On the role of "memory" in the analysis of behavior.

Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior

PubMedID: 16812024

Branch MN. On the role of "memory" in the analysis of behavior. J Exp Anal Behav. 1977;28(2):171-9.
Shimp's (1976) recent paper on memory and the structure of behavior is discussed, as is the concept of memory itself. Radical behaviorism is distinguished from associationism, and behavioral accounts of experiments on short-term and long-term memory are provided. Unobservable theoretical quantities, such as rate of response, are distinguished from theoretical constructs such as memory. The logical inconsistency involved in the use of short-term memory as a "theoretical primitive" in the definition of units of behavior is explicated, and an alternative strategy for identifying units of behavior is presented. It is argued that the experimental analysis of behavior has ignored processes usually considered as memorial because many of the phenomena are irreversible. Methods for the study of transitions in single subjects should be developed more fully. Possible pitfalls associated with subscription to the term memory are listed, and it is concluded that the concept is neither required nor helpful in the analysis of behavior.