Dr. William Baum

Three Laws of Behavior: Allocation, Induction, and Covariance

Like any science, a science of behavior seeks to measure its phenomena and explain them. Measurement entails ontological commitments, either explicit or implicit. From an ontological viewpoint, behavior is process. It should be measured by the time it takes up. Since time is limited, activities must compete with one another for time. The Law of Allocation states that the relative time taken up by an activity equals the activity’s relative competitive weight. Explaining the allocation of behavior consists of finding the determiners of competitive weight. The two most basic determiners are induction and covariance. The Law of Induction addresses the dependence of behavior on environmental events that affect reproductive success—phylogenetically important events (PIEs). Both adjunctive behavior and operant behavior are induced by PIEs. Adjunctive behavior is induced because of phylogenetic contingencies. Operant behavior is induced because of ontogenetic contingencies. The law of covariance applies to ontogenetic contingencies. A PIE induces an operant activity when the rate of that PIE covaries with the rate of the operant activity. Induction selects the operant activity out of all activities. Otherwise neutral events also induce operant activities adjunctive activities when such events covary with PIEs. Such events have commonly been called discriminative stimuli and conditional stimuli. The three laws of allocation, induction, and covariance explain most known behavioral phenomena.

About Dr. William Baum:

Dr. Baum received his BA in psychology from Harvard College in 1961. Originally a biology major, he switched to psychology after taking courses from B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein in his freshman and sophomore years. He attended Harvard University for graduate study in 1962, where he was supervised by Herrnstein and received his Ph.D. in 1966. He spent the year 1965–66 at Cambridge University, studying ethology at the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior. From 1966 to 1975, he held appointments as post-doctoral fellow, research associate, and assistant professor at Harvard University. He spent two years at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory for Brain, Evolution, and Behavior and then accepted an appointment in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1977. He retired from there in 1999. He currently has an appointment as associate researcher at the University of California, Davis and lives in San Francisco. His research concerns choice, molar behavior/environment relations, foraging, cultural evolution, and behaviorism. He is the author of a book, Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.