William S. Verplanck
In 1938 I took a course, “Systems of Psychology,” with Frank Geldard at the University of Virginia. We covered everything in Frank’s typical dispassionate, systematic and thorough style. Our primary text was Boring’s Physical Dimensions of Consciousness. The course provided a more or less general background reflecting Nafe, rather than Hunter, in Frank’s Clark education. That introduced me to positivistic thinking. The course was thorough, so we covered behaviorism, too, in a not entirely sympathetic, but thorough manner. This was my first introduction to the name J.R. Kantor. I learned that Kantor and Weiss were extreme behaviorists of the 1920s period. Needless to say, Geldard in his moderate way gave a good deal more attention to Watson, Lashley, Hunter, and Dunlap. Somehow I formed the impression that Kantor was dead–and his thinking deader.
The next year at Virginia was my first year of graduate work, and Ken Spence’s first year of teaching graduate students, which he did there at the University of Virginia. Our little band of graduate students that year took two full-year courses with him and were thoroughly trained (perhaps I should say “indoctrinated”) in Pavlovian research, Hullian practice and theory, with special emphasis on Spence’s own theory of discrimination learning, and on the Spence-Krechevsky confrontation. The blackboards were covered with N (drops of saliva), Ss and Rs in both upper and lower cases, and arrows.
An exciting year, indeed. It was a year in which Machian-Pearsonian positivism was superseded by logical positivism, a year of indoctrination in one view of scientific logic and method.
With Master’s done, I went to Brown to work with Clarence Graham in the department headed by Walter S. Hunter. Walter Hunter, “the old Doctor,” was surely the most prominent behaviorist of the time, and the department bore his stamp. More important for me, and perhaps for many others, it was also a fuller introduction into psychology of exciting ideas on science, new in the early 1920s. Here, with the leadership of Clarence Graham and using source material, not advanced texts, we learned how to Do Science.
From Hunter, we learned that one could not be a properly scientific psychologist unless one was accepted as a scientist by other hard scientists, that is, by chemists, physicists, mathematicians, probably even astrophysicists, and (more marginally) biologists. So, at Brown, built-in reductionism was omnipresent, and exemplified by careful experimental research in the laboratory.
When finished, we knew as scientific psychologists (experimental psychologists)–rigorous behaviorists–what we should do and why we should do it. Hunter himself had somehow forgotten his proposal years before that the skin is the boundary that separates Psychology from Physiology. We took courses in neuroanatomy and were excited by theories of synaptic transmission. On the one hand, we thrived on elegant mathematical models exemplified by Selig Hecht’s work, and on the other hand, we physiologized. Some were ardent Hullians; among these, I could be counted. After all, who could resist the combination of hypothetico-deductive method, with strict behaviorism, and physiologizing? Not I. Still I was not immune to what appeared to be another kind of positivistic thinking in psychology–Fred Skinner’s, whose views entered the department through the research and personal friendship of Clarence Graham, who, indeed, undertook to translate Fred’s view into a mathematical model (!).
The Behavior of Organisms had just come out, and the graduate students at Brown accounted for a goodly percentage of its first year’s sales.
Yes, we read, we learned more about behaviorism. Again, both Kantor and Weiss would occasionally be mentioned, then to be ignored. So far as we knew, they had done nothing since 1925, and my conviction that Kantor was dead was unimpaired. Kantor’s continuing contributions never came to the attention of us parochial Northeasterners.
Then came four years of World War II, during which I learned that you could find something outside the laboratory and in real life.
Nineteen forty-six was job-hunting time, and I had the good fortune of being recommended to Fred Skinner, who was just starting at Indiana University. There I went for an interview. To my astonishment, Fred introduced me, first of all, to J.R. Kantor. Wasn’t he dead? No, he was very much alive and kicking, in his understated way. He thrived in a large office lined with full bookshelves and filled with tables stacked with journals and open books. I was a little awestruck by what seemed a resurrection. Only years later did I realize how awestruck I should have been.
It wasn’t hard to decide to take the job, which split my time down the middle. Half-time I taught and did such research as I chose (it was in vision, on behavioral psychophysics). The other half I was administrative assistant to Fred and took over almost all the ordinary housekeeping duties of running a department, particularly those of routine bookkeeping matters in dealing with course-offerings and of the much more critical and interesting problems of admission and the care and feeding of both undergraduate and graduate students. I was expected to know just about everything, and just about anything about everybody. I was geographically split, too. One office was for teaching and research, and the other, in a partitioned office space of the main office, was filled with departmental matters. This was where I shuffled all of the papers that needed to be shuffled. It was an exposed position, accessible to all.
The department was a lively one, to put it mildly. There were the Skinnerians, led by Fred, which included the Minnesotans–Bill Estes, Norm Guttman, and George Collier, plus Sam Campbell and many others. There were the Kantorians–Parker Lichtenstein, Irv Wolf, Harris Hill, Bob Neu, and Bob Lundin among them. There were the Hullians and near Hullians, a leaderless and small group that included Doug Ellson, Bill Jenkins (who had been converted to Hullian thinking by Neal Miller at Yale; he’d been super-Skinnerian at Brown), and myself. Winthrop Kellogg’s conditioning group was made up of students, not followers, and Roland Davis, whose pioneering psychophysiological studies and cool objectivity required lots of electronic knowhow as well as a degree of detachment, stood on the sidelines.
Intellectual rivalry and argument were everywhere. The battle lines were drawn. Kantorians vs. Skinnerians. But also, the hometeam vs. the visitors–or interlopers, from Minnesota. What do you believe? Tell me, whose students are you?
In the intellectual melee, the Hullian behaviorists, Ellson, Jenkins, and I did not get far; we attracted no students to Hullianism. After all, when you choose up sides, you choose between two sides, not three. (In the late forties, we were joined by two fresh Iowa-Spence Ph.D.’s, Sid Bijou and Clete Burke. Both missed the first days of heated debate, but both profited by it; Sid’s contributions everywhere in this book will speak for itself.)
It was an ideological battlefield and certainly a very exciting place to be, what with the fortified positions and the various patrol parties, with snipers behind every tree. I managed to stake out my own little hill-top position from which I was able to fire in various directions at will. I taught a course called “Scientific Method and Theory Construction,” which most of the graduate students took. You might say it was logical positivism for the multitude, with emphasis on measurement, and psychological theory (hypothetico-deductive), preferably in mathematical form, but formal logic was acceptable. This was a revision and extension of the course I had taken (plus some further thoughts about operationism) from Clarence Graham. Most of the material in that course emerged everywhere else as well over the next years, and it now appears as absolute doctrine, revealed truth, in most textbooks on experimental method. (I was one of the first to climb on this bandwagon, and took many students with me. I am now happy to have been among the first to get off it. But, it is still much too crowded. What can one do, when ideas get pickled in textbooks, which in turn provide the multiple-choice questions and hackneyed finals that define the subject-matter of scientific psychology?) As the reader will have noted, that course was indeed an excellent vantage point from which a Hullian hypothetico-deductive, mathematical-model could make its presence felt in the ongoing strife.
Yes, it was a sort of war there at Indiana in 1946-1947, and 1947-1948. The ongoing confrontation between Kantorian and Skinnerian students wouldn’t cease. There shouldn’t have been any such confrontation. Robert had brought Fred to Indiana in the first place and is said to have more than once commented that Aristotle was the first Interbehaviorist, himself the second, and Skinner the third. Here, as usual, he was quite correct, as I failed to understand for some years. I couldn’t understand Kantor at all; my reductionistic-behavioristic-theoretical “sophistication” was an unfailing blindfold. Skinner, I thought I understood, but only as an alternative “learning theory” to which I much preferred Hull’s.
In his autobiography, Fred puts it this way: “I was never able to come very close to Robert Kantor’s way of thinking about behavior, although our differences were trivial compared to our similarities… we held doggedly to our own positions.” To the onlooker or perhaps overhearer, both then and now, what each person stuck to so doggedly was his language, his terminologies, and neither budged an inch.
Their greatest difference was perhaps the one least discussed by Kantor and Skinner themselves, but was subject of loudest and longest argument and greatest passion among students. Fred did experimental research. Robert’s disregard for laboratory experimentation contrasted with Fred’s fascination with pigeons, boxes, apparatus and circuitry. The outcome, thirty-five years later? Kantor’s contributions and systems remain intact, but without great manifest influence; Skinner’s vocabulary and acceptance of the holy status of the laboratory have led both him and his followers to victory over competing behavioral systems–to writing “finis” to Hull-Spence–and also to loss of all that was fundamental to and most valuable in the Skinnerianism of the thirties and forties.
What was indeed Skinner’s interbehaviorism regressed to becoming the super-successful but still garden variety of early Watsonian behaviorism. This feat was accomplished by the Skinnerians’ continuing neglect of the characteristics and activities of environments, except as a source or way of talking about the gadgets they put in their apparatus and the contrived set-piece actions of the behavior-therapist and by equivocal use oft he word “stimulus.”
But, that is getting ahead of the story.
Primarily, then, two vocabularies and styles in using them confronted one another when Kantor and Skinner led their weekly well-attended seminars. Almost all faculty and students, plus a few from other departments attended regularly. Perhaps Fred’s “need” to be original, to be unique, and to be a leader made these open discussions more brittle and less productive than they might have been. Skinner then, as now, was unwilling to take second place to anyone, much less third. Aristole-Kantor-Skinner? Never! Nor was Robert likely to yield. He was, one might say, much more committed in papers, which Fred had clearly not read.
So these weekly seminars went, with Kantor and Skinner taking their turns expounding their points of view, with Robert emphasizing the similarities between Skinner’s position and his own, and Fred turning the deaf ear. Each would discuss what the other had said. Then, general discussion: Communication was not facilitated by vociferous and heated “student participation”–sometimes illuminating but more often misleading.
At these meetings, Bill Jenkins, my fellow Hullian (or close-to) and I would sit on the sidelines, largely silent, except for our whispers back and forth, mostly amused, but occasionally upset by these people who were so far from what we believed, and who, not one of them, stated postulates, derived theorems, or developed quantitative theories.
One discussion that I remember well concerned turkeys. The question: If you have two turkeys, both roasted for Thanksgiving dinner, and then sit down and gorge to satiation on one of them, is the surviving turkey the same turkey (but colder and drying out) after dinner as it was before dinner? For the Kantorians, No! For the Skinnerians, Yes! The question of the relevance of physical specification to a degree permitting replication of psychology somehow did not come up. Skinnerians and Hullians agreed; they demonstrated their basic view of behavior as taking place in a physical world, in contrast to the far more sophisticated ideas of interbehaviorism by Kantor, which are not all that dissimilar to views espoused by some phenomenological thinkers, who use still another language. On this and other occasions when the discussion heated, Kantor remained calm, but clearly was uncomfortable with the intensity shown by the group.
Throughout my association with Kantor at Indiana, both in these seminars and as administrative assistant to him when he was Acting Head during Fred’s absence, he was invariably a gentle man, a kind man, and a persistent man. But, he was also a man whose viewpoint seemed hopelessly misguided to me, the reductionistic, logical positivist, who was persuaded that all truth could be wrested only by conforming with reconstructions of scientific methodology done by philosophers in their efforts to figure out what scientists do and have done.
In sum, I liked and admired Robert Kantor very much indeed, but I thought that interbehaviorism was an unintelligible, scientifically worthless if not downright destructive literary enterprise.
Not that the Kantorians weren’t interesting and articulate. In my exposed position in the little glass cubicle near the main office where I worked long and late, I was vulnerable not only to interruption and insult but also to reason.
Reason was personified by Parker Lichtenstein who, as a graduate student, spent a good deal of evenings around the office. He seemed to have taken on the mission of getting me into endless didactic discussions about Kantor and interbehavioral psychology.
I’d been a bit miffed that Parker had not taken (and would not take) my methodology course but was agreeable to using these opportunities to try to convert him. (From the vantage point of the present, his judgment in refraining from taking the course was better than mine in offering it.)
That they were discussions rather than arguments is a tribute to Parker’s manner and social skills. We did discuss; he was impervious to my Hullian reductionism, just as I was then impervious to understanding J.R. Kantor. But, I did listen a lot, I heard, even though I was unable to think except in terms of my “sophisticated” and superscientific training.
One of the many outcomes of the intellectual and experimental ferment among the Skinnerians and their fellow-travelers was the conference at Dartmouth in 1950 which led to the book Modern Learning Theory. This conference aimed at scrutinizing and evaluating each of the then current learning theories. Each member chose the learning theory which he would most like to dissect. (Each of us was well aware that dissection would usually require antecedent trial and execution.) Kantor’s writings, of course, did not enter into consideration. The writer was still a faithful Hullian, but also a Skinnerian fellow-traveler. My faith in the correctness of the Hullian enterprise had been only a little shaken by his attempt to measure “E-bar-dot,” or momentary effective excitatory potential. (You will remember that he succeeded but only by making something like 35 consecutive assumptions, many of them far short of the reasonable.)
I chose to “do” Skinner. I was sure that hard-core review and evaluation of Fred’s work in terms of “scientific methodology” would produce the correct, well-stated criticism which might lead him and his students to reform and behave more like Hull, complete with axioms, postulates, and “experimental hypotheses.” After the summer’s work of reading and of discussion, followed by a couple of years of thinking, I completed the job; I hope carefully. I put together the exposition and evaluation of the writings and research of “Burrhus F. Skinner” for Modern Learning Theory. Choice of this name, I think, was my way of reminding the readers of Burris’ Walden Two, while I wrote about Frazier. The outcome of my exploring Skinner’s “flaws” as a scientific theorist was a new understanding, as a Skinnerian, of Skinner’s behaviorism (as of 1952). His was not a theory, but a descriptive system that provided the framework for an ongoing functional taxonomy of behavior. At the same time I understood and also grasped that interbehaviorism is also not a theory, but as Parker had told me over and over, a systematic view, a different way of looking at all matters behavioral.
For the first time, the Aristotle-Kantor-Skinner progression made sense: Robert Kantor recognized early where Skinner’s research would lead him if he continued thinking and working the way he had done as a graduate student at Harvard and then at Minnesota. For me, writing that paper shifted me into a path very different from the one I had followed until then.
In 1953, a sabbatical with Niko Tinbergen and his students at Oxford, with visits to other ethologists, led to a glossary which assembled the vocabularies of ethology and “learning theory” in psychology. It followed strict operational-interbehavioral principles, requiring careful analysis in writing each definition. Twenty-five years later, they’re still good.
This application of operational thinking forced more detailed examination of measurement for psychology and led me to the position which I have held now for 15 years. Despite the differences in terminology I believe it is indeed interbehavioral. This view turns its back on everything in which I had been indoctrinated through my own schooling, and which I had passed on to others. It is, for me, the inevitable outcome of persistence in pursuing the conceptual framework of Skinner (up to 1953), which Kantor had recognized as a fragment of his own.
What, then, are the views to which events in this history have guided me, for which I believe we are indebted to J.R. Kantor? I would identify four major characteristics of a Kantorian position. Here, I will necessarily state them in my own terms, and in my own way; Kantor is not responsible for any misunderstandings, distortions or misstatements of his writings that the reader may identify.
2. Scientific Pluralism
3. Interbehavior as Subject-Matter
4. Rejection of Causal-Deterministic “Explanation”
These must be recognized as probable obstacles to the adoption of interbehavioral thought by the great majority of living psychologists. Each represents a departure if not a negation of the eternal verities of “the science of psychology” learned and accepted by most who work in the discipline.
The gods we invent, whether gentle and loving, cruel and vindictive, whether lascivious or chaste, are modeled after people we know, and love, or fear, or both. The plans, the pleasures, the habits, the whims of these supernatural entities are then used to “explain,” “give reasons for,” the events in the world we live in. The rise of modern science, foreshadowed by Aristotle and other Greeks, was made possible by the adoption of the naturalistic viewpoint–as “supernaturalism,” or explanation in terms of our inventions, was rejected.
The success of the naturalistic viewpoint has been accompanied by the development of new families of human inventions and scientific constructions, and these function appropriately in explanation in the sciences within which they were developed and to whose observable concepts they bear direct and immediate relationship.
When, however, a psychologist appeals to such constructions (adding, of course, additional and convenient traits) as theoretical explanation for the behaviors we observe, that psychologist is appealing to unobservable causes for observable events and is doing no differently than our pre-scientific forbears. In psychology, “brain centers in the hypothalamus” account for feeding no more and no less than Zeus accounts for lightning or Jehovah for creation. Brain centers are “spooks,” as Kantor would say. They are explanatory fictions. They are, for psychology, supernatural, appealing to events external to the behaviors they purport to explain.
Between these two extremes of the supernatural–between a god or gods and “hypothetical constructs”–fall most of the psychologists’ supernatural concepts–its spooks. “Minds,” “personalities,” “libido,” “drive,” “motives,” “attitudes,” “traits,”… the list is nearly inexhaustible.
Kantor’s naturalism is extreme. When William James, in the first years of this century, rejected the very explanatory fictions (including “consciousness”) that he had so fully expounded in The Principles of Psychology, he used the term “radical empiricism.” Kantor, who shares so much with the late James, could well term his position “radical naturalism.” Having identified his subject matter as interbehavior, he has refused to accept any description or explanation of a behavioral event that is not itself observable and stable in terms of other behavioral events. Skinner, in “Are Theories of Learning Necessary,” adopts this same viewpoint. He seems to have heard more of what Robert Kantor was saying in those seminars than he had thought.
The methods of investigation and the conceptual system that are appropriate for and which have worked effectively in the science of physics apply only to the physical sciences–the sciences that deal with the environment as energy, and that attempt to exclude the observers from consideration and attempt to minimize their role, although even here, as the Heisenberg Principle shows, the observer intrudes. Concepts applicable to living individuals, much less to behaving ones, are singularly inappropriate. A second set of methods, concepts, and vocabulary distinguish the biological sciences, which treat the organisms and their functions generically. A third set of methods, concepts and language will define psychology, given the subject matter of psychology as the science of behavior–of the interaction of the individual and his environment. Its methods of investigation and concepts will necessarily differ from those of the physical and biological sciences. Other sciences with unique or overlapping subject matters should be expected to develop their own framework of methods, concepts and conceptual systems.
There is no limit to the number of sciences, to the new scientific languages that may be developed, which may include some of the concepts of other sciences. Among the psychologies, psychophysics deals with those limited sets of physical and behavioral phenomena that come into immediate relationship with one another. It is neither physics nor psychology, but shares some of both. It wed some of the concepts of physics, e.g. electromagnetic radiant energy, with a limited set of activities of the individual (“yes, I see it.”). At present, psychophysics may seem to be an all but complete science; its triumphs in producing acceptable replicas of environments have given us the Tonight Show, technicolor, and Stravinsky on the HiFi. Other such interstitial sciences that stand separately but borrow from its neighbors are ecology and physiological psychology.
These views anticipate much of the later writings of Wittgenstein, who emphasized the limitations on scientific and all other knowledge set by the various languages developed in linguistic communities: people sharing common interests. “Universal truths” have not been found within any science or within any culture; each investigation is limited by the context within which it is developed, and the language in which it is cast and reported.
Finally, given this pluralistic conceptual framework, the pursuit of “explanation” through reductionistic thought is not merely futile but misleading and necessarily destructive of the development of further knowledge in any one field.
Society is now coming to recognize this, as did Aristotle 2,500 years ago: The biologically intact individual who is completely unresponsive to the environment and shows no interaction with it is judged legally dead and his still sound, biologically living tissues are available for transplant.
The interaction is bi-directional: The individual changes his environment, whether physically or functionally, and the environment changes the individual in turn. Each “controls” the other; each interacts with the other. When the environment ceases to respond to the individual, the individual ceases to respond to the environment. From this it follows that psychological events all have duration in time; the “instantaneous” concept of causality implicit in the physical sciences and in the calculus as the tool for physical science theory does not apply.
In sum, physical causality, as it has been conceptualized by Hume, and applied in physics and elsewhere, whether overtly or tacitly, with its requirement of immediate contiguity in infinitely divisible time and space, is rejected, whether in its implication of perfect predictability, or in its use as “explanation.”
If any view of “causality” as necessary antecedents to an event were acceptable, it might be the Aristotelian analysis, with omission of “final causes,” although it is tempting to remind the reader of what we call a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
From the foregoing it follows that attempts to develop a science of psychology using the experimental methods that have proven fruitful in the physical sciences and that aim to identify “causes” will be necessarily futile, since they neglect individual reactional biographies, context (“setting factors”), and the activities of the intervening experimenter. The most that can be expected from laboratory research are statements about what happened in specific laboratories at particular times using specific methodologies with particular kinds of subjects. These are data incapable of supporting applicable generalizations.
In short, psychology must expect to be and to remain a descriptive and a classificatory science, whose findings will enable us to live more comfortably in the world and to relate more readily to other people.
As a descriptive and classificatory science, psychology must be concerned with developing a language, a method of talking about and writing about behavior that will bring to a maximum our ability to predict what we will do and what others will do under what circumstances, and to make those predictions and descriptions in the world outside the laboratory.
Perhaps this last is the greatest point of possible coincidence, or possibly distortion of the interbehavioral viewpoint by my own. For thirty years I have been concerned with the vocabulary of psychology and both the semantics and syntax of language we use in speaking and writing to one another, as well as with other students of behavior, such as ethologists. Pursuit of that goal led me to what I hope is a fuller understanding of Kantor’s interbehaviorism, and of its relevance to what all psychologists do. The attempt to provide operational–empirical–definitions for the terms we use required close examination of the operations carried out, both in the laboratory and outside. The operations, the sequence of events linking individual and environment, prove indispensable for those predictions of behavior we can make, as well as for clearly communicating what happened. Given a specification of the operations that define our various terms, then arranging the terms in order of their appearance in subsequent definitions brings us to the set of such empirical generalizations as can now be made. The process is both descriptive and classificatory, and not one of “theory-construction.” The definitions tell us what we know.
Very close examination of the operations carried out by psychologists in specific experiments in laboratory research led to two further conclusions. First, the operations are developed out of simplistic views of causality and by the demands of one or another elegant theory based on some “scientific model.” Second, the operations are of a complexity that renders unlikely the generation of any result of interest or significance in any other context than that of the laboratory and the theory in terms of which they were developed.
It is no accident that Robert Kantor has not done experimental research. It is no accident that those who understand the viewpoint and apply it successfully, both in doing research and in communicating with one another (if not to the classical hard core pseudo-physicists of the experimental psychologists), keep their methodology simple and carry out their work elsewhere than the lab.
In sum, the experimental literature does not reward close study. The most productive experimental research has been that using the simplest of operations, most free of theory, and most close to the straightforward interactions of individuals in natural (uncontrived) environments.
This set of views may be a gross misrepresentation of Robert Kantor’s thinking. I hope not. It is unwelcome to experimental psychologists who prize the experimental method and who seemed baffled when they discovered that 10 or 12 years of intensive experimental research, say on “Mathematical Learning Theories,” wind up with a net product of zero. Careers are made, and honors won; libraries fill up. But there is little by way of “cumulative knowledge.”
Those who read and absorb interbehavioral views will thereafter think and act differently; they alter their ways. But, at what explicit point in a paper by one so affected can he refer to him? In 1947 Kantor published Problems in Physiological Psychology. Since this critical analysis, many physiological psychologists no longer are subject to the criticisms he first made. Did they read Kantor’s book? Did they accept his criticisms? How does one measure the influence this book has had on the thinking of the physiological psychologists of the time, and in turn on the thinking of their student?
A specific case. In the early fifties, in conversation on psychological matters, Fred Skinner said something like this to me: “Yes, Bill, Robert was right–drive is a spook.” To my own knowledge, Skinner has not made reference to Kantor on this point except for the preface to the seventh edition of The Behavior of Organisms, nor does my probably unreliable remembering recall a paper explicitly rejecting the concept “drive.” But, it is no trick to observe that the Indiana years mark a change in Skinner’s treatment of this concept, and of the experimental procedures (and their outcomes) that had entered into it. Kantor drove this spook out.
Where, in a paper, can or should one write, “This statement is made because I’ve read Kantor?” And if one wants to make such acknowledgment, who could cite what specific line or page, in which specific book, as an editor would demand?
When, one might ask, should a fish refer to the sea?
In short, Kantor’s influence has surely been greater than is at first apparent, however difficult (if not impossible) it may be to document. But, still, the question: Why has Kantor’s work not reached far greater recognition and acceptance? There has probably been one great barrier, one which has led this preface to take the form it has. Kantorian views on what psychologists should do, and how they should do it, run precisely opposite to all the concepts of “psychology as a science” developed by the masterful and effective efforts of psychologists in the first part of the century to join the respected “scientific” community. Ensconced in the departments of the Ivy League, these successful men stamped out a pattern for what is, and what is not, “scientific.” The efforts of these scientists have pervaded and impeded the progress of psychology by adopting an inappropriate model, the activity of “hard-core” scientists, of physical scientists as they were at the turn of this century. “Research” is “experimental” research, carried out in the laboratory. “Scientific method” is that specified by philosophers of science. The Ph.D. requires original experimental research as the measure of professional success and is the sine qua non of promotion and raises in the academic community.
As William James foresaw in The Ph.D. Octopus before the century began, our society has placed a premium on “research,” and in psychology, on “experimental research,” which has in turn given plausibility and force to any and all procedures, statistical devices, epistemologies, and techniques that make it easy to do “good research”–to perform “experiments.” Results (and the doctorate) are guaranteed irrespective of importance. The “quality” of this research is measured by the degree to which it conforms with the rules set down by the “philosophy of science.”
Little wonder that Kantor, the outsider way out in Indiana who expounded a very different view of psychology and of what psychologists should do, could be thought dead, or at least missing, as early as 1938.
To this date, interbehavioral views remain unwelcome–unwelcome by the great majority of psychologists to the point of refusal to consider, much less to examine and study the works of Kantor. This would require them to question all the techniques, all the eternal verities, that the academic world still requires for professional achievement and success, both in reputation and salary.
A contributing factor, not to be neglected, is the difficulty of Kantor’s prose, both in sentence structure and vocabulary and in his frequent stylistic use of allusion rather than direct statements in developing his arguments. He places demands on his reader that the reader too often cannot meet.
“There are no such phenomena as monochromatic light.” Reading that, as a researcher in vision, with no small investment in “monochromatic filters,” who had peered at many spectra, I was appalled. Twenty or so years later, encountering it again–“Of course, who could have thought otherwise?”
Through his career, Robert Kantor has been patient with this lack of earned recognition. But patient he can be: He knows and has written to the effect that, so long as investigators continue to interact with their subject matter, they will move forward to fuller understanding and scientific knowledge in psychology. Passing trends and fads of equipment, or “sophisticated” methodology, of systematic viewpoint, and of theories may accelerate or slow this movement, but they will not stop it. Time, in which research (however misguided) continues, will inevitably lead us all to interbehaviorism, if not necessarily to its vocabulary.
This personal history may prove the paradigm–where time after time, when I thought I had reached a new position, I’d stop myself short… “Hey, wait a minute, Kantor wrote that”–or “that’s what Kantor would say.” He’s always been there first.
This is the way it will happen for others, over coming years.
Then, this great psychologist will reach the recognition he has earned.
But, for now, this is preface to contributions prepared for you in honor of J.R. Kantor, by others who share the systematic viewpoint for a science of psychology that Robert Kantor has so fully developed.