Jack Michael (1926 - 2020)

photo of Jack MichaelJack L. Michael was born in 1926 in Los Angeles, attended elementary and secondary school there, and entered UCLA in 1943 as a chemistry major. He was drafted out of his first year of college, served two years in the army, and returned to UCLA in 1946, this time as a psychology major. He obtained a BA, MA, and Ph.D., finishing in 1955. As a graduate student his main interests were statistical methodology, physiological psychology, and learning theory. During his first teaching job (in the Psychology Department at Kansas University) he was much influenced by B. F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior, and since then has been primarily involved in teaching behavioral psychology. He has taught at Kansas University (2 years), the University of Houston (3 years), Arizona State University (6 years), and Western Michigan University (1967-present). In 1957, as a result of his association with the rehabilitation psychologist, Lee Meyerson, he began to apply Skinner's behavioral concepts and methods to problems in the areas of mental retardation, mental illness, and physical disability. During the next several years "behavior modification" was in a period of rapid expansion and Dr. Michael contributed to this growth with his teaching, writing, and public presentations. At Arizona State University, largely as a result of his contact with Fred Keller, he became interested in college instructional technology. Most recently he has been concerned with the technical terminology of behavior analysis, basic theory regarding motivation, and verbal behavior.

Dr. Michael has contributed greatly to behavior analysis over the years, resulting in a number of accolades. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Psychological Foundation in 1971; was involved in the founding of the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 1974; served as president of ABA in 1979; was president of Division 25 of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1983-84; and gave one of the Master Lectures at the APA annual convention in 1984. He received the Western Michigan University Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985, and was Western Michigan University's Distinguished Faculty Scholar for 1989. Dr. Michael is author of over fifty publications dealing with basic and applied behavior analysis. A number of these important writings are included in his recent book, Concepts and Principles of Behavior Analysis.

Dr. Michael prepared a behavioral family tree for a presentation at the 1991 Florida Association of Behavior Analysis meeting. Regarding his influences, he wrote:

"At UCLA while I was a student I was influenced by three professors more than any others: J. A. Gengerelli, John Seward, and Hans Reichenbach. They were very important scholar-scientist role models, and I also learned a lot about psychology and the philosophy of science from them. (I was not familiar with Skinner's approach while at UCLA except as a part of a course on theories of learning.) While at UCLA my three best friends were John Cullen, Art Staats and Eugene Eisman, and they undoubtedly influenced me a good deal. We argued and discussed a great deal, although not about Skinner or behavior analysis. They were Hullians and I was more eclectic but still in the area of learning theory.

"When I got my first teaching job at Kansas University in 1955 I came across Skinner's Science and Human Behavior, which had a profound influence on my future. Next I read Keller and Schoenfeld (at the suggestion of Ed Wike - on the faculty there and also with his Ph.D. from UCLA) and a mimeographed version of Skinner's William James Lectures on Verbal Behavior, and have been a "militant" Skinnerian ever since."

Dr. Michael is one of the world's foremost authorities on Skinner's (1957) approach to analyzing verbal behavior. He has also been instrumental in refining Skinner's analysis, and many terms first introduced by him (e.g., "establishing operation," "duplic," "codic," and "topography-based" and "selection-based" responding) are now part of standard behavioral vocabulary.