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Kantor's Interbehaviorism: the 4 principles of this theory

Kantor's Interbehaviorism: the 4 principles of this theory

January 27, 2024

Jacob Robert Kantor (1888-1984) was the creator of interbehaviorism, a psychological and scientific model that coexisted with radical Skinnerian behaviorism and was strongly influenced by naturalist philosophy.

In this article we will analyze the four basic principles of Kantor's interbehaviorism and its relation to the Skinner model.

  • Related article: "The 10 types of behaviorism: history, theories and differences"

Basic principles of interbehaviorism

Kantor coined the term "interbehaviorism" probably to differentiate his position from the classic model of behavioral psychology, hegemonic in his time and very popular today: the "E-R" (Stimulus-Response) scheme.


The Kantor model defines a psychological field that is schematized as K = (is, or, f e-r, s, hi, ed, md) , where "K" is a certain behavioral segment. Each of the other abbreviations refers to one of the following variables:

  • Stimulating events (es): everything that makes contact with a certain body.
  • Organism variables (o): biological reactions to external stimulation.
  • Stimulus-response function (f e-r) : system developed in a historical way that determines the interaction between stimuli and responses.
  • Situational factors (s): any variable, both organismic and external, that exerts an influence on the analyzed interaction.
  • Interconductual history (hi): refers to the behavioral segments that have previously happened and that influence the current situation.
  • Dispositional events (ed): the sum of situational factors and behavioral history, that is, all the events that influence the interaction.
  • Means of contact (md): circumstances that allow the behavioral segment to take place.

Interbehaviorism is not only considered a psychological theory, but a philosophical proposal of a general nature, applicable both to psychology and to the rest of sciences, particularly those of behavior. In this sense Moore (1984) highlights four basic principles that characterize Kantor's inter-behavioral psychology .


1. Naturalism

The naturalist philosophy defends that all phenomena are explicable by the natural sciences and that there is a clear interdependence between physical and non-observable events. Thus, this philosophy rejects the dualism between the organism and the mind, which it considers a manifestation of the biological substrate of the body when interacting with a given environment.

Therefore, when analyzing any fact, it is essential to take into account the spatio-temporal context in which it occurs, since trying to study an isolated event is reductionist and lacking in meaning. Kantor warned that the tendency of psychology towards mentalism interferes with its development as a science and it must be denounced in any of its forms.

2. Scientific Pluralism

According to Kantor there is no science that is superior to the rest, but the knowledge acquired by different disciplines must be integrated, and it is necessary that some refute the approaches of others so that science can advance. For this, researchers should not seek a macro-theory but simply continue to research and make proposals.


3. Multicausality

Interbehaviorism rejects traditional hypotheses and causality models, which try to explain the occurrence of certain facts through simple linear relationships. According to Kantor causality must be understood as a complex process that integrates multiple factors in a given phenomenological field.

He also highlighted the probabilistic nature of science; In no case are certainties found, but it is only possible to generate explanatory models as close as possible to the underlying factors, from which it is impossible to obtain all the information.

4. Psychology as interaction between organism and stimuli

Kantor pointed out that the object of study of psychology should be the interconduct, that is, the bidirectional interaction between the stimuli and the responses of the organism. This interaction is more complex than those of sciences such as physics, since in psychology the development of behavior patterns due to the accumulation of experiences is very relevant.

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Relationship with radical behaviorism

The interconductual psychology of Kantor and the radical behaviorism of Burrhus Frederick Skinner arose at about the same time. The relationship between both disciplines at their peak can be described as ambivalent, since both the similarities and the differences between inter-behaviorism and radical behaviorism They are obvious.

The two models analyze behavior without using unobservable mediational variables, such as thoughts, emotions or expectations. In this way they focus on studying the contingencies and causal relationships between behavior and its environmental determinants, avoiding the use of hypothetical constructs.

According to Morris (1984), the differences between inter-behaviorism and radical behaviorism are basically a matter of emphasis or detail; for example, Kantor did not agree with the Skinnerian perspective that behavior should be understood as an answer, but that he conceived it as an interaction between different factors.

Schoenfeld (1969) stated that the limited influence of Kantor can be explained by the fact that his contributions were basically of a theoretical nature , since his main talent consisted in the analysis and criticism of current approaches and sought to inspire others to follow a new direction in the field of psychology and in science in general.

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Bibliographic references:

  • Moore, J. (1984). Conceptual contributions of Kantor's interbehavioral psychology. The Behavior Analyst, 7 (2): 183-187.
  • Morris, E. K. (1984). Interbehavioral psychology and radical behaviorism: Some similarities and differences. The Behavior Analyst, 7 (2): 197-204.
  • Schoenfeld, W. N. (1969). J. R. Kantor's Objective Psychology of Grammar and Psychology and Logic: A retrospective appreciation. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 12: 329-347.

Behaviorism | Wikipedia audio article (January 2024).


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