The Status of Behaviorism in Turkey

Note from the Institute: Although behavior analysis started in the United States, it has long been an international enterprise. To give readers an idea of the breadth of our discipline and its impact in other countries, the Aubrey Daniels Institute has invited practicing international behavior analysts to comment on the status of our field in their countries. We are pleased to have as our first international observers of behavior analysis two true international pioneers: Dr. Yeşim Güleç-Aslan ( is an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at Sakarya University, Turkey and Ms. Hande Cihan, her student in the same department. They are both contributing significantly to the development of behavior analysis in Turkey through their teaching and work with children with autism spectrum disorders.

There are many misconceptions and criticism about behaviorism in Turkey. Some of them have been: (a) the suggestion that the principles of behaviorism have emerged from experiments carried out with animals in laboratories and they thus cannot be used to explain human behavior in the natural environment, (b) behaviorism holds that behavior is simply a matter of stimulus-response (S-R) reflexes, (c) the behavioral approach ignores human emotions, human relations and the state of mind, and (d) education based on behaviorism does not concern itself with peoples’ uniqueness and individuals are treated as robots (Cihan & Güleç-Aslan, 2014; Güneş, 2007; 2011; Özden & Şimşek, 1998).  In particular, radical behaviorism is perceived as an approach in which ‘’extreme behavior  modification principles have been applied too rigidly,’’ that it is too “radical.” Therefore, the criticisms are intense in Turkey, but to this point there has not been a strong effort in the direction of correcting such misconceptions and criticisms of behaviorism in Turkey (e.g., Boutot & Hume, 2012; Morris, Smith, & Altus, 2005; Skinner, 1976). As a result, most “applications related to behaviorism” are carried out based on incorrect information, creating a vicious circle which perpetuates, and thus the criticisms continue. This situation is made worse because of the limited number of articles and books about behaviorism that are available in Turkish, so that potential users, and particularly those who do not have a command of English or other languages in which behavior-analytic scientific articles are written, must base their understanding of it on what they can obtain from native sources (Cihan & Güleç-Aslan, 2014).

Today in Turkey, behavioral approaches in the field of education, psychology and the philosophy of language are almost nonexistent. Work in these fields is mainly carried out in the basics of cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, and psychoanalytic approaches. Nonetheless, there are encouraging developments in theoretical and practical studies related to applied behavior analysis (ABA) in the field of special education, and particularly in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In addition, the Turkey chapter of the Association for  Behavior Analysis International has been established, and Anadolu University offers a Master’s degree program in applied behavior analysis with a specialization in Autism. In addition, the Tohum Autism Foundation offers an ABA intervention based on the PCDI program and the Research Institute for the Handicapped at Anadolu University initiated the Intensive Behavioral Home Intervention Program (OCIDEP) program based on the Lovaas program (Cihan & Güleç-Aslan, 2014).

A major obstacle to the development of behavior analysis in Turkey remains the fact that there are no sources written in Turkish or translated into Turkish that include topics of behaviorism, especially radical behaviorism and responses to the criticisms of it. By attempting to clarify these issues in positive ways by translating the work of Skinner and other behavior analysts into Turkish has been one of our goals. We believe this positive approach of letting people read in their native language what behavior analysts believe and practice will go further in advancing behavior analysis in our country than will continuing to engage in “war of words” with those not holding our view of how to use behavior analysis to make people’s lives better in Turkey.













Boutot, E. A., & Hume, K. (2012). Beyond time and time table: Today’s applied behavior analysis for students with autism. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 47, 23-38.

Cihan, H., & Güleç-Aslan, Y. (2014). A unique journey. Operants, 3, 18-19.

Güneş, F. (2007). Türkçe öğretimi ve zihinsel yapılandırma. İstanbul: Nobel Yayınları

Güneş, F. (2011). Dil öğretimi yaklaşımları ve Türkçe öğretimindeki uygulamalar. Mustafa Kemal Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, 8: 123-148.

Morris, E. K., Smith, N. G., & Altus, D. E. (2005). B. F. Skinner’s contributions to applied behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 28, 99-131.

Özden, Y., & Şimşek, H. (1998). Davranışçılıktan oluşturmacılığa: Öğrenme paradigmasının dönüşümü ve Türk eğitimi. Bilgi ve Toplum, 1, 71-82.

Skinner, B. F. (1976). About Behaviorism. New York: Vintage Books.

Posted by Andy Lattal, Ph.D.

Dr. Andy Lattal is the Centennial Professor of Psychology at West Virginia University (WVU). Lattal has authored over 150 research articles and chapters on conceptual, experimental, and applied topics in behavior analysis and edited seven books and journal special issues, including APA’s memorial tribute to B. F. Skinner.