On the construction REINFORCEMENT

(no name) ((no email))
Sat, 24 Feb 1996 20:24:12 -0500 (EST)

Hi to the PCP networker participants

During some of the exchanges over the past weeks, one of the PCP
networkers believed that he had spotted me admitting the construction
REINFORCEMENT into my formulations. I, unequivocally, rejected that
accusation. Thereupon, several participants believed that they were able to
turn my own rhetoric back on me. I did not get around to responding to that
ploy -- but a colleague did send me his observations. That resulted in a bit
of an exchange. I then asked our colleague if I could forward the exchange to
the PCP net -- and I herewith send the relevant texts of our exchange.

Message One [From T. Sarbin:

From: IN%"5211P@NAVPGS.albany.edu" 21-FEB-1996 20:14:18.75
To: IN%"jcm61@cnsvax.albany.edu" "James C. Mancuso"

To: "James C. Mancuso" <jcm61@cnsvax.albany.edu>

I have been amused by the response to your vehement declaration about
biting your tongue over 'reinforcement'. I have used the phrase
social reinforcement in many settings and the referents for the term
(for me) are not distinguishable from social validation as employed
by PCP adherents. One could argue that 'reinforcement'has been tied to
mechanistic learning theory and might be applicable only to rats in a maze.
The addition of 'social' to 'reinforcement' creates a totally new concept, one
that brings in all the contextualist features that are subsumed under

Until a term automatically generates imagery appropriate to the intent of
the term, it tends to sit at the _random text_ pole rather than the _emplotted
narrative_ pole. I have to oppose the tendency to imagine 'validating my
parking ticket' when I hear the word validate. With the addition of
'social', the imagery can be that of a person validating the ticket, the
ticket being one's identity.

All the best. TED
Message Two [From J. Mancuso]

Subj: on "reinforcement"

Dear Ted:

I find little to disagree with regarding your comments on my
abrogation of the term "reinforcement."

Yet, I continue to maintain that I would rather bite my
tongue than use the term.

As you note, the term has been totally coopted by the
mechanists. Worse, I say, admitting the term and its
construction to our operating principles allows the suggestion
that our efforts to anticipate successfully the flow of inputs,
through the use of anticipatory constructions, serves a "more
basic" function of attaining some kind of biological goody. As I
would have it, there is no more "basic" function than "knowing" --
that is, achieving successful anticipation.

Paradoxically, I would approve of the term VALIDATE -- and
your point about VALIDATING a parking ticket does cast a
suspicious light on the term. We would need to have a socially
validated "story" for VALIDATE, as well. I also agree that using the term
SOCIAL in conjunction with the term VALIDATE does add clarity [for me] to
the term. At the same time, we can have constructions validated
in situation that ordinarily would not be classed as social situations.
That is why I used the construct DOWN-UP in my illustration. An infant
acquiring a refined DOWN-UP construct through lifting its head
from the mattress is not exactly in a social situation. At the
same time, it could be argued that the social surround did
arrange to have the infant on the mattress on its belly, so, we
could say that the social surround prompted the development of
the DOWN-UP construct, and thus, DOWN or UP could still be
regarded as social constructions. Thus, I would not be reluctant
to speak of the social surround arranging to PROMPT the
acquisition of a construction, even though there is not an
apparent social interaction during the development of the

I said that my willingness to use the term VALIDATE could be
seen as paradoxical. By that I mean that the etymological roots
of VALIDATE and REINFORCEMENT are quite parallel. Validate has
its roots in the same root as that from which developed terms
such as VALUE and VALOROUS -- which have to do with STRENGTH.
So, in a round about way, I could be saying that I would agree
that a particular construction could be STRENGTHENED
through its having successfully anticipated the flow of inputs
which I take to be associated with "out there" occurrences.
But, I would not use the term REINFORCED. I don't want all that
excess baggage.


From: IN%"5211P%NAVPGS.bitnet@CNSIBM.ALBANY.EDU" 24-FEB-1996 00:24:54.37
Subj: RE: on "reinforcement"
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 1996 20:47:35 -0800 (PST)

Dear Jim: Because of the helplessness of the human infant, and the
necessity for others to provide care and comfort, hardly any situation
in early life is devoid of social implications. Having said this, we have to r
recognize that in order to survive, the infant has to anticipate actions from
the nonsocial, time-space world. He/she has to distinguish, for example,
between a cold hard bedframe and a warm soft mattress.

End of Exchange