Define Your Terms

Accountability: The measuring of events in a way that allows others to document, to verify, and to evaluate those events. Evaluation implies that there are consequences to the measuring of those events. Accountability can be qualitative by describing or quantitative by counting; quantitative is preferable.

Accuracy: The validity or degree of correspondence to reality or truth. The ratio of error to the true value.

Antecedent: An event preceding a behavior. The event may signal the behavior to occur. If so, it derives its power from the event following the behavior, the consequence.

Behavior: An objective action of an organism upon its environment. By tradition begun by J. B. Watson in 1920, non-verbal behavior is referred to as “instrumental behavior”. The principles describing behavior were advanced most prominently by B. F. Skinner, an American experimental psychologist, beginning in 1938.

Biology: The science dealing with life and living organisms with emphasis upon genetically-based activity; namely, anatomy, biochemistry, physiology.

Cognition: A subjective, mental process involving executive functions such as anticipation, intuition, judgement, memory, and reasoning. It is subserved primarily by the frontal lobes of the brain augmented by other areas such as the hippocampus (memory).

Consequence: An event following a behavior.  The event determines the future strength of that behavior.

Contingency: A consequence directly related to a specific behavior by cause-and-effect not by chance.

Discrimination: The process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently.

Emotion: A subjective mental process involving states of feeling (apprehension, depression, joy, rage, etc.) subserved by lower centers of the brain such as the amygdala (apprehension).

Mental: An amorphous term relating to the “mind”, a hypothetical construct reflecting the activity of the brain. The term, however, can be refined to refer to cerebral processes involving cognition and emotion.

Objectivity: Describing the characteristics of an entity in ways that allow for observation and measurement.

Physiology: That part of biological science that studies the functions of living organisms as specific response or output to specific changes in the general biology or in the surrounding environment.

Precision: The degree of tolerance or exactness.

Reinforcement: The strengthening of a behavior (operant) or a cognitive, emotional, or physiological response (respondent). Operant reinforcement is the pairing of a behavior with a consequence; it can be positive or negative. Respondent reinforcement is the pairing of two stimuli, conditional with unconditional.

Response: A reaction elicited by a stimulus. The principles describing stimuli-responses were advanced most prominently by I. P. Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, in 1927.

Schedule of Reinforcement: The terms and conditions by which contingent consequences follow a behavior. A schedule may be based upon time [e.g., fixed interval (FI) such as a final exam] or behavior [e.g., fixed ratio (FR) such as piece-work] and may be simple (e.g., FI or FR) or complex (e.g., FI5FR50).

Science: The greatest invention of the human intellect by which the parameters of Nature are described via direct observation and hypotheses testable by experimentation. It is based upon a particular methodology the guidelines of which are specificity, objectivity, and accountability enhancing the tenets of prediction, reproducibility, and possibly control.

Specificity: Describing events in a way that differentiates them from other events that may be similar but not identical.  It promotes accuracy and precision.

Signal: An event antecedent to another, second event that transmits the information regarding the probability of occurrence of that second event.

Signal Detection Theory: A means whereby one can measure independently the two aspects of an observer’s performance in attempting to detect a stimulus or to discriminate between two different stimuli.  Those two aspects are “sensitivity” and “response bias”.

Stimulus: An event, whether external or internal, that elicits in a reflex-like fashion a mental or physiological response.

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