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Dr. Jack Michael Memorial Event 

MABA 2021

The Mid-American Association for Behavior Analysis

Remembers and Honors the Legacy of Jack Michael

Memorial Information
October 29, 2021
5:00 pm

 Crowne Plaza Detroit

Downtown Riverfront

2 Washington Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226 


Dr. Jack Michael was a teacher, a scholar, a mentor, and a dedicated student of Skinner’s writings and the natural science of behavior. Dr. Michael’s academic career spanned multiple institutions – University of Kansas, University of Houston, Arizona State University, and Western Michigan University (WMU) – where he cultivated lifelong interests in communicating precisely about behavior-analytic concepts, teaching behavior analysis, and mentoring research.


His contributions to the discipline were many, and their impacts span from refining conceptual foundations (e.g., elucidating the concept of motivating operations and the four-term contingency) to pioneering early applications of basic principles (e.g., The psychiatric nurse as a behavioral engineer; The benefits of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for teaching children with autism) to developing college instructional materials (e.g., A behavioral perspective on college teaching; Concepts & Principles of Behavior Analysis; Laboratory studies in operant behavior; Verbal Behavior Applications course). Dr. Michael played an important role as teacher, mentor, and colleague of many of the first generation of applied behavior analysts. Notably, Dr. Michael served as mentor to Dr. Teodoro Ayllon and Dr. Montrose Wolf who went on to pioneer applications of basic principles of behavior analysis and are recognized as two of the most influential figures in the founding of applied behavior analysis. In addition, Dr. Michael and his students played pivotal roles in the monograph series and newsletter that evolved into The Analysis of Verbal Behavior.


Dr. Michael maintained his playful demeanor and his incisive analyses well beyond his retirement from WMU in 2003. He and his wife, Dr. Alyce Dickinson, were staples of the behavior analysis conference circuit, missing few opportunities for lively (and potentially lengthy) discussion. To quote Dr. Michael’s obituary, “Jack was a rogue and a rascal but had a heart of gold and would do anything to help a student in need, inside or outside the classroom.” Dr. Michael’s legacy carries on through his publications, his instructional materials, the many doctoral students he mentored, and the memories of those fortunate enough to spend time with him.


Dr. Michael served the discipline in countless ways, including several key leadership positions across many professional and scholarly endeavors. In 1971, a group of behavior analysts—including Dr. Michael—convened at the Midwest Psychological Association in Detroit, MI and called an open meeting to plan the inaugural gathering of behavior analysts in the Midwest. This meeting was the beginning of the Midwest Association of Behavior Analysis, which evolved into what we recognize today as the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), of which Dr. Michael served as the 4th President. Later, in 2001, Dr. Michael worked with another generation of behavior analysts to re-develop and launch the Mid-American Association for Behavior Analysis and served as the first president.


Twenty years later, the Mid-American Association for Behavior Analysis is proud to name Dr. Jack Michael the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Behavioral Science Award and will pay tribute to his life and work as we convene on October 28-30, 2021 in Detroit, MI.

To support the Dr. Jack Michael Graduate Student Mentored Fund through WMU, please click  


References Related to:


Dr. Michael’s Contributions to our Discipline’s Conceptual Foundations (selected references)

Michael, J. (1982). Distinguishing between discriminative and motivating functions of stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 37(1), 149-155. https://doi.org/10.1901/jeab.1982.37-149

Michael, J. (1988). Establishing operations and the mand. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 6(1), 3-9. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392824

Michael, J. (1993). Establishing operations. The Behavior Analyst, 16(2), 191-206. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392623

Michael, J. (2000). Implications and refinements of the establishing operation concept. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33(4), 401-410. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.2000.33-401


Dr. Michael’s Contributions to Applied Behavior Analysis (selected references)

Ayllon, T., & Michael, J. (1959). The psychiatric nurse as a behavioral engineer. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 2(4), 323-334. https://doi.org/10.1901/jeab.1959.2-323

Sundberg, M. J., & Michael, J. (2001). The benefits of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for teaching children with autism. Behavior Modification, 25(5), 698-724. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445501255003

Dr. Michael’s Contributions to College Instruction (selected references)

Michael, J. (1963). Laboratory studies in operant behavior. McGraw-Hill

Michael, J. (1991). A behavioral perspective on college teaching. The Behavior Analyst, 14(2), 229-239. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392578

Michael, J. (2004). Concepts and principles of behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Association for Behavior Analysis International.

Historical Insights that Informed Tribute to Dr. Michael

Altus, D. E., Morris, E. K., & Smith, N. G. (2020). A study in the emergence of applied behavior analysis through the referencing patterns in its founding articles. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 1-32. https://doi.org/10.1080/15021149.2020.1744349

Goodall, K. (1972, November). Shapers at work. Psychology Today, 6(6), 53-62, 132-138. https://siudesign.org/index_htm_files/psycho-today-nov-1972-high-rez.pdf

Morris, E. K., Altus, D. E., & Smith, N. G. (2013). A study in the founding of applied behavior analysis through its publications. The Behavior Analyst, 36(1), 73-107. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392293

Morris, E. K., Smith, N. G., & Altus, D. E. (2005). B. F. Skinner’s contributions to applied behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 28(2), 99-131. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392108

Peterson, M. E. (1978). The Midwestern Association of Behavior Analysis: Past, present, future. The Behavior Analyst, 1(1), 3-15. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03392368

Risley, T. (2005). Montrose M. Wolf (1935-2004). Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 38(2), 279-287. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.2005.165-04

Risley, T. R. (2001). Do good, take data. In W. T. O’Donohue, D. A. Henderson, S. C. Hayes, J. E. Fisher, & L. J. Hayes (eds.), A history of the behavioral therapies: Founders’ Personal histories (pp. 267-287). Context Press.

Sundberg, M. L. (2017). Recollections of Jack Michael and the application of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 33(2), 260-268. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40616-017-0088-4