Re: On the construction REINFORCEMENT

Rue L. Cromwell (cromwell@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Sun, 25 Feb 1996 12:45:04 +0000

>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%"" 21-FEB-1996 20:14:18.75
>To: IN%"" "James C. Mancuso"
>To: "James C. Mancuso" <>
>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

I am reminded of an incident when I was the Psychology Clinic Assistant
sitting in on Kelly's psychotherapy supervision group when Kelly was greatly
annoyed by a memorandum by an experimental psychology professor at OSU that
all the elementary psychology instructors (mostly experimental grad
students) were to assume responsibility for the counseling of the freshman
psychology students. In an attempt to be cryptic I spoke up and said that I
felt I should perhaps see one of them about my "right turning" response.
Kelly took so much glee in my comment--an began quoting me--that I became
genuinely apprehensive (as an insecure graduate student myself) that my
quotation might get back to this experimental psychology professor, with
whom I was doing an animal lab study.

At that time, all the experimental people (and some of the clinical people)
were immersed in Hull-Spence theory, wherein reinforcement was defined
strictly in terms of drive reduction. So, it is worth noting that Kelly's
aversion to the "drive" construct and similar reductionistic and
"physics-inherited" notions. I was left with the feeling that his choice of
the term "validation" related at least in part to that. Of course, it
raised the theoretical discussion among us (his students) about instances
where one can successfully predict a painful (some say negatively reforcing;
nonetheless hedonistic) outcome.



>(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]
>CC: JCM61
>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.
> Best,
> Jim
>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

Rue L. Cromwell