Dana Do’s: What’s the Difference Between Pragmatism and Determinism?

When we talk about the philosophical assumptions underlying the science of behavior analysis, the two assumptions that I have found people struggle to discriminate between the most are, determinism and pragmatism. First, try to think of the philosophical assumptions as the philosophy that behavior analysts subscribe to. One such philosophy is the scientific belief that everything happens for a reason. That the world is orderly and that nothing just happens out of nowhere. There’s a cause and an effect to all things. I had a headache. I took an Advil. That headache went away. The relief didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the product of taking a specific pain reliever. This philosophy is defined as determinism. That’s our philosophy that everything has a cause and effect.

Versus pragmatism, which should also be looked at philosophically. As scientists, we subscribe to the idea that if something is successful in practice, then it’s believable. Success equals proof that it works. And if it works, then it’s effective and therefore the theory behind it is true. Let’s look at determinism: I have a headache, I take an Advil and the outcome is relief. Pragmatism. Advil successfully removes my headache therefore I have proof that Advil is an effective medication for headache relief. The theory that Advil works is proven. While this may sound like the same thing, the key difference is determinism looks at the cause of the relief of the headache. Pragmatism looks at the reliable and believable proof that the relief came from Advil.

  • A-2  Explain the philosophical assumptions underlying the science of behavior analysis (e.g., selectionism, determinism, empiricism, parsimony, pragmatism).
  • Determinism
  • Pragmatism
  • Section A
  • Section A-2
  • Terminology
  • Related Content

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    Test your behavior-change procedures skills with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she reviews a specific differential reinforcement procedure. Here, Dana compares and contrasts all of the differential reinforcement procedures: #DRL vs. #,DRD, #DRH, #DRO, as well as #DRA vs. #DRI. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section G-14: Use reinforcement procedures to weaken behavior (e.g., DRA, FCT, DRO, DRL, NCR).
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Understanding Behavior-Altering EffectsTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Understanding Behavior-Altering Effects
    Test your terminology. PTB co-founder Dana Meller explains the umbrella term, "Motivating Operations" and breaks down the sub-categories. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section B-12: Define and provide examples of motivating operations.
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Indicators of Trustworthy MeasurementTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Indicators of Trustworthy Measurement
    Test your knowledge with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she explains the specific indicator of trustworthy measurement that corresponds with repeated measurement yielding the same result. Included is a description of all three indicators of trustworthy measurement validity, accuracy, and reliability. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section C-8: Evaluate the validity and reliability of measurement procedures.
  • Test your ABA Ethics Terminology: Multiple RelationshipsTest Your ABA Ethics Terminology ➠ Multiple Relationships
    At all costs, avoid multiple relationships. Refer to BACB® | Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts | Section 1.11: Multiple Relationships
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Confounding Threats to Internal ValidityTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Confounding Threats to Internal Validity
    Test your knowledge of measurement confounds with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she discusses one of the four types of threats to internal validity, with corresponding examples. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section C-8: Evaluate the validity and reliability of measurement procedures.
  • Level Up Your Understanding of Differential Reinforcement ProceduresLevel Up Your Understanding of Differential Reinforcement Procedures
    Test your knowledge of differential reinforcement with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she discusses the specific DR procedure to provide the client with reinforcement for exhibiting higher rates of the target behavior(s) that already exist in their repertoire. Additionally, Dana draws parallels to personal experiences and highlights skill areas for which clients could benefit from this SR schedule. BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Sections B-5: Define and provide examples of schedules of reinforcement and G-14: Use reinforcement procedures to weaken behavior (e.g., DRA, FCT, DRO, DRL, NCR).
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Fundamental Properties of Behavior ChangeTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Fundamental Properties of Behavior Change
    Test your ability to interpret graphed data with PTB co-founder Dana Meller. Here she explains the three fundamental properties of behavior change, focusing on one specific property akin to an average or median. Included are descriptions of level, trend, variability, and the y-axis. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section C-11: Interpret graphed data.
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Explore the 2 Types of Negative ReinforcementTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Explore the 2 Types of Negative Reinforcement
    Test your understanding of negative reinforcement with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she discusses the two specific types and details and nuances using relatable examples that significantly impact our everyday lives. BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Sections B-4: Define and provide examples of positive and negative reinforcement contingencies and G-1: Use positive and negative reinforcement procedures to strengthen behavior.
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Identify the Stimulus ClassTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Identify the Stimulus Class
    Test your knowledge of concepts and principles as PTB co-founder Dana Meller reviews a question about identifying a specific type of stimulus class, and the features associated with the three main stimulus class variations. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section B-2: Define and provide examples of stimulus and stimulus class.
  • Test your ABA Terminology: Programming for GeneralizationTest your ABA Terminology ➠ Programming for Generalization
    Test your knowledge of behavior-change procedures as PTB co-founder Dana Meller discusses generative learning and programming for generalization. Dana explains one of the nine procedures for achieving generalization that emphasizes the need to generalize the response across similar stimuli, while recognizing that different stimuli may require different responses. NOTE: Here, Dana mentions there are seven methods for programming for generalization, which is consistent with the literature for the 4th Edition Task List. But, for the 5th Edition Task List, there are additional methods. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Sections G-12: Use equivalence-based instruction and G-21 Use procedures to promote stimulus and response generalization.
  • Test Your ABA Terminology: What Are The 3 Types of ExtinctionTest Your ABA Terminology ➠ What Are The 3 Types of Extinction?
    Test your knowledge of Concepts & Principles and Behavior-Change Procedures with PTB co-founder Dana Meller as she reviews the different types of operant extinction procedures. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Sections B-9: Define and provide examples of operant extinction, G-15: Use extinction.
  • Test your ABA Ethics: Practicing Within Scope of CompetenceTest your ABA Ethics ➠ Practicing Within Scope of Competence
    Test your ABA Ethics Knowledge with PTB co-founder Dana Meller reviewing the ethics behind practicing within one’s scope of competence. Refer to BCBA® Task List (5th ed.) Section E-1: Responsible conduct of behavior analysts BACB® Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts: Section 1.05: Practicing Within Scope of Competence
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