Murray Sidman

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Murray Sidman
Born (1923-04-29) April 29, 1923 (age 96)
Alma materColumbia University
Known forBehavior analysis, Avoidance, Stimulus Equivalence
Scientific career
InstitutionsColumbia University
Harvard Medical School
University of Nevada
Northeastern University
Johns Hopkins University
Doctoral advisorWilliam N. Schoenfeld

Murray Sidman is a behavioral scientist, best known for Sidman Avoidance,[1][2][3][4] also called "free-operant avoidance",[5][6] in which an individual learns to avoid an aversive stimulus by remembering to produce the response without any other stimulus. Sidman's explanation of free-operant avoidance is an alternative to the Miller-Mowrer two-process theory of avoidance.[7][8]


Methodologically, a "Sidman avoidance procedure"[9] is an experiment in which the subject is periodically presented with an aversive stimulus, such as the introduction of carbon dioxide or an electric shock, unless they produce a particular response, such as pulling a plunger, which delays the stimulus by a certain amount of time.[10]

His work on methodology for behavioural psychologists[11] is the standard textbook in its field.[12]


Sidman took his PhD at Columbia in psychology from Columbia University 1952 under the advisorship of William N. Schoenfeld. He has worked at many research institutions, including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He served as director of the Behavioral Sciences Department at the E.K. Shriver Center for Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. He is professor emeritus at Northeastern University.[13] Dr. Sidman has held academic appointments at the University of São Paulo in Brasil, Keio University in Tokyo, Japan and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Influence in the field[edit]

Sidman initiated the research on stimulus equivalence, and has made important contributions to the field; this is described in Equivalence relations and behavior: A research story.[14] His book Coercion and its fallout[15] is often required reading when discussing ethics and behavior analysis.

Sidman has contributed three major publications to the field of applied behavior analysis. First, his most classic book Coercion and Its Fallout. This book set the groundwork for understand how everyone uses coercion and how to ethically use it to get meaningful behavioral changes. His second book is entitled Equivalence Relations and Behavior: A Research Story. Finally, his third major work is titled Tactics of Scientific Research, which has become a staple for research based psychology.

Dr. Sidman’s publications in peer-refereed journals number close to 100 and have defined much of our current understanding of stimulus control, stimulus equivalence, and avoidance behavior. His 1960 text, Tactics of Scientific Research, is considered the first primer on within- subject research methodology. It is a classic that is still used today. Other contributions have extended to important social problems. The second edition of his book Coercion and Its Fallout was published in 2000, and his treatment of “Terrorism as Behavior” was published in Behavior and Social Issues.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sidman, M. (1953). "Avoidance Conditioning with Brief Shock and No Exteroceptive Warning Signal". Science. 118 (3058): 157–8. Bibcode:1953Sci...118..157S. doi:10.1126/science.118.3058.157. PMID 13076224.[non-primary source needed]
  2. ^ Sidman, M. (1989). Avoidance at Columbia. The Behavior Analyst, 12, 191–195.[non-primary source needed]
  3. ^ Shishimi, Akira. "Feedback Stimulus In Goldfish's Sidman Avoidance Conditioning In The Shuttlebox: A Test Of Feedback (Informational) And Safety-Signal (Fear Inhibition) Hypotheses." Japanese Journal of Psychology 61.1 (Apr. 1990): 1-7. PsycINFO. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
  4. ^ Haraway, M. M., E. G. Maples, and S. C. Cooper. "Contiguous Approach Conditioning: A Model For Sidman Avoidance Learning." Psychological Reports 55.1 (Aug. 1984): 291-295. PsycINFO. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
  5. ^ de Souza, Deisy Das Graca, and Antonio Bento A de Morales. "Probing Stimulus Control In Free-Operant Avoidance." Psychological Record42.1 (Winter 1992): 41. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
  6. ^ Powell, Robert W. "Acquisition Of Free-Operant (Sidman) Avoidance In Mongolian Gerbils (Meriones Unguiculatus) And Albino Rats." Psychonomic Science 22.5 (Mar. 1971): 279-281. PsycINFO. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
  7. ^ Blampied, Neville M (1999). "Murray Sidman: An Appreciative Introduction". Behaviour Change. 16 (2): 75. doi:10.1375/bech.16.2.75.
  8. ^ Pear, Joseph. 2001. Psychology Press, The Science of Learning, chapter 13 Motivation. ISBN 978-1-84169-037-7[page needed]
  9. ^ Sidman, Murray (1962). "Classical Avoidance without a warning stimulus". Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. 5: 97–104. doi:10.1901/jeab.1962.5-97. PMC 1404161. PMID 13912550.[non-primary source needed]
  10. ^ Lejuez, C W; O'Donnell, J; Wirth, O; Zvolensky, M J; Eifert, G H (1998). "Avoidance of 20% carbon dioxide-enriched air with humans". Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. 70 (1): 79–86. doi:10.1901/jeab.1998.70-79. PMC 1284669. PMID 9684345.
  11. ^ Sidman, M. (1960). Tactics of scientific research: Evaluating experimental data in psychology. New York, NY: Basic Books. (Reprinted by Authors Cooperative, Boston, MA, 1988)[non-primary source needed][page needed]
  12. ^ Assoc. Behavioral Analysis International Newsletter (2007), Volume 30, Number 2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2009-04-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  13. ^ "BAAM Keynote Speakers." Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM). Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
  14. ^ Sidman M. (1994) Equivalence relations and behavior: A research story Boston: Authors Cooperative[page needed][non-primary source needed]
  15. ^ Sidman, M. (2001) Coercion and its fallout Boston: Authors Cooperative[page needed][non-primary source needed]