DOI: 10.5514/rmac.v43.i2.62310">

A selective look at some pre-skinnerian cumulative recording systems and cumulative records in physiology and psychology

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Revista Mexicana de Analisis de la Conducta


Although the cumulative record and cumulative recorder have become closely identified with B.F. Skinner and the experimental analysis of behavior, they actually predate both. The purpose of this article is to describe some early examples of cumulative records in psychology and physiology, as well as the techniques used to generate them. Among the work of Walther Poppelreuter, Heinrich von Recklinghausen, Fletcher Dresslar, Colin Stewart, James Slonaker, and others are early examples of “telescoping” to save space on the printed page, the automatic resetting of the pen at the top of the page, and other anticipations of Skinner’s own development of the technique. In most early instances, the cumulative recording was not used to display discrete operant responses such as lever presses, but to depict wheel running and respiration over extended periods. The historical approach here is illustrative rather than comprehensive, with the hope that these examples will serve as a starting point for those who might investigate further.

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DOI: 10.5514/rmac.v43.i2.62310