Marketing Behavior Analysis Requires (Really) Different Talk: A Critique of Kohn (2005) and A(nother) Call to Arms

Adam H. Doughty, Chrisey Holloway, Marie C. Shields, Lauren E. Kennedy


Behavior analysis has a lengthy history of misrepresentation by both academic and popular-press authors, and several suggestions have been offered regarding how best to market behavior analysis. Although behavior analysts have made some advances in such marketing, significant obstacles remain. One obstacle is Kohn’s (2005) book, Unconditional Parenting, which argues against adopting a behavioral approach to parenting. A related obstacle is that there have not been any behavior-analytic replies to Kohn, nor have there been any objections to Kohn by non-behavioral authors. These latter points are disappointing given the nature of Kohn’s inaccurate statements (e.g., that the behavioral approach entails that parental love is made contingent on appropriate child behavior). This paper provides a critique of Kohn by noting his misrepresentations of behavior analysis and discussing their potential sources. This paper also discusses the marketing of behavior analysis in the context of Kohn. Despite his attacks against behavior analysis, we describe how Kohn’s general views on parenting actually could be strengthened by considering an accurate description of behavior-analytic principles and philosophy. By providing such a description, we hope to improve future characterizations of behavior analysis by non-behavioral authors. That is, in addition to discussing other marketing techniques, we emphasize the need for behavior analysts to engage the interests and passions of popular-press authors, but with considerable attention given to our language.


behaviorism, Skinner, parenting, Kohn, reinforcement

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility