Before reading this article, please review this caution statement:

* It is important, when speaking about any group of people, to keep certain cautions and principles in mind.  Please read carefully the numbered items found next.

Cautions to Observe when Considering Cultural Influences on Learning Style, Behavioral Patterns, and Value Orientations.

Discussing “cultural differences” and the influences of one’s heritage on learning style preferences, behavior patterns, and deeply-held values is fraught with hazards.  At any moment, we are just a few syllables away from inflicting verbal self-injury and perhaps unintentionally alienating ourselves from those with whom we wish to connect.  In order to prevent stereotyping and overgeneralizing (or on the other extreme, denying that cultural differences exist which fails to recognize and honor the characteristics that give a group their sense of peoplehood) we need to remember that:

1. All behaviors are found in all cultural groups.

2. Some behaviors are demonstrated more so in some cultures than in others, but the first point still applies.

3. Individuals within a particular culture display the traditional traits and cultural markers of that group to varying degrees… from “not at all” to “exclusively and intensely”.  These variations can be due to ethnic group differences with the larger culture, socio-economic status, degree of acculturation to the mainstream society, gender, religion, and myriad other factors.

4. If a student displays a behavior that is common and accepted within his/her cultural group, it should be viewed as “a difference” from the ways of the mainstream society that are promoted in the schools; NOT as a “deficiency” or “disorder”.


Are Behaviorist Interventions

 Inappropriate for
Preview This Clip Now! Culturally Different YoungstersPreview This Clip Now!

 with Learning and Behavior Disorders?

 Tom McIntyre, Ph.D.
 Hunter College of CUNY



 The author contends that behaviorist interventions are often inappropriate for, and sometimes even discriminatory against large numbers of culturally different youngsters with learning and behavioral disorders.  Readers are asked to ponder whether behaviorism's practices, despite the empirical research demonstrating their effectiveness, should be implemented with youngsters who do not adhere to a Western European life view and orientation.

     When educators are unfamiliar with the values, beliefs, and behaviors of their culturally different students, there exists a strong possibility that the practices they employ will be inappropriate for those youngsters (Goodtracks, 1973; Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994; McIntyre, 1993; 1996a).  This cultural misapplication can also occur in the mental health profession (Brondino, Henggeler, Rowland, Pickrel, Cunningham, & Schoenwald 1996; Lee & Richardson, 1991).  The dissynchronous phenomenon is especially pronounced in the case of behaviorists and those who use behavioral interventions.
 This paper is designed to stimulate thinking about the use of behaviorist interventions with culturally different youngsters.  It is this author's contention that in our increasingly multicultural society and schools, behaviorists promote practices that are often culturally myopic and insensitive, and frequently counterproductive for many culturally different youngsters.  Widely used interventions in special education, many with empirical validation, may need to be re-evaluated.

A comparison of cultures

     While it is important to focus on the similarities among disparate peoples, it is also important to recognize and address commonly-found differences between and within cultures (McIntyre, 1995; 1996b).  Certainly, we cannot blindly ascribe particular traits to all individuals with similar heritage or background, but in general, different cultural groups tend to have different ways of interpreting the world and the events that happen within it (Hill, Carjuzaa, Aramburo, & Baca, 1993; McIntyre & Silva, 1992).  All cultures can cite "proof" of the validity of their ways of looking at life, and  develop practices that reflect and perpetuate their outlooks (Condon & Yousef, 1975).  In other words, people explain happenings according to their life views, and provide "evidence" for their claims in a way that they believe proves them to be true.  This means that individuals from different groups who witness the same event are likely to disagree about the cause, future effects, and appropriate reactions.  As will be explained, this is often the case in education.

     The frequently-found cultural differences can be attributed to traditional differences in childbearing that are resistant to change over time (Grossman, 1990; McIntyre & Silva, 1992).  The dominant cultural group in North America, (Western) European American, holds a rational, "scientific", mechanistic outlook on life's happenings (Condon & Yousef, 1975; Hall, 1995; Stewart, 1972) that is often in contrast or opposition to the life-views of African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and many Eastern European cultures that tend to be more associative and affective.  Stated in another way, the (Western) European American culture (and those who have been influenced by it) uses rational ways, including "the scientific model" to "prove" the validity of its views (Hurlburt, Gade & McLaughlin, 1990).  The analytic, sequential, observable, and data-based nature of behavior modification (behaviorist) procedures, reflects the (Western) European American life orientation, which frequently conflicts with the traditional conceptualizations and resultant practices of other cultural groups such as African American (Anderson, 1988).  These other groups also have "proofs" for their lifeviews and derived interventions, often of a spiritual/non-rational nature.  However, they are not valued by European Americans, especially males (Riger, 1992), who consider their own objectified, experimental (or quasi-experimental), socially decontextualized, quantitative, "scientific" proofs to be superior to other forms of evidence (Hall, 1995).

     The European American culture typically makes use of a cognitive style that involves empirical analysis (Zabel & Zabel, 1994).  People of Western European heritage commonly believe that most happenings have a knowable, physical cause (Althen 1988; Condon & Yousef, 1975).  Something concrete is believed to have caused an event.  With their rational, mechanistic, "things can be explained" method of thinking (Condon & Yousef, 1975; Stewart 1972), they believe that very few happenings are a result of "fate", "luck", "chance", or spiritual intervention (Althen, 1988; Baruth & Manning, 1992; Condon & Yousef, 1975; Hanna, 1988; Lanier, 1988; Pusch, 1979; Storti, 1994).  Some European Americans may ascribe certain types of events (e.g., the accidental death of a child) to "God's will", however these intangible factors are usually not viewed as being responsible for what happens to people in most cases (Althen, 1988).

     European Americans also tend to believe there are non-mystical etiologies for disabilities.  Other cultures do not necessarily hold this view when it comes to the cause and meaning of impairments (Harry, 1994).  For example, varying cultural views are apparent in situations involving behavioral concerns (Epanchin, Townsend & Stoddard, 1994).  Consider that "For many traditional Native Americans the concept of deviancy, like that of disease, may be seen as a phenomenon of the supernatural and full of moral implication.  The healer is often seen as endowed with supernatural power, divining the presumed cause of a problem through hand trembling, crystal gazing, or other metaphysical means." (Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994, p. 131)  While in many cultures, deviant behavior is viewed as requiring "spiritual" or "religious" intervention, programs for behaviorally disordered pupils are most likely to reflect the dominant European-American culture's tendency to rely on "scientific" (read: "behaviorist") interventions (Peterson & Ishii-Jordan, 1994; Torrey, 1986).

The basis of behaviorism

     Behaviorism reflects the mechanistic world view first delineated by Pepper in 1942 (Odom & Haring, 1994).  Behaviorists assume that there is an objective reality, based on "scientific knowledge", that can be segmented into understandable parts (Epanchin, Townsend & Stoddard, 1994; Heshusius, 1989; Schon, 1987).  The mechanistic paradigm of behaviorism is a reductionist school of thought which assumes that reality is objective and can be understood via the analysis of gathered data (Epanchin, Townsend, & Stoddard, 1994; Heshusius, 1989).  The standard behavioral paradigm is an analysis of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences (Zabel & Zabel, 1994).

     This sequential and analytic style is at odds with any culturally different youngsters have another style of metacognition (i.e., the way one assembles diverse elements and information into a coherent whole) due to variances in childrearing practices between cultures (Anderson, 1988; Banks & Banks, 1993; Fennema & Peterson, 1987; Garcia & Malkin, 1993; McIntyre, 1996c).  For example, many Native Americans' method of metacognition is one of paradox and mystery (Tafoya 1982), not the cause-and-effect view of the world found in behaviorism (Kauffman, 1993).  This cause-and-effect outlook, in which a happening (stimulus) causes a reaction (response) that results in a consequence, also reflects the European American linear (as opposed to circular) view of time (Stewart, 1972).

     Indeed, "behavior modification" procedures reflect the cognitive style of European Americans, especially males, who were typically raised to suppress inner emotional feelings (Gray, 1992; Tannen, 1990): sequential, analytic, factual, and non-emotional.  Given their rational and objective manner of thinking, their derived intervention models and approaches regarding human behavior are generally mechanistic in orientation (Condon & Yousef, 1975).  A great deal of emphasis is placed on the acquisition of "knowledge" through "scientific models" while minimizing human values and the importance of the person (Hurlburt, Gade & McLaughlin, 1990).

     Perhaps behaviorist practices experience their great popularity in educational and therapeutic programs because European American men, who hold this lifeview most strongly, were the major American educational philosophers, are so prominent in special educator preservice training programs, and author and edit most of the writing in our field.  They have collected and organized (or at least read about) concrete, observable "data" which is considered to be "proof" in their "objective" life orientation.  Not surprisingly then, THEIR "proven" methods are being taught and promoted to future practitioners, often to the exclusion of techniques based on other intervention models.

     One might wonder what our educational and therapeutic settings and practices would be like if professional journals required non-data based "proof" for publication of articles.  Imagine journals, reflective of other life orientations, rejecting manuscripts reporting on data-based studies because they're full of numbers derived from observational practices that fail to consider "real" causes and influences that effect change (at least in the minds of editors and their readers who hold a more spiritual view on the cause and treatment of learning and behavioral disabilities).

Culture, behaviorism and programming for students with disabilities

 In the behaviorist model, a European American cultural context is used to define socially appropriate target behaviors (Peterson & Ishii-Jordan, 1994).  It's popularity is no surprise in North American schools wherein the cultural context (e.g., rules, regulations, instructional practices) is middle class European American (Anderson, 1994; McIntyre, 1996a; Mercer, 1979; Nelson, 1995; Peterson & Ishii-Jordan, 1994; Singh, Ellis, Oswald, Wechsler, & Curtis, 1997; Taylor & Dean, in press), reflecting the learning styles, and the moral and behavioral codes of that group.  Traditional school environments often penalize students with moral structures, values, beliefs, languages, and behaviors at variance with those of "the mainstream American" (Grossman, 1984; Gersten & Woodward, 1994; Hanna, 1988; Lasky, 1994; McIntyre, 1993; 1996b).  Even culturally different students who are proficient in Standard English and aware of mainstream expectations, may be penalized by teaching methods that conflict with their culturally determined learning and behavioral styles (Focal point, 1988; Grossman, 1984; 1990; McIntyre, 1992a; 1992b; 1996c; Ogbu, 1990).

     In addition, too often the focus of the schools is on "the curriculum of control" (Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993; Knitzer, Steinberg, & Fleisch, 1990), making students comply with what well intentioned, but intolerant educators believe to be "reasonable" rules of conduct.   The permissibility of controlling another's behavior in what is believed to be in the best interest of society reflects another western European tradition (Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993), and is the premise for the behaviorally-oriented classroom.  Indeed, Skinner himself stated that "Many social practices essential to the welfare of the species involve the control of one person by another, and no one can suppress them who has any concern for human achievements." (Skinner, 1971, p.43)  However, this coercive view is at odds with the traditional beliefs of other cultural groups.

     For example, traditional American Indians and Hispanics are likely to reject the power- oriented and controlling conceptualization upon which behaviorist practices are based.  Instead, they are inclined to advocate for acceptance of non-standard behavior with little in the way of interference or attempts to control it (Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993; Good Tracks, 1973; Kallam, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994; Nozick, 1975; Slaughter, 1976).  In the latter culturally different approach, a youngster learns from experience, and variations in behavior (if non-violent) are respected.  Self-determination is prized and respected, with many traditional Native American groups believing that one has the right to choose one's own behavioral path as long as it does not interfere with the goals of others (Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994).

     Native Americans in particular are given comparatively more freedom of responsibility for their actions.  They often believe that they do not have the right to interfere in other's activities, nor others to interfere in their's, even though the behavior might seem unwise or involve a degree of danger (Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994).  This indigenous American view is described by Nozick (1975, p. 137): "Individual rights must not be violated is the most basic consideration for choosing among systems and this criterion by itself is sufficient to rule the case against any intervention from others."

     This principle of noninterference is incompatible with coercive styles of intervention (Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993; Good Tracks, 1973; Kallam, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994; Slaughter, 1976), and authoritarian or highly directive/controlling interventions are particularly likely to be counterproductive with Native American youngsters (Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994).  For American Indians who tend to show a great deal of tolerance for behavioral variations, "Long-term remediations stemming from a behavioral model may also be of little use if the suggested intervention is viewed as intrusive and demeaning." (Kallem, Hoernicke, & Coser, 1994, p. 129).

The negative side of positive reinforcers

 Another, more universal, cultural conflict emerges with respect to the administration of reinforcers.  While behaviorists would claim any type of reinforcement as fitting into their model, most behaviorist texts recommend use of material rewards rather than eye twinkles, tilts of the head, smiles, and other time-tested interpersonal reinforcers that are difficult to quantify and record.  However, concrete rewards (at home or school) may be a major contributor to the creation of materialistic youngsters who when requested to behave in a certain manner ask "What do I get if I do it?".  While European American middle class homes tend to produce materialistic children who often determine a great deal of one's personal worth and status according to level of affluence (Baruth & Manning 1992; Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993; Colin & Johns 1990; Condon & Yousef 1975; Gollnick & Chinn 1990; Hall, 1995; Ho 1987; 1992; Li & Liu 1993; Romero 1992; Stewart 1972), we must be concerned about the promotion of this lifestyle among youngsters from cultures in which this orientation is foreign.

     As just one example of a variation from a materialistic outlook, consider the words of Grossman (1984, p.37 & 40): "Hispanics tend to be more interested in and dependent on the approval of others than Anglos who are more likely to be receptive to more impersonal and materialistic forms of recognition."  Wlodkowski and Ginsberg (1995, p. 18) state: "We can only conclude that, as long as the educational system continues to relate motivation to learn with external rewards and punishments, culturally different students will, in large part, be excluded from engagement and success in school."

       Even if non-material reinforcers are used in place of tangible ones, problems may still arise.  Almost all cultures of the world promote appropriate child behavior via the threat of punishment for misbehavior (Grossman, 1984; McIntyre, 1993; McIntyre & Silva, 1992).  For example, praise is not used in traditional East Asian childrearing (Ho, 1987; 1992; Kakar, 1988; Li & Liu, 1993; Tang, 1991; Lupi & Woo, 1989).  Consider also many of the traditional families from India, who while proud of their children, withhold reinforcement for prosocial behavior for fear of attracting "the evil eye" or tempting the fates (Kakar, 1988).  The European American middle-class culture (and individuals from other groups who have come to hold that mainstream orientation) is one of the few that typically uses positive reinforcement procedures while limiting punishment (Grossman, 1984).  This means that reinforcing youngsters for "good" behavior in school may be counter to the traditional childrearing beliefs and practices of many cultural groups (Brendtro & Brokenleg, 1993; Cassidy, 1988; Hanna, 1988; Ho, 1987; 1992; Li & Liu, 1993; Tang, 1991; Lupi & Woo, 1989), perhaps confusing culturally different youngsters, and causing them to doubt the love of their parents, or the motivations of their teachers.

    Even for culturally different youngsters who do desire praise and recognition for their efforts, it can bring ostracization from peers if conducted along typical behaviorist lines.  For youngsters who hail from traditional Asian (California State Department of Education, 1986; Nelson, 1995; Woo, 1985), Hispanic (Baruth & Manning, 1992; Grossman, 1984), and Native American (Kallam, Hornicke & Coser, 1994; Romero, 1992; Tafoya, 1982) cultures in which one should not "stand out" from peers, individualized reinforcement can bring ridicule from peers who view their fellow student to be "showing off".

    Reinforcing youngsters for compliance can also backfire in another way.  Historically, certain groups have not been treated well by European American society and it's institutions (Foster, 1986; McIntyre, 1992; 1993; Ogbu, 1990; Quality of Education for Minorities, 1990; Sosa, 1990).  As a result, these groups frequently place pressure on their members not to succeed in "White" settings, including educational facilities (Ferguson & Jackson, 1990; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986: Gregory, 1992; McIntyre, 1993; 1995; 1996b; Ogbu, 1990; Petroni, 1970).  Few teachers realize that African American, Mexican American, Native American, and Native Hawaiian youth, are often under great pressure from their peers not to achieve in school (Gregory, 1992; Gollnick & Chinn, 1990; Hanna, 1988; McIntyre, 1993; Ogbu, 1990).  Receipt of positive teacher recognition is often viewed by same-culture peers as indicating that one is leaving one's culture behind and identifying with those who oppressed their people.

     For these alienated culturally different youth, misbehavior is often a strategy of resistance to the school's pressure to think and act "white" (Fordham, 1988; Gibson, 1988; Gregory, 1992; McIntyre, 1993; 1995; 1996b; Ogbu, 1988; 1990; Quality Education for Minorities, 1990).  This culturally promoted rejection of the schools' behavioral code can result in referral for behavior disorders services (McIntyre, 1993; 1996a; 1996b).  Once in those special education settings, behaviorist methods are even more likely to be utilized to promote the European American behavioral norm of the schools, escalating the cycle of conflict even further.  Indeed, according to Webber (1993, p.2), "...special education teachers rely almost exclusively on behavioral systems to `control' students' behavior...".

Is appropriateness of interventions dependent on learning styles?

     A person's cognitive patterns depend, to a large extent, on which ones have been modeled and reinforced by childrearing practices (Anderson, 1988; Banks & Banks, 1993; Fennema & Peterson, 1987; Garcia & Malkin, 1993; Hale, 1982; McIntyre, 1996c; Philips, 1983; Shade, 1982); practices that typically vary by culture (Anderson, 1988; Grossman, 1990; Ishii-Jordan & Peterson, 1994a; McIntyre, 1992b; Philips, 1983).  Upon entering school, students attempt to gather and process incoming information using strategies that have been promoted previously in similar situations (Anderson, 1988; Jenkins, 1982; McIntyre, 1996c; Smith, 1993).  If their culturally determined processing procedures are incompatible with the required cognitive style of the task, dysfunction (e.g., cognitive and emotional conflict, poor academic performance, and low self esteem) can result (Baruth & Manning, 1992; McIntyre, 1996c; Vogt, Jordan, & Tharp, 1987).
 Unfortunately, the instructional methods typically used in schools are often incompatible with the learning styles and experiences of culturally and linguistically different students (Anderson, 1988; Focal Point, 1988; Franklin, 1992; Ishii-Jordan & Peterson, 1994b; McIntyre, 1996c; Vasquez, 1990).  In our schools, "B.F. Skinner's work in reinforcement theory and operant conditioning has had a dramatic impact on the field of education via programmed instruction and behavioral objectives" (Brown, 1993, p.3).  Most prospective teachers, including special educators (Cummins, 1984; Franklin, 1992), are taught to develop sequential learning objectives for their students based on task analysis followed by direct instruction of each individual task component (Cummins, 1984; Dean, Salend, & Taylor, 1993; Epanchin, Townsend, & Stoddard, 1994; Heshusius, 1989), a process known as "chaining".

     This monolithic model of instruction is compatible with the typical learning style of European American students (Tharp, 1989) who, as a result of childrearing and modeling, have developed a sequential and inductive processing style (Brislin, 1993; Gollnick & Chinn, 1990; Lanier, 1988; Stewart, 1972; Wenzhong & Grove, 1991).  However, it is extended beyond majority culture pupils to culturally different youngsters who commonly don't learn as well through this approach (Dean, Salend, & Taylor, 1993; Franklin, 1992; McIntyre, 1996c).  The linear, skill-based approach of behavioral objectives and direct instruction, reflective of the Socratic linear system of logic (Hall, 1977; Romero, 1992) is opposed to the relational thinking filled with analogies, metaphors, similes, and correlational logic that is often evident in other cultures (Althen, 1988; Anderson, 1988; Tung-Sun, 1962).  It is also in contrast to the "circular" learning style commonly found in the Asian and Native American cultures (Curriculum Update, 1993).

    As a specific example of how the use of behaviorists' task analysis and chaining could be culturally insensitive, consider the belief common among Athkabaskan Native Alaskans that if one explains the sequential procedure for doing something to another, that instructor will lose his or her ability to perform that task (A. Goessal, personal communication, 1994).  What must they think of mainstream teachers who provide a step-by-step explanation of how to progress through a task, or ask their students to explain the sequence of procedures to another who is experiencing difficulty?  As is common in traditional North American Native cultures (Hall, 1995; Ho, 1992; Hurlburt, Gade & McLaughlin, 1990), the teaching/learning of behaviors is conducted by having the youngster watch the adult perform the task before attempting it.  Flaws in the product are corrected by repeatedly watching and attempting.  The youngster improves his or her performance by observing, working, and comparing.

     On a wider scale, the segmental approach that involves task analysis, and the subsequent "chaining" of sequential skills onto previously learned ones, is in direct contrast to the holistic learning style common among Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, Arabs, and some Asian Americans (Anderson, 1988; Ramirez, 1988; Banks & Banks, 1993; Hvitfeldt, 1986; Nydell, 1987; Utley, 1983).  Additionally, behaviorists' "premack principle" (i.e., "work before play"), in which a desired activity is used to reinforce completion of a non-desired activity also reveals the "task oriented" European American outlook on life (Althen, 1988; Colin & Johns, 1990; Ho, 1987; Lanier, 1988).  This orientation is in opposition to the lifeview of more "people oriented" groups.

Rethinking things

     The failure to modify instructional and behavior management practices to better match students' culturally learned styles is counterproductive to their optimal education (Blackorby & Edgar, 1990; McIntyre, 1992a; 1996c).  Certainly many culturally different youngsters have succeeded in academic environments that used behaviorist practices, but we must ask whether they succeeded because of, or in spite of, these practices.  How many would have done even better without behaviorist practices?  How many culturally different youngsters failed to reach their full potential because of them?

     The future will bring greater recognition of behaviorist techniques as being "racist" in many instances, although unknowingly and unintentionally so (McIntyre, 1996a).  Certainly, staunch behaviorists, in general, are well-intentioned individuals.  Their view that their ways are best for all is understandable, if ethnocentric.  They want to share with others what works well for them, believing that everyone will benefit from their practices and interventions.  They cite empirical research data that in their minds "proves" its effectiveness.  It is difficult for them to imagine how their ways could be questioned.
 Additionally, many behaviorists point out how culturally different practices are really examples of their principles of positive or negative reinforcement, modeling, etc., still failing to recognize that they are stuck in their orientation and laying claim to practices they wouldn't even conceive of recommending.  Many would even claim that this author is an unknowing behaviorist.  For example, many behaviorists reading this manuscript will probably say "everything mentioned in here has a behaviorist term to identify it".  This is an example of how each cultural orientation tries to make the world fit into its model.  Given the dominance of the Western European group in the United States and Canada, their model and practices, based on their life orientation, are implemented.  Behaviorists' culturally myopic views and practices ultimately discriminate against many youngsters who display the traditional values, patterns of behavior, and learning style characteristics of their cultural background.

     No matter what our background, nearly all of us are ethnocentric (McIntyre & Silva, 1992), so immersed in our own cultural ways, that it is difficult for us to imagine any other way of thinking and acting.  Each culture views its own ways as being "right" and "the best way to do things" (Gollnick & Chinn, 1990; Hallahan & Kauffman, 1994; McIntyre, 1992a).  This phenomenon occurs because we aren't even aware of our own "deep" cultural traits, let alone those of other groups.  In essence, it could be said that we don't even know what we don't know.
 Indeed, educational professionals at all levels typically lack awareness of and tolerance for cultural differences (McIntyre, 1992a), often expecting their culturally different charges to deny centuries of heritage and adopt majority culture ways overnight.  Today's teaching force, most of which is European American and becoming increasingly so, are primarily trained by European American professors who lack cross-cultural competence (N. Ewing, cited in CEC Today 1996).  If teachers (and mental health professionals) are to be expected to implement culturally competent interactional, instructional, and behavior management practices, a restructuring and refocusing of preservice training efforts is essential (McIntyre, 1992a; 1993; 1996b).

     Does this author recommend that behaviorist practices be banned?  Certainly not.  Behaviorists have helped many children achieve gains and live better lives, and their interventions are well-suited to the lifespace of a large group of youngsters, especially those who hold a Western European orientation.  Additionally, while the practices may often be contraindicated for traditionally oriented culturally different students who are cognitively able, any negative impact might be less pronounced for pupils who are severely intellectually impaired.  However, behaviorists need to engage in a study of cultural differences, and disrecommend the use of their strategies in many situations.  A new "cultural behaviorism" needs to evolve.  This new sub-field of behaviorism would consider the influences of one's heritage and upbringing, eliminating some traditional behaviorist techniques and modifying others.


     Behaviorists' research may be able to "prove" that behavioral change occurs, but at what cost?  Is a method, despite its empirical validation, appropriate for everyone?  Is it morally right to change culturally different behavior in culturally insensitive ways?  One need only ask former students made to attend Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in decades past, or those youngsters who are willing to comply and love to learn, but refuse to do so in ways that they perceive to be "acting white" (identifying with a group they believe to be oppressors).  While behaviorist practices may be "effective", we must question if the means, or even the ends, are appropriate in all cases.



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NOTE: The author thanks Virginia Tong, Kathy Beaudoin, Kristine Melloy, Susan Polirstok, and Yuen Shing Chan for their helpful commentary on earlier drafts of this paper.

No.  This animal is NOT a white rat.
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