When we attribute motives or emotional states to behavior we impose our own interpretation of the situation on those who listen to us because they are exposed only to our interpretation, not the raw facts. Furthermore, such descriptions are difficult to talk about consistently.

How often is the student "unhappy?" Even the person actually observing the behavior may not consistently identify behavior that is described so imprecisely.

Consider the following items from our fictitious newspaper "The Non-Behavioral Daily Times." On page 1 of the City & Region secion we find the Lost & Found section and an article advertising for the return of a lost cat:

"PLEASE LOOK OUT FOR BUFFY, our family cat. She was lost yesterday. She is loving, playful, curious, and a real rascal. If found, please call 456-8934."

Do you think that this family will see that cat again?

On the same page we find this news item:

"The State Bank was robbed yesterday by five men who got away with $50,000. Witnesses described the men as suspicious-acting, fearful, aggressive, hostile, cruel, and unintelligent. Police are investigating."

Further down on the page in a related article: "Following witness descriptions, police brought in 316 men for questioning in connection with the robbery of the State Banků"

Let's hope that someone confesses.

Objective and observable descriptions are more reliable and accurate. Using words that describe the actions or form of the behavior and avoiding interpretations or inferred mental states lead to more productive discussions and a clearer understanding of what is going on.

Choose the objective and observable descriptions:

(C) 2001 J. Tyler Fovel, All Rights Reserved