When I entered behavior analysis, our discipline’s history was a living history. Many of the founding generation were still around and memories were still vivid of how their work shaped the development of our discipline. Heck, the founders were on hand to remind us! At that time it was still possible to learn what the science of behavior is capable of by hearing, from those were there, how it was created in the first place.
For me, as a newbie in the early 1980s, this meant some amazing opportunities. I discovered behavior analysis through an undergraduate class taught by Rob Hawkins, one of the first to do behavioral work in public schools. Rob generously encouraged my enthusiasm with a complete set of issues of the journal he founded, School Applications of Learning Theory (which later became Education and Treatment of Children). Try finding those today! Within a few years I had had breakfast with B.F. Skinner (he was disappointed that his eggs were runny) and taken classes from his daughter, Julie Vargas (no mention of eggs). I took the very last class taught by translational trailblazer Don Hake; attended lab meetings with Joe Brady and helped run sessions at the residential lab he created for astronaut training; and corresponded with Brent Rushall, to my knowledge the first person to systematically apply behavior principles to competitive sport and physical education.
Forty-plus years later, opportunities like these are disappearing fast, and so, I fear, is the memory of how our field’s pioneers built a discipline from the ground up. We’re at risk of forgetting our foundational stories. And the ever-increasing demands on graduate training created by certification and accreditation probably aren’t helping with this.
If we want to fuel creativity in behavior analysis, we could do worse than by examining the efforts of people who had to figure stuff out with no real precedents to guide them.
An Occasional Series about Forgotten Heroes
With that in mind I invite you, my colleagues, to create guest posts on the “Forgotten Heroes” of behavior analysis that you admire. These can be people who once were considered iconic but now get mentioned too little (people like Nat Schoenfeld, Israel Goldiamond, Betty Hart, Beth Sulzer-Azaroff, or Sidney Bijou). Or they can be people who perhaps never got their proper due, as I’ll illustrate in an upcoming post. Your Hero might have left behind a huge body of systematic work, or perhaps only a single pivotal study or program. Inspiration is where you find it.
The idea of these posts is not to eulogize Forgotten Heroes or produce bibliographies of their work, but rather to explain why they mattered. What critical problems did they address? What work habits and ways of thinking fueled their accomplishments? A Forgotten Heroes post will succeed if it brings its subject to life for a new generation and makes clear how that person is a role model of continuing value.
Importantly, who qualifies as a hero is subjective. We all know about different aspects of behavior analysis and have different ideas about what makes a role model. And that is perfect — variety is the spice of life. In behavioral terms I hope this series can provide multiple exemplar training by highlighting a wide range of desirable behavioral repertoires.
The target audience is primarily early-career behavior analysts whose training might have overlooked Forgotten Heroes, but a good post will be of interest to most behavior analysts. If you’re interested in celebrating a Forgotten Hero, send your idea to me at email@example.com and I’ll provide some guidelines for creating your guest post.
Tips and Guidelines for Guest Posts
- If you have an idea, please check with me before proceeding. I’m all for celebrating all kinds of contributions but want to answer your questions before you get started.
- Check out an example post, but don’t be constrained by it. Most important thing I can tell you: Your post should be what is required to highlight the contribution you want to highlight. These are truly guidelines, not rules.
- Maximum length is 3000 words. Shorter posts (1200-2000 words) are more likely to be read.
- Conversational language is preferred where possible and will help to hold reader attention. In blogging it’s better to be too informal than to get lost in the technical weeds.
- At the top put “By [your name and affiliation] with your email address in parentheses. Example: By Tom Critchfield, Illinois State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Start with a sentence-length statement completing the proclamation: “What we’re celebrating:” That is, in a nutshell, what is the contribution of your Forgotten Hero that you wish to highlight? Here’s an example. What we’re celebrating: Bill Buskist played a pivotal role in helping human operant research, which once was marginalized, become a central part of the experimental analysis of behavior.
- The rest of the post should focus mainly on that contribution. Although you can flesh out the post with additional context about your Forgotten Hero (both personal and professional), avoid the urge to summarize an entire career as might be done in a professional obituary. An informal target is for 2/3 of the post to address “What we’re celebrating.”
- As I did in this example post, consider including a comment on why we don’t notice your Forgotten Hero so much these days. Often this is because what was once groundbreaking succeeded so well that we simply take it for granted now. But there are other possibilities — e.g., perhaps your Forgotten Hero did cool work that, unfortunately, nobody built upon because the discipline’s priorities shifted (for better or worse). Whatever the details, such comments can clarify how your historical note sheds light on the discipline as it’s familiar to us today. It’s okay to be subjective here.
- Keep in mind that stories bring people to life. If possible, supplement the presentation of facts with brief anecdotes. If these connect to you personally in some way, all the more interesting.
- Images, including a photo of the Forgotten Hero, work well in blog posts but these must be non-copyrighted or something you have written permission to reproduce. Here’s the one unbreakable rule: ABAI won’t track down permissions for you and we can’t use copyrighted stuff.
- Optional: Close with references for 2-5 papers that capture something important about your Forgotten Hero.
- Expect me to do routine light copyediting and to help you with a title that works well in the blog medium.