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The operant-respondent distinction: Future directions

By Joseph J. Pear and Gloria D. Eldridge


The operant-respondent distinction has provided a major organizing framework for the data generated through the experimental analysis of behavior. Problems have been encountered, however, in using it as an explanatory concept for such phenomena as avoidance and conditioned suppression. Data now exist that do not fit neatly into the framework. Moreover, the discovery of autoshaping has highlighted difficulties in isolating the two types of behavior and conditioning. Despite these problems, the operant-respondent framework remains the most successful paradigm currently available for organizing behavioral data. Research and theoretical efforts should therefore probably be directed to modifying the framework to account for disparate data

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