Self Control: BBS Call for Commentators

Stevan Harnad (harnad@PRINCETON.EDU)
Sun, 3 Apr 1994 18:53:54 EDT

This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
Sciences (BBS), an international, interdisciplinary journal providing
Open Peer Commentary on important and controversial current research in
the biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Commentators must be current BBS Associates or nominated by a current
BBS Associate. To be considered as a commentator for this article, to
suggest other appropriate commentators, or for information about how to
become a BBS Associate, please send email to: or harnad@pucc.bitnet or write to:
BBS, 20 Nassau Street, #240, Princeton NJ 08542 [tel: 609-921-7771]

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give
some indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring
your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.
An electronic draft of the full text is available for inspection by
anonymous ftp according to the instructions that follow after the abstract.

Howard Rachlin
Psychology Department
SUNY at Stony Brook
Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500

ABSTRACT: Self control, so important in the theory and practice of
psychology, has usually been understood introspectively. This
target article adopts a behavioral view of the self (as an abstract
class of behavioral actions) and of self control (as an abstract
behavioral pattern dominating a particular act) according to which
the development of self control control is a molar/molecular
conflict in the development of behavioral patterns. This subsumes
the more typical view of self control as a now/later conflict in
which an act of self control is a choice of a larger but later
reinforcer over a smaller but sooner reinforcer. If at some future
time the smaller-sooner reinforcer will be more valuable than the
larger-later reinforcer, self control may be achieved through a
commitment to the larger-later reinforcer prior to that point.
According to some, there is in the development of self control a
progressive internalization of commitment. There are theoretical
and empirical problems with this view. In two experiments, one with
pigeons choosing between smaller-sooner and larger-later
reinforcers, the other with adult humans choosing between
short-term particular and long-term abstract reinforcer, temporal
patterning of choices increased self control.

To help you decide whether you would be an appropriate commentator for
this article, an electronic draft is retrievable by anonymous ftp from according to the instructions below (the filename is
bbs.rachlin). Please do not prepare a commentary on this draft.
Just let us know, after having inspected it, what relevant expertise
you feel you would bring to bear on what aspect of the article.
The file is also retrievable using archie, gopher, veronica, etc.
To retrieve a file by ftp from an Internet site, type either:
When you are asked for your login, type:
Enter password as queried (your password is your actual userid:
yourlogin@yourhost.whatever.whatever - be sure to include the "@")
cd /pub/harnad/BBS
To show the available files, type:
Next, retrieve the file you want with (for example):
get bbs.rachlin
When you have the file(s) you want, type:

These files can also be retrieved using gopher, archie, veronica, etc.
Where the above procedure is not available there are two fileservers:
that will do the transfer for you. To one or the
other of them, send the following one line message:


for instructions (which will be similar to the above, but will be in
the form of a series of lines in an email message that ftpmail or
bitftp will then execute for you).

JANET users without ftp can instead utilise the file transfer facilities
at sites or Full details are available on