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Self Control in Society, Mind, and Brain$
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Ran Hassin, Kevin Ochsner, and Yaacov Trope

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391381

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391381.001.0001

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Teleological Behaviorism and the Problem of Self-Control

Teleological Behaviorism and the Problem of Self-Control

(p.506) CHAPTER 27 Teleological Behaviorism and the Problem of Self-Control
Self Control in Society, Mind, and Brain

Howard Rachlin

Oxford University Press

Problems of self-control as well as social cooperation may be seen as conflicts not between internal spiritual or neurological entities, but between highly valued overt behavioral patterns of differing temporal extents or social distances. For example, an alcoholic must choose between having a drink now—valuable in the short run—and being healthy, performing well at work, maintaining satisfying social relationships, etc. —valuable in the long run. The essential question addressed in this chapter is how the latter may come to dominate the former within a person's lifetime. A behavioral evolutionary process is proposed by which valuable temporally or socially extended behavior patterns evolve over an individual lifetime from simpler, shorter patterns. It is argued that complex patterns, such as social cooperation over long periods, arise from simpler patterns in behavioral evolution analogously to the way complex structures, such as the human eye, arise from simpler structures in biological evolution. The idea that complex, long-term behavioral patterns in conflict with short-term patterns, if they are not inherited in toto, must be generated by an internal and autonomous spiritual, neurological, or cognitive process is compared to creationism in biological evolution. The role of delay and social discount functions in measuring the extent of coherent behavioral patterns is explicated. Finally, the chapter examines several implications of teleological behaviorism for practical behavioral control.

Keywords:   behaviorism, behavioral evolution, behavioral patterns, biological evolution, delay discounting, self-control, social cooperation, social discounting, teleological behaviorism

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