Kantor interbehaviorism: the 4 principles of this theory - psychology - 2023



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 naturalistic philosophy.

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

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Basic principles of interbehaviorism

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

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

  • Stimulation events (s): everything that makes contact with a specific body.
  • Variables of the organism (o): biological reactions to external stimulation.
  • Stimulus-response function (f e-r): historically developed system 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.
  • Interbehavioral history (hi): refers to the behavioral segments that have happened previously and that influence the current situation.
  • Dispositional events (ed): the sum of situational factors and from behavioral history, that is, all the events that influence the interaction.
  • Contact medium (md): circumstances that allow the behavioral segment to take place.

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

1. Naturalism

Naturalist philosophy defends that all phenomena can be explained by natural science and that there is a clear interdependence between physical and unobservable 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 event, it is essential to take into account the space-time context in which it occurs, since trying to study an isolated event is reductionist and meaningless. Kantor warned that the tendency of psychology towards mentalism interferes with its development as a science and it must be reported 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 look for a macro theory but simply continue researching and making proposals.

3. Multicausality

Interbehaviorism rejects traditional hypotheses and models of causality, which seek to explain the occurrence of certain events 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 an interaction between organism and stimuli

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

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Relationship with radical behaviorism

Kantor's interbehavioral psychology and Burrhus Frederick Skinner's radical behaviorism emerged around the same time. The relationship between both disciplines at its peak can be described as ambivalent, since both the similarities and differences between interbehaviorism and radical behaviorism are obvious.

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

According to Morris (1984), the differences between interbehaviorism and radical behaviorism are basically a matter of emphasis or of details; For example, Kantor did not agree with the Skinnerian perspective that behavior should be understood as a response, but rather conceived it as an interaction between different factors.

Schoenfeld (1969) stated that Kantor's limited influence 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 he sought to inspire others to follow a new direction in the field of psychology and science in general.

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  • 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.