Goldiamond in the Rough: History and Insights from Skinner to Goldiamond

The history of operant conditioning is fascinating—full of people, their personalities, and their insights. With a little look at “hidden” or lesser known history, we can see both the direct line of connection between the giant mind of B.F. Skinner to current practices, as well as the links and breakthroughs of great behavior scientists, like Israel Goldiamond, that also directly influence (or should) practices today.

For example, the idea that behavior could be built bit by bit was a central tenant of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. Skinner showed that by arranging a suitable environment and then carefully selecting certain responses, completely new behaviors could be taught. Unlike the trial-and-error learning of other theorists, Skinner didn’t think that errors were necessary for learning. Skinner first began with the concept of response differentiation. Over time, he developed this into the concept of shaping! He then further refined it into the concept of errorless learning. Together, these concepts formed the basis for programmed instruction and the foundation for Israel Goldiamond’s highly influential constructional approach which solves problems by building behavioral repertoires (instead of by eliminating problem behavior). While shaping is deeply embedded in training circles, gems like the constructional approach are less explicitly influential. Yet they could (and do) form the basis of modern training protocols for problem-solving. In this presentation, Jesús tells the story of how these ideas evolved and discuss implications for the future of animal training.

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz

Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Kansas in 1995 under the direction of Dr. Donald M. Baer. He serves on several editorial boards, including the European Journal of Behavior Analysis and the International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy. His areas of interest include antecedent control of behavior, generalization, behavioral cusps, fluency-based teaching, treatment of autism, teaching of academic behavior, animal training, and rule- and contingency-shaped behavior.