A Behavior Analyst Talks About Emotions and Feelings 08/01/23 | WEBINAR

Picture of A Behavior Analyst Talks About Emotions and Feelings 08/01/23 | WEBINAR
by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.

We will discuss the origins of the language of emotions and feelings as well as appeals to emotions as causes of behavior. We will then characterize various emotions (e.g., happiness, grief, fear, anger) in terms of the reinforcers involved and whether relevant behavior is available.

This LIVE WEBINAR was aired on August 1 from 1:30 pm to 3:10 pm ET.


This webinar has already aired.

You can view the recording above using the embedded YouTube player.

CEUs cannot be earned from the recording.



by A. Charles Catania, Ph.D.


Children can learn new vocabularies from their caregivers only if they share access to relevant stimuli (a parent cannot directly feel a child’s pain). This language must therefore be based on shared public properties, and these properties often include behavior. We learn to call people happy or sad or afraid or angry or grieving or in love depending on their environments and on how they behave. It is then circular reasoning to see such behavior and say it is caused by the emotion that names it (e.g., anger named as a cause or explanation of angry behavior). We will characterize various emotions in terms of the availability of relevant behavior (e.g, fear in terms of whether escape or avoidance is available; anger in terms of accessibility of a victim, where the reinforcer is giving injury; grieving in terms of the absence of a lost loved one). In so doing, we will relate emotional behavior to other primary behavioral categories.

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Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to:

1. Participants will learn to define emotions in terms of the availability of behavior (e.g., fear as unavailable escape or avoidance responding in the presence of aversive stimuli).

2. Participants will learn why it is inappropriate to talk about feelings and emotions as causes of behavior.

3. Participants will learn why the language of feelings and emotions can only be based on public events.

4. Participants will learn to provide behavioral interpretations of various emotions (e.g., love, grief, fear, anger).

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