behavioranalysishistory / Glenn, Sigrid S
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Glenn, Sigrid S

Sigrid S. Glenn

(1939 -   )


Primary Areas of Study 

1978-1987 – For the first decade or so after obtaining my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, my work was primarily clinical in nature, and my publications reflected that interest.  During my doctoral training and the subsequent five years, my clinical work was primarily with individuals with autism at the Center for Behavioral Studies at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas).  An article representative of that period is (1) below. During that time, I also worked with typical adults through the Behavior Exchange Clinic at the Center and later, in private practice (2).


1985-1994 – Although my clinical work and publications continued through most of this period, much of my energy went toward establishing the Department of Behavior Analysis and its master’s degree program at UNT.  Teaching a wide variety of courses led me to pondering conceptual issues in behavior analysis (3) and to considering the relation of behavior analysis to other disciplines (4).


1994 – 2004 – During this period, I developed the concept of metacontingencies, which first occurred to me in the late 1980’s.  In a series of papers, beginning in 1986 (5) and ending in 2004 (6), I worked with the concept until it became clear enough to consider experimental analysis.  My work with Maria Malott (7) probably contributed to the formulation that allowed experimentation to begin.  An increasing interest in the analogy of reinforcement and natural selection led to collaboration with a philosopher of biology and a conceptual immunologist (8). 


2004-2012 – Following the lead of Maria Amalia Andery and her student Christian Vichi’s lead in conducting an experimental analog of cultural metacontingencies (9) I established a “behavior and culture lab” at UNT.  Having the benefit of a fantastic group of students, several research lines resulted in experimental publications (10) (11).




Professional Website



Selected Papers

(1) Glenn, S. S. & Whaley, D. L., & Buck, W. (1980).  Obtaining color discriminations in developmentally disabled children by precluding response stereotyping. Behavior Research of Severe Developmental Disabilities, 1, 175‑189.


(2) Glenn, S. S. (1983).  Maladaptive functional relations in client verbal behavior. The Behavior Analyst, 6, 47‑56.


(3) Glenn, S. S., Ellis, J. & Greenspoon, J. (1992).  On the revolutionary nature of the operant as a unit of behavioral selection.  American Psychologist, 47, 1329-1336.


(4) Glenn, S. S. (1985).  The reciprocal roles of behavior analysis and institutional economics in post‑Darwinian science. The Behavior Analyst,  8, 15-27.


(5) Glenn, S. S. (1986).  Metacontingencies in Walden Two.  Behavior Analysis and Social Action, 6, 2‑8.


(6) Glenn, S. S. (2004).  Individual behavior, culture, and social change. The Behavior Analyst, 27, 133-151.


(7) Glenn, S. S. & Malott, M. E. (2004). Complexity and selection: Implications for organizational change. Behavior and Social Issues, 13, 89-106.


(8) Hull, D. L., Langman, R. & Glenn, S. S. (2001) General analysis of selection: Biology, immunology, and behavior. The Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 24, 511-528.


(9) Vichi, C., Andery, M.A.P., & Glenn, S. S. (2009).  A metacontingency experiment: The effect of contingent consequences on patterns of interlocking contingencies of reinforcement.   Behavior and Social Issues, 18, 41-57.


(10) Ortu, D. Becker, A., Woelz, T.A.R. & Glenn, S. S.  (in press) An Iterated Four-Player Prisoner's Dilemma Game with an External Selecting Agent: A Metacontingency Experiment.  Latin American Journal of Psychology.


(11) Neves, A.N.V.S., Woelz, T.A.R. & Glenn, S. S. (in press).  Effect of Resource Scarcity on Dyadic Fitness in a Simulation of Two-Hunter Nomoclones Latin American Journal of Psychology.



Selected Books




An interview with Sigrid Glenn

Initial Lab Meeting Talk about Cultural Level of Analysis

Photo Gallery






Intellectual Ancestry 

Donald L. Whaley introduced me to behavior analysis in 1969, his first year on the psychology faculty of North Texas State University (now UNT) and my first year in graduate school there.    Whaley put Skinner's newly published book, Contingencies of Reinforcement in my hands that summer and there was no turning back after that.  


Whaley earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Florida State University, where Joel Greenspoon was an ardent advocate of behaviorism.  Joel Greenspoon earned a clinical degree from Indiana University while Skinner was there.  Strongly influenced by Skinner, Greenspoon's experimental work on the reinforcement of verbal behavior became a citation classic.


Although Skinner's writings have remained my touchstone in all things intellectual, the philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis have seemed increasingly unsynchronized with its other parts.  The writings of David L. Hull offered a glimpse of a way to synchronize the processes of behavior change with the processes of biological evolution and cultural evolution.  



Additional Information