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avatar for David Palmer

David Palmer

David Palmer earned bachelor's degrees in geology and English in 1969, but he immediately abandoned all pretense of getting a responsible job. He stumbled on the book Walden Two and spent the next decade on a soap box talking about Skinner, trying to start an experimental community, and reading the rest of the Skinner canon. Eventually he despaired of saving the world and entered graduate school in behavior analysis under John Donahoe at the University of Massachusetts. His main preoccupation in graduate school was extending Skinner’s interpretations of complex behavior. In particular, he wondered how behavior analysis could explain memory and language, and he has spent the rest of his professional career on the same question. He is the co-author, with Donahoe, of Learning and Complex Behavior, a book that attempts to integrate behavior analysis with physiology and to embed the field in the context of the broader study of selectionism. Last year, Palmer retired from 30 years of teaching statistics and behavior analysis at Smith College, but he will continues to teach verbal behavior in the graduate program at Western New England University and will continue to do so until senility claims him. He lives on the site of a failed experimental community in Leverett, Massachusetts with his wife, cats, and chickens, his own chicks having fledged and left the nest.