinforced. In that way, as with psychoanalysis, it becomes circular.

2. While the experimental analysis of behavior may explain certain aspects of verbal behavior, it leaves out what many of us consider to be the most interesting and important set of questions: what is language, how does it differ from other human processes and behaviors, how do we account for the universals of language as well as the speed and similarity with which languages are acquired, despite their superficial differences.

None of this should be seen as an indication that your own work is anachronistic or as a critique of the work per se—but it is a claim that the world of science moves on and that what was on center stage in the U.S. (and the Soviet Union) seventy years ago is now decidedly a side show.

I may post parts of our exchange on my website. Please let me know if you prefer to be identified or not.

Sincerely,

Howard

***

ACT III Communication from Noam Chomsky

Thanks for letting me see the exchange. I have a different view of what an experiment is. Take standard elicitation of the judgments about grammatical status and interpretation, e.g., the example that apparently troubled him: “colorless green ideas….”, “revolutionary new ideas…”, “furiously sleep ideas green colorless,” etc. – the kind of judgments that litter my papers and all papers on linguistics.\. Each is an experiment, in fact, the kind of experiment familiar for centuries in perceptual psychology. By now they have also been replicated very carefully by controlled experiments, eg., Jon Sprouse’s, which show that the judgments used as illustrations in standard texts have about 98% confirmation under carefully controlled experiment. Furthermore, there is experimental work of the kind that Schlinger would regard as experiment under his narrow view, in psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics, confirming many of the conclusions drawn in theoretical work based on the usual kinds of (highly reliable) elicitation experiments. E.g., work showing crucially differential brain activity in invented languages that do or do not conform to deep linguistic universals.

In contrast, work in the Skinnerian paradigm has yielded essentially nothing involving language or other domains related to human (or even animal) higher mental processes. Or for that matter anywhere apart from extremely narrow conditions.

I always felt that the death-knell for Skinnerian (and indeed most) behaviorism was Lashley’s serial order paper, apparently ignored (as far as I could determine then, or have since) until I brought it up in my review. And the last nail in the coffin should have been Breland-Breland on instinctual drift. And shortly after a mass of work by others trained within that tradition: Brewer, Dulaney, by now too many others to mention.
Noam

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ACT IV Hank Schlinger’s Further Comments

Dear Howard,

Again, thank you for your reply. I appreciate the opportunity to have this exchange. Below are my comments.

1. Yes, we have different views of science, but you misread my view. I do not think science is or should be totally experimental, but I do believe that the natural sciences—and you, or other psychologists, may not want to include psychology in that exclusive club (see below)—have proceeded first by experimentation, the results of which led to laws and then theories, which were used to understand and make predictions about novel phenomena. And, while the goal of science it not necessarily to change the world, the natural sciences, through experimentation, have enabled us to cure and prevent diseases, for example, and to develop technologies that have dramatically changed our world, in many instances, for the better.

1a. Einstein’s theoretical work was based on the experimental foundation of physics. And while much of Darwin’s work was observational, he also conducted experiments, and his thinking was informed by experimental biology.

1b. It is true, as you say, that astronomers, geologists, and evolutionary biologists in some cases may not be able to conduct experiments, though sometimes they do—and must. But their theoretical work is predicated on the discovery of laws through experimentation with things here on earth that are observable, measurable, and manipulable. Otherwise, they are no better than philosophers.

2. I know you have written about the so-called cognitive revolution; I have your book. I say, “so-called because one psychologist’s cognitive revolution is another psychologist’s cognitive resurgence (Greenwood, 1999), myth (Leahey, 1992), or even rhetorical device (O’Donohue & Ferguson, 2003). As Leahey (1992) points out, “But we need not assume that Kuhn is good philosophy of science, and instead rescue psychology from the Procrustean bed of Kuhnianism. His various theses have been roundly criticized (Suppe, 1977), and the trend in history and philosophy of science today, excepting Cohen, is toward emphasizing continuity and development instead of revolution.” (p. 316).

3. As for the claim by you and other cognitive revolution proponents that “the behaviorist approach was replaced by a cognitive approach to psychological (and related) issues and questions,” not all cognitive psychologists adhere to that position. The cognitive psychologist Roddy Roediger (2004) called it a “cartoon view of the history of psychology.” That, plus the frequent statements by cognitivists that Chomsky’s review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior not only demolished the book but behaviorsm as well, remind me of the real fake news spewed by Fox News, and now Trump, that is accepted as truth because it is repeated so often. It’s a bit like saying that humans evolved from apes, ignoring that apes still exist. Yes, the predominant view among psychologists is a cognitive one, but it has always been the case. And, behavior analysis still exists. The idea that there ever was a behavioristic hegemony is absurd. Even some of the so-called behaviorists, such as Tolman and Hull, were barely indistinguishable from today’s cognitive psychologist.

4. Calling the results of decades of systematic experimentation—which by the way, is promoted in almost every introductory psychology textbook I have ever seen as the only method to discover cause and effect—on operant learning “rewards and punishment,” is like calling the centuries of experimental work which led to the theory gravity “apples falling from trees,” which “nearly everyone in the world believes …including the proverbial grandmothers.” That fails to appreciate or even understand what systematic experimentation contributes to our understanding and, yes, knowledge, of the world.

5. Your depiction of the “two crippling difficulties” of the behaviorist approach are simply caricatures created by cognitivists to justify the necessity of their (the cognitivists’) anachronistic, dualistic, view of psychology. Without providing references, your first difficulty remains an unsupported assertion. And, numerous behavior analysts, starting with Skinner himself, have dealt effectively with your second difficulty. The fact that cognitivists refuse to be convinced is the real issue.

6. Back to the beginning, we—and I mean you and I as stand-ins for cognitive and behavioral psychologists—do have different views of science. My science is importantly based on, but not limited to, experimentation. In other words, going back to Watson’s (1913) call to action, a natural science. Yours is apparently based mostly on reason and logic (a rationalist position, like Chomsky’s) and as Skinner once wrote (in a book apparently relegated to the historical trash heap by the cognitivist’s hero—Chomsky) about appealing to hypothetical cognitive constructs to explain language behavior, “There is obviously something suspicious in the ease with which we discover in a set of ideas precisely those properties needed to account for the behavior which expresses them. We evidently construct the ideas at will from the behavior to be explained. There is, of course, no real explanation” (p. 6). This, in a nutshell, is the weakness of the cognitive approach.

As an editor of a mainstream psychology journal recently said in reply to a colleague of mine who wrote in his submission that “if psychology is to be a natural science, then it has to study the actual behaivor of individual organisms,” “Why should psychology aspire to become a natural science? Psychology is a social science.”

This seems to be a (or the) critical difference between our respective disciplines.

Yours truly,

Hank

P.S. Here are a couple of more recent (than Kuhn) approaches to the philosophy of science.

Hull, D. L. (1988). Science as a process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hull, D. L. (2001). Science and selection: Essays on biological evolution and the philosophy of science. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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References

Greenwood, J. D. (1999). Understanding the cognitive revolution in psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 35, 1-22.

Leahey, T. H. (1992). Mythical revolutions in the history of American psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 308-318.

O’Donohue, W., & Ferguson, K. E. (2003). The structure of the cognitive revolution: An examination from the philosophy of science. The Behavior Analyst, 26, 85-110.

Roediger, H. L. (2004). What happened to behaviorism? APS Observer (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/what-happened-to-behaviorism)

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ACT V Howard’s End…for this play…

Dear Hank,

Thanks for continuing our conversation. Here are some quick responses:

I. We do have different views of science but, in your recent note, you put forth a more reasonable perspective. You say that the natural sciences proceed from experimentation. I’d rather contend that science can proceed from observations, from experiments, from interesting ideas, and even from grand theories. The ‘conversation ‘ is continuous and can go in many directions.

II.On the nature of experiments, Noam Chomsky makes an important point. There is not a sharp line between observation, informal investigations and more formal experiments. When it comes to judgments of grammaticality, there is no reason for large subject masses, control groups, high power statistics. Almost all judgments are pretty clear—and in the few ambiguous cases can be investigated more systematically, if they is reason to do so . And of course, modern linguistic theory has generated thousands of experiments, reported in dozens of journals.

III. The most difficult question you raise is whether there has indeed been a revolution, and whether Kuhn’s formulation helps us to understand what happened as cognitivism moved center stage (to continue my dramaturgical metaphor) and behaviorism become a side show. There is no way to ‘test’ these propositions. The discipline that will eventually determine whether my account of the last century, or your account of the last century, is more accurate is intellectual history or the history of science.

Indeed, we can each quote many contemporary scholars and observers who support ‘our’ respective positions, but in the end, the judgments that                         matter will be made by history.

IV. That said, I don’t accept your contention that I am a rationalist and not an empiricist. The record does not support your contention (hundreds of empirical and experimental studies over almost five decades). In more recent years, I do think of my work as social science rather than natural science, but social science has empirical standards and measures as well, and I use them as rigorously as appropriate.

Best,

Howard

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EPILOGUE:

With the fifth act completed, the curtain descends on our conversation…at least for now. But I’d be delighted if others who read the exchanges would join in.