Adaptive Behavior and Learning/contents/Preface
- The first edition of Adaptive Behavior and Learning was published at a time when the field of animal learning was at its apogee. By 1983 the divisions of the field and its basic principles had already been established. Advances have been made since then in exploration of neurophysiological underpinnings and in elaboration and refinement of theoretical models, particularly neural models. Many new experimental papers have been published. But relatively little has been added by way of fundamental principles or new behavioral techniques. Even without revision, therefore, AB&L had acquired relatively little of a Rip van Winkle aspect after twenty years. In partial confirmation of this impression, I continued to receive requests for the book even though it had long been out of print.
- The relative ease of electronic publication, and increasing use of the internet by students, therefore led me to contemplate and, finally, to undertake, the preparation of a revised internet edition. Of course, I massively underestimated the effort involved. Even if the necessary revisions could be relatively minor, "improvements" in technology have retarded, almost as much as they have aided, production of a new version. The computer has coerced us all into becoming one-man bands. The author is no longer just an author, but also copy-editor, typesetter and graphic artist — whether he wants to be or not. The advantages of division of labor have been largely lost, even as the individual has become omnicompetent. Although help was usually available, the new edition took more work, and much more time, than I had anticipated.
- The original edition was designed neither as a textbook nor as a comprehensive review of what was even then a substantial literature. It had too many equations and too many theoretical speculations to be a successful text — and was too focused on operant (as opposed to classical) conditioning to present a balanced picture of the whole field of animal learning. Nevertheless, I believe it presented a unique mix of topics that are closely related in fact, even though they don't usually find themselves discussed in the same context: philosophy of behavior, systems analysis, orientation mechanisms in simple organisms and its relation to operant behavior, feeding regulation, optimality analysis and behavioral economics, behavioral ecology, animal cognition, memory, choice behavior and operant conditioning.
- For this new edition I had to strike a balance between being completely up to date and actually finishing the task. In the end, I favored simply getting the job done. The first priority was correcting errors, a few substantial, most typographical, in the original edition. I have also tried to clarify passages that seem to me now, at the distance of twenty years, to be obscure — either by restating the point or excising it. I have not even tried to add comprehensive new references for every topic. Instead, I have cited books and review papers that allow the interested reader to check out what has been done since the first edition was published.
- The organization of the book is improved. The excessively long Chapter 14 in the original book has been split into two. I have added a new chapter (Chapter 12) on response strength, which shows the theoretical unity behind two now-classical approaches to operant conditioning, matching theory and "momentum" theory. A number of topics have been re-written or given more extensive coverage in this edition.
- The book is written at two levels, represented by the main text and the Notes at the end of each chapter (Chapter 12 is a partial exception to this, being written at a more advanced level than the other chapters). The body of the text contains the major arguments and should be accessible to graduate students and to advanced undergraduates with some training in natural science. The book assumes no prior knowledge of psychology. But familiarity with graphs and the algebra of simple functions — the kind of sophistication acquired after a course or two of college math, chemistry, physics, or engineering — will make things much easier. There is a little elementary differential calculus in the text, but it can be skipped over and the arguments should be clear without it.
- The main text contains few names and references, which are more fully supplied in the Notes at the end of each chapter and References at the end of the book. Detailed citations are important for all sorts of reasons, but they tend to be distracting to most readers, who just want to understand the principles and major facts of a field.
- The extensive Notes sections serve three purposes: They supply the detailed references lacking in the text; they supplement the meager historical discussion in the text; and they take up topics, especially theoretical topics, at a more advanced or detailed level — giving proofs, qualifications, or references for what in the text is merely asserted.
- This book, like its predecessor, is about adaptive behavior and learning in animals not about learning in people. Animals are worth studying because they are intrinsically interesting, relatively easy to experiment on, complicated enough to be a challenge — and not as smart as we are. Perhaps we can actually begin to understand them scientifically in a reasonable time. I firmly believe that if we want to build a scientific understanding of the evolution and meaning of intelligence, in people as well as animals and machines, we must begin with animals — and in study that is directed at the problems they pose, without one eye always on what ails human beings. I am certain that the eventual payoff will indeed be an understanding of people as well as beasts. But solving human behavioral problems is likely to take some time, and it may be impeded by impatience to run before we can walk.
- John Staddon
- Durham, North Carolina
- June, 2003
- I repeat here acknowledgment of my debt to those who helped with the first edition: I thank first my teachers at Harvard and MIT: Richard Herrnstein, Peter van Sommers, Fred Skinner, Larry Stark, Donald Griffin, and others in Memorial Hall and the Electronic Systems Lab.
- Many colleagues have been kind enough to read particular chapters: I thank Irving Diamond, Carol Eckerman, Richard Ettinger, James Gould, Norman Guttman, John Hinson, John Horner, Alasdair Houston, Nancy Innis and her students, Gregory Kimble, Gregory Lockhead, Tony Nevin, Alliston Reid, Sam Revusky, David Rubin, Philip Teitelbaum, John Vaughn, Meredith West, and Cliff Wing. John Hinson also sustained the computers without which I am helpless. I am grateful to several anonymous reviewers for their comments, well- and ill-judged. I thank Eric Wanner for early encouragement, and Edna Bissette for unfailing and good-humored aid over many years. Susan Milmoe and Rhona Johnson at Cambridge University Press have been a pleasure to work with during the production of the book. Finally 1 thank several cohorts of Psychology/Zoology 101 students, denied a "real" textbook, who have struggled uncomplainingly through photocopied versions of this work.
- I am grateful to Duke University for an environment hospitable to scholarship, to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for a fellowship that allowed me to finish the book, and to the National Science Foundation for research support over many years.
- For the second edition, I am grateful first of all to several generous reviewers of the first edition (especially Sara Shettleworth, for a kind review in Nature) and to Gerry Edelman who brought the book to the attention of neuroscientists through extensive citation in his pioneering Neural Darwinism (1987). I thank Tony Nevin who encouraged me to revisit the ideas developed in the new Chapter 12 and read an early version. I am especially grateful to my assistant Teresa Scott who rendered a crude OCR version of the original text into an approximation of its final format and made sense of often incoherent instructions on making the final files presentable.
- I am happy to acknowledge invaluable long-term support by the National Institute of Mental Health which, with the gracious cooperation of Duke, has allowed me to take on major projects like this over the past several years.
- Finally I thank my students who, as a recent festschrift reminded me, have provided me with so much enthusiasm, energy and intellectual stimulation over many years. I dedicate this edition to them.