Skinner, B. F. (1950). Are theories of learning necessary? Psychological Review, 57(4), 193-216. doi: 10.1037/h0054367.

[Skinner provides some observations on how theories inform research; he suggests that this may not be a good thing. Paper also describes some vocabulary for behavioural science research. Descriptions of behavioural research done with pigeons; lengthy discussion of extinction.]

“… any explanation of an observed fact which appeals to events taking place somewhere else, at some other level of observation, described in different terms, and measured, if at all, in different dimensions.” (p 193)

“… how a mental event can cause a physical one.” (p 194)

“… the use of theory as a refuge from the data” (p 195)

“But we must eventually get back to an observable datum. If learning is the process we suppose it to be, then it must appear so in the situations in which we study it. Even if the basic process belongs to some other dimensional system, our measures must have relevant and comparable properties.” (p 195)

[Noting difference between effect (law = that it happens) and its cause (theory = how). (p 200)]

“Research which is conducted without commitment to theory is more likely to carry the study of extinction into new areas and new orders of magnitude. By hastening the accumulation of data, we speed the departure of theories. If the theories have played no part in the design of our experiments, we need not be sorry to see them go.” (p 210)

“Theories are fun.” (p 215)

“It will not stand in the way of our search for functional relations because it will arise only after relevant variables have been found and studied. Though it may be difficult to understand, it will not be easily misunderstood, …” (p 216)

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