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A Behavioral Approach to Consciousness

1 hours, 17 minutes
1.5 BACB

“Consciousness is nothing more than a word evoked by many different behaviors under different circumstances. We should not allow ourselves to debate “what is consciousness” or “what is the nature of consciousness” because there is no resolution to such a debate.”

Hank Schlinger Jr, PhD, BCBA-D


Scholars have been studying consciousness for over 100 years, starting with the work of Wundt and others. Despite the extensive study of the topic, researchers have been unable to make significant progress in describing this elusive concept. In this course, Dr. Hank Schlinger begins with a review of historical and contemporary studies of consciousness, referencing notable contributors. Dr. Schlinger then describes the problems with previous explanations of consciousness and how a behavioral approach, suggested by Skinner (1945), could provide a more technical description. Dr. Schlinger concludes this course by discussing the philosophical and practical implications of explaining consciousness through a functional analysis.


Learning Objectives—What you’ll learn in the course and be able to do afterward

  1. List historical and contemporary contributors to the study of consciousness.
    • Describe the method Wundt used to study consciousness and why this method was problematic.
    • Describe how William James’ and John Watson’s explanations of consciousness differed from other psychological accounts.
  2. Explain neuroreductionism according to Schlinger.
    • Reference contemporary neuroreductionist accounts of consciousness.
    • Explain why neuroreductionist explanations of consciousness are problematic, according to Schlinger.
  3. Explain why nonscientific explanations are problematic for describing consciousness, according to Schlinger.
  4. List the “easy” and “hard” problems of explaining consciousness, according to Chalmers (1995).
    • Define qualia according to Koch (2004) and others.
    • Provide a behavioral description of qualia according to Skinner and Schlinger.
  5. Describe a behavioral approach to consciousness, including a functional analysis of the term.
    • List behaviors that describe “being conscious” according to Schlinger.
    • Describe how we learn to become conscious of our environment, our overt behavior and our private events.


This course is delivered through Florida Tech. Clicking “Enroll Now” will take you to Florida Tech’s website where you can Add to CartCheckout, and complete the course. Come back to our website for podcasts, blogs, courses, and content.



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