Emergence & Metacontingency: Points of Contact and Departure

Ramona Houmanfar, Nischal Joe Rodrigues, Todd A. Ward


The behavioral contingency and the metacontingency describe pheThe behavioral contingency and the metacontingency describe phenomena at different levels of analysis, the former at the individual level, the latter at the group level. The relationship between these levels is similar to the relationship between the physiological and the psychological levels of analysis. Simply stated, behavior is not simply the sum of physiological activity, but is rather more than or qualitatively different from physiological activity. We believe this emergent relationship may be crucial to distinguishing phenomena at different levels of analyses. The term ‘emergence’ is used in several ways within behavior analysis. Some uses suggest that novel behavior or more complex behavior is emergent upon simpler behavior. The term is also used to suggest that molar patterns of behavior emerge from molecular contingencies of reinforcement. For others, the term is reserved for describing connections between levels of analysis. Our aim in this paper is to contribute to an understanding of the phenomenon of emergence in the interdisciplinary interaction between behavior analysis and sociology. In presenting this analysis, we examine the utility of an interdisciplinary concept of metacontingency and discuss the points of contact and departures between behavior analysis and cultural analysis throughout this process.


emergence, metacontingency, interdisciplinary interaction, levels of analysis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/bsi.v19i0.3065

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