Behavioral Analysis of Law: An Operant Interpretation of Legal Systems
Law is interpreted as a functionally specialized social system, selected by its consequences, whose main function is to control politically defined socially undesirable behavior. Such control derives from legal norms, which are interlocked behavioral patterns, controlled by changes in the probability of application of sanctions, that establish social contingencies of reinforcement to the behavior of group members. These behavioral patterns form a legal behavioral network, in each node of which one response emitted by one person produces discriminative stimuli to the response of a second person, which, in turn, reinforces the occurrence of the first response and generates discriminative stimuli for the behavior of other individuals that take part in subsequent nodes. A great part of behavioral patterns that form legal norms consist of rule uttering responses, occurring in problem-solving contexts, which are verbal responses reinforced by changes in the repertoire of other individuals related to the probability of application of sanctions. Legal rules are composed of three elements: relevant factual assumptions, social goal and legal contingency. This behavior-analytic interpretation of legal systems, which proposes a novel naturalistic legal theory, encourages new areas of empirical research and applications.