Is Behaviorism Becoming a Pseudoscience?: Replies to Drs. Wyatt, Midkiff and Wong

Jerome C. Wakefield


Wyatt and Midkiff (2006a) and Wong (2006a) argued that the eclipse of token economy treatment for schizophrenia was due not to scientific judgments but to the biological politics of the mental health field. I argued that the treatment’s fate was due to its own limitations, particularly the failure of effects to generalize adequately to natural environments given deinstitutionalization (Wakefield, 2006). Wyatt and Midkiff (2006b) and Wong (2006b) vigorously disputed my claim. In this reply, I analyze their responses regarding generalization, and their arguments for behavioral etiology. I conclude that we all agree that such treatments were not shown to adequately generalize, providing a scientific reason for the treatment’s fate. I also find their etiological arguments unsound. Even-handed attention to evidence, recognition of behaviorism’s limits and strengths, and an integrative approach are essential if behaviorism is not to veer toward pseudoscience.


behaviorism, behavioral treatment, schizophrenia, token economy, etiology of schizophrenia, mental disorder, history of psychology, history of psychiatry, philosophy of science, harmful dysfunction, biological causation, pharmaceutical industry

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility