Reinforcement in the 16th Century: Was the Bard a Behaviorist?

Publication Date

January 1987


Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew is described in terms of behavior analysis. Changes in the behavior of the character Kate result from her husband Petruchio's manipulation of environmental contingencies. Aspects ofbehavior analysis found in the play include the identification of target behavior, the establishment of events as reinforcers, the arrangement of contingencies between responses and reinforcers, and the assessment of post-intervention responding. Several aspects of Shakespeare's description are related to current issues in behavior analysis bearing on theory, cultural practices, and public relations.



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