Jacob Robert Kantor (1888-1984) was the creator of interconductism, a psychological and scientific model that coexisted with radical Skinnerian behaviorism and was strongly influenced by naturalistic philosophy.

In this article we will analyze the four basic principles of Kantor’s interconnductism and their relationship with Skinner’s model.

Basic Principles of Interconductivity

Kantor coined the term “interconductism” probably to differentiate his position from the classical model of behavioral psychology, hegemonic in his time and very popular today: the “E-R” (Stimulus-Response) scheme.

Kantor’s model defines a psychological field that is schematised as K = (es, o, f e-r, s, hi, ed, md) , where “K” is a given behavioural segment. Each of the other abbreviations refers to one of the following variables:

  • Stimulus event(s): everything that makes contact with a given body.
  • Variables of the organism (o): biological reactions to external stimulation.
  • Stimulus-response function (f e-r) : historically developed system that determines the interaction between stimuli and responses.
  • Situational factor(s): any variable, both organismic and external, that influences the interaction analysed.
  • Interbehavioural history (hi): refers to behavioural segments that have happened previously and that influence the current situation.
  • Dispositional events (ed): the sum of situational factors and behavioural history, i.e. all events that influence the interaction.
  • Means of contact (md): circumstances that allow the behavioural segment to take place.

Interconductism is not only considered a psychological theory, but a philosophical proposal of general character, applicable to psychology as well as to the rest of sciences, particularly those of behavior. In this sense, Moore (1984) highlights four basic principles that characterize Kantor’s interconduct psychology .

1. Naturalism

Naturalist philosophy argues that all phenomena are explainable by the natural sciences and that there is a clear interdependence between physical and non-observable events. Thus, this philosophy rejects the dualism between the organism and the mind, which it considers to be a manifestation of the biological substratum of the body interacting with a given environment.

Therefore, when analyzing any fact it is fundamental to take into account the space-time context in which it occurs, since trying to study an isolated fact is reductionist and meaningless. Kantor warned that the tendency of psychology towards mentalism interferes with its development as a science and must be denounced in any of its forms.

2. Scientific Pluralism

According to Kantor, there is no one science that is superior to the rest, but rather the knowledge acquired by different disciplines must be integrated, and it is necessary for some to refute the approaches of others in order for science to advance. To this end, researchers should not seek a macro-theory but simply continue to investigate and make proposals.

3. Multi-causality

Interconductism rejects traditional hypotheses and models of causality, which seek to explain the occurrence of certain events through simple, linear relationships. According to Kantor causality should be understood as a complex process that integrates multiple factors in a given phenomenological field.

He also stressed the probabilistic nature of science; in no case are certainties found, but it is only possible to generate explanatory models as close as possible to the underlying factors, from which it is impossible to obtain all the information.

4. Psychology as interaction between organism and stimuli

Kantor pointed out that the object of study of psychology should be the interconnection, i.e. the two-way interaction between the stimuli and responses of the organism. This interaction is more complex than those of sciences such as physics, since in psychology the development of behaviour patterns by accumulation of experiences is very relevant.

Relationship with radical behaviorism

Kantor’s interbehavioural psychology and Burrhus Frederick Skinner’s radical behaviourism emerged at approximately the same time. The relationship between both disciplines at their peak can be described as ambivalent, since both the similarities and the differences between interconductism and radical behaviorism are evident.

The two models analyze behavior without using unobservable media variables, such as thoughts, emotions, or expectations. Thus, they focus on studying contingencies and causal relationships between behavior and its environmental determinants, avoiding the use of hypothetical constructs.

According to Morris (1984), the differences between interconductism and radical behaviorism are basically a matter of emphasis or details; for example, Kantor did not agree with the skinnerian perspective that behavior should be understood as a response, but conceived it as an interaction between different factors.

Schoenfeld (1969) stated that Kantor’s limited influence can be explained by the fact that his contributions were basically of a theoretical nature , since his main talent consisted in the analysis and criticism of current approaches and he sought to inspire others to follow a new direction in the field of psychology and science in general.

Bibliographic references:

  • Moore, J. (1984). Conceptual contributions of Kantor’s interbehavioral psychology. The Behavior Analyst, 7 (2): 183-187.
  • Morris, E. K. (1984). Interbehavioral psychology and radical behaviorism: Some similarities and differences. The Behavior Analyst, 7 (2): 197-204.
  • Schoenfeld, W. N. (1969). J. R. Kantor’s Objective Psychology of Grammar and Psychology and Logic: A retrospective appreciation. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 12: 329-347.