In Appreciation: Sidney Bijou

Sid Bijou

When Alan Kraut asked me to organize the published remembrances of APS Fellow and Charter Member Sidney Bijou, I was honored to do it as I had high respect for Sid and he was a friend.

My work had been included in one of Sid and Don Baer’s volumes celebrating the importance of behavior analysis as an approach to understanding infant and child behavior and development. I had not gone into my post-doctoral research career understanding much about the behavior analytic approach, but given my Iowa training, which lay in the background of both Sid’s and my career, it was not hard to grasp and appreciate, especially with Sid’s help.

My family and I had enjoyed the company of Sid and Janet Bijou on two major occasions, each of these during shared summers of teaching, one time at UCLA and another at the University of Washington. Edna and I remember those days when, with our children, we experienced the gracious hospitality of the Bijous. They were times in which I increased my acquaintance with a terminology and an orientation that were, in my graduate student experience, somewhere between remote and absent. Sid had received his PhD at the University of Iowa several years before me, managing to fulfill his training interests in both clinical and experimental psychology. By the time I first met Sid, I had worked as a clinical psychologist in the Air Force for two years, between my masters and doctoral training and before doing my doctorate in experimental child psychology at Iowa. I was, after Iowa, rather devoted to a Pavlovian, Hullian, Spence-type, Spiker-spirited experimental approach with children. Sid had moved on to something more friendly to his everyday observations of child behavior, but still experimental. In short, he was a very committed Skinnerian. Although I did not “get it,” really, until a few years later, I owe my initial education in behavior analysis to those terrific talks I had with Sid in those two summers, not to mention my equally edifying contacts with Don Baer during my Seattle summer. Some of my eventual contributions, those more in the operant tradition, were markedly affected by the Bijou-Baer influence.

It was during those summers that I and my family also came to know Bob and Jude, whom I am pleased are participating in this memorial to their father. The field of child behavior and development owes Sid a lot. His contributions and those of his students to experimental child psychology will last longer than the troubled distinctions currently made between behavioral and cognitive development.

Lewis P. Lipsitt
Brown University

I was Sid Bijou’s last doctoral student in psychology. He retired from the University of Illinois in the summer of 1975, the summer I defended my dissertation. At the time, I did not realize the extent of his contributions. They were simply the field as I knew it. I also did not realize the extent of his bravery. I had no perspective, but  I have acquired some since.

When Sid was a graduate student at Columbia University in the 1930s, he bravely (or boldly) wrote John Watson, seeking a thesis topic. Watson recommended children’s “muscle sense,” but Sid could not find a supervisor. So he ably switched topics: He earned a master’s for a nonverbal test of children’s intelligence. Two years later, he and Joseph Jastak developed the Wide Range Achievement Test, still used today in revision.

Interested in Kurt Lewin’s field-theoretic psychology, Sid applied to the clinical psychology program at the University of Iowa, but Lewin was at Iowa’s Child Welfare Research Station. So he switched topics again: He earned a doctorate with Kenneth Spence for a dissertation on experimental neurosis in rats. This made Sid an experimental clinical psychologist, which was unusual at a time when clinicians were mental testers. After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, he was recruited by B. F. Skinner to direct the clinical psychology program at Indiana University. There, he audited courses taught by the two rivals, Skinner and J. R. Kantor, the field-theoretic behaviorist.

When offered the position as director of the University of Washington’s Institute of Child Development in 1948, Sid moved west. In his research, he set aside Robert Sears’ doll play methods as unreliable and adapted Skinner’s operant methods in seminal studies on child behavior. With Don Baer, he founded a theory of development that integrated Skinner’s science and Kantor’s interbehaviorism. In applied research, he and Jay Birnbrauer established a ground-breaking demonstration classroom for children with intellectual disabilities (e.g., with programmed instruction). He oversaw Mont Wolf’s development of research methods that were the foundation of applied behavior analysis (e.g., single-subject research designs). With Bob Peterson and Marion Ault, he developed observational methods for behavioral field research. And, when offered the case of a boy with severe, challenging behavior, he gave it to Wolf for what became the first application of behavior analysis to autism. By 1965, Sid had established Washington as the premier center for the study of child behavior. He himself had become a pioneering research administrator, but he took little publication credit in the process.

Moving to Illinois later that year, he founded the Child Behavior Laboratory, directed graduate training grants, and advanced new applications (e.g., parent training). Then, although retirement was pending, he completely revamped his large undergraduate lecture course into one taught through a Personalized System of Instruction. In conducting research on its effectiveness, he engaged the scholarship of teaching before its time.

Going back to my dissertation, I realized only in hindsight how brave Sid must have been to defend my oral defense of it to my committee. If he had not saved my patootie that day, I would not have had the opportunity to write this in memoriam of him today. Sid was selfless in being brave and brave in being selfless. He was a gem.

Edward K. Morris
University of Kansas

Bijou, S.W. (1996). Reflections on some early events related to behavior analysis of   child development. Behavior Analyst, 19, 49-60.

Bijou, S.W. (2001). Child behavior therapy: Early history. In W.T. O’Donohue, D.A. Henderson, S.C. Hayes, J.E. Fisher, & L.J. Hayes (Eds.), A history of the behavioral therapies: Founder’s personal histories (pp. 105-124). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Etzel, B.C., LeBlanc, J.M., & Baer, D.M. (Eds.). (1977). New developments in behavioral research: Theory, method, and application. In honor of Sidney W. Bijou. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Krasner, L. (1977). An interview with Sidney W. Bijou. In B.C. Etzel, J.M. LeBlanc, & D.M. Baer (Eds.), New developments in behavioral research: Theory, method, and application. In honor of Sidney W. Bijou. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Morris, E.K. (2008). Sidney W. Bijou: The Illinois years. Behavior Analyst, 31, 179-203.

Wesolowski, M.D. (2002). Pioneer profiles: A few minutes with Sid Bijou. Behavior Analyst, 25, 15-27.

I first met Sid in 1972 when I was a new Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois and we remained close friends until his death. Sid was a visionary and a great teacher. He effectively practiced the behavioral principles he preached with kindness and subtlety. There are three things I remember fondly about Sid: 1) the respect he showed to his students, 2) his intellectual vitality, and 3) his interest in effective writing. Although Sid was 35 years my senior, he always treated me as a peer. From our first conversation over drinks at his home to our recent correspondence, he was interested in what others had to say. In the same light, he enthusiastically promoted the work of students. For example, soon after learning about my shift to behavioral research with cancer patients, he arranged for me to join him in a lecture tour of Peru and Colombia on advances in behavior analysis. The longer I work with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, the more I value those qualities (behaviors, if you will). Indeed, I believe they were what made him a great mentor for me and are probably among the reasons he was so instrumental in the development of fields of early childhood education and applied behavior analysis. His intellectual vitality was also remarkable.

I remember a fascinating conversation we had when he described an incident in 1955, well before the advent of applied behavior analysis. He was working with a child through a one-way mirror when an observing colleague asked him to “modify” the child’s behavior without saying a word. By delivery of M&M candies from a remote-controlled dispenser contingent on successive approximations of the targeted behavior, Sid quickly taught the child to open and close the window shade in the cubicle. He was both amazed and horrified by the power of the simple reinforcement contingencies he had applied. He later wrote about his concerns regarding the ethical implications of such power and how he eventually resolved his conflict (by seeing its potential for good and the need for oversight of such “interventions”). In his explanation, he demonstrated his characteristic thoughtful reflection on his work and his broad perspective on behavioral psychology.

A recent example of Sid’s vitality is represented in communication we had three months before his death about a recent trip I had made to Egypt. He was keenly interested in what I had learned about cancer in Africa and in how I was able to integrate family, travel, and my work. My final remembrance is his passion for good writing, which he bestowed on me. As I write this piece, I am extremely “conscious” of the words I use and the importance of referring only to observable behaviors rather than traits and motives. Unfortunately, I have not been completely successful and wish that Sid were here to edit what I have written. Sid Bijou led a good life to the very end and I will miss him greatly.

William H. Redd
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine

Steve Hayes and I founded a Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1990 and within a few years, much to our astonishment, Sid and Janet moved to Reno. Sid’s colleague of several years, Pat Ghezzi, had been our first hire and together with Pat and Sid’s former students Bob and Linda Peterson, our little group seemed to afford him the sort of intellectual community he valued.  As importantly, with the Bijou’s two children living on the West Coast, UNR was well situated. Our program had been established on a “self-capitalization” model, the implication being that all of its resources, including faculty salaries and graduate assistantships, had to be generated through the entrepreneurial efforts of its faculty. Sid joined in these efforts, supervising graduate students’ fee-for-service work with regular and special education teachers in Washoe County School District, a service that continues to benefit the district and support the program, as well as provide training opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students. Sid was also instrumental in the development of the Early Childhood Autism Program at UNR. Together with Pat Ghezzi, he trained tutors to work with young children in their homes and to engage their parents in these efforts. Although Sid’s primary concern in this work was always the well being of the children and families served, he was also engaged in research, serving on numerous students’ committees. To support the latter, he and Janet created an endowed scholarship for doctoral students in Behavior Analysis at UNR. In all of these efforts, Sid’s contribution was enormous. However, other less obvious but equally important contributions warrant mention. As a first-time director of a new — and highly unusual — program, operating in the midst of a conventional psychology department, I benefited greatly from Sid’s wise counsel. He knew how to handle difficult situations, which roads to take, and what battles to fight and try winning. He kept us on track. And finally, we all benefited from the grace that having Sid and Janet among us brought. They were our dear friends.

Linda J. Hayes
University of Nevada, Reno

Greetings from Peru! Sidney Bijou was admired by all who knew him, perhaps especially in Latin countries. There is no doubt that Sid was a person who, through his publications and teachings, directly and indirectly positively affected the lives of many throughout the world. Sidney Bijou was my mentor in his written words that live on, in his friendship that will remain in my heart, and in his encouragement of my career endeavors, especially internationally. For that I will be forever grateful. He was a person who knew how behavior affected lives of others as well as self, and who, being a great teacher in writing and direct communication, taught us and many others how to make troubled lives better by following in his footsteps. He obviously wanted to make the world a better place for all and achieved this through his most effective national as well as international work, for which those who work in Latin America are especially grateful. We honor him in Peru at Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru as the person whose thoughts and ideas guided us to create an effectively successful program for people with different abilities (cognitive, physical, and behavioral limitations) so they could be independent, productive, and happy throughout life. Through example and lectures, he taught us to treat everyone (especially those with serious limitations) as you would like to be treated. He implied this in his publications and talked to us about it when he and Janet visited. Peru was his last international trip. Our goal remains to teach what we learned from him to others around the world so they too can become successful. Let me include this admiring comment from my colleague in Peru, Liliana Mayo, PhD General Director Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru – CASP, Adjunct Asst. Prof., University of Kansas: “Sidney Bijou was our inspiration while developing a center for people with different abilities in Peru. We will always remember his praise of our accomplishments and encouragement to continue. He will continue to live in our work and our hearts.”

Judith M. LeBlanc
University of Kansas and
Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru – CASP

So what was it like living with Sidney W. Bijou when he was 100 years old?

I go downstairs with my camera in hand, wanting to take a picture of the twenty-foot projectile shooting up from a huge octopus agave plant. What had first sprung out looked like a giant asparagus but now hundreds of little yellow flowers have started to bloom on it from the bottom up to the sky.

Dad is sitting in his and Whitey-the-cat’s favorite chair, eyes closed. He stirs when he hears me bang the door shut. Verbal communications are sometimes sketchy. He doesn’t have his hearing aids in at the moment because they are a pain in the ear….

It becomes immediately clear that Dad is bugged by a bandage on the backside of his upper arm. I put down the camera and go over to where he’s sitting. I gently peel off the bandage because his skin is so paper thin, and to my relief, the abrasion is dry. He grabs his upper arm so he can survey the territory.

With a look of mock disapproval, I remove his hand and shout in his ear to keep his probing fingers away and that I’ll get the little mirror so he can see. That seems satisfactory. I bring the mirror, he looks at it a few times, I dab it with Chinese miracle stop-bleeding powder. He looks some more. I dab and fuss. He watches intently, enjoying the process. I proceed to put on a new bandage. I adjust his fleece jacket.

Dad is approving, satisfied, grateful, and relieved. We exchange a high-five. I put away the first aid supplies. A half hour has passed.

I wave my camera and say “I’ll be back.” He replies “Take your time.”

I marvel at the agave, take some photographs, and then head back in. He looks at the photos and we select our favorite shots.

I’m sitting across from Dad, holding his hand, being silent, just sharing space for a minute or two. He talks about something he’d read in the newspaper. We affectionately push against each other’s hands — he still has so much strength, it’s amazing.

He asks if I’m going out now and I say, “No. I’ll be upstairs working on my manuscript. At 4 pm, I’ll see another client and then head out for dinner with a friend.” Oh yes – he remembers. It was in his appointment book but days, weekends, and time have fused. (Yes, he had a “Week-at-a-Glance” planner for 2009.) Dad says, “Go. Go.” We squeeze hands a couple of times. I go upstairs. These sweet contact moments are repeated throughout the day.

First thing the next morning, Dad asks how dinner was last night. He enjoys hearing the details. While he eats his breakfast (fresh raspberries and strawberries, cream of wheat, a piece of pumpkin muffin and a fresh-brewed cup of Peet’s coffee with a ton of heated half and half), I describe the delicious dinner my friend had prepared with recipes from a cookbook from Longhi’s on Maui. I remind him how we had been there on our last family trip to Hawaii. Dad recalls our lunch there and how Mom at ninety years old had won over the waitress with her love of people, quick wit, and charm. And another day begins.

Jude Bijou
Santa Barbara, CA

When I was a kid, my Mom and Dad would have company over to the house, usually colleagues and/or graduate students, and I was frequently asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” My answer was always the same: “Anything but a psychologist.” It never failed to get a rousing reaction. Of course, I went on to get a degree in Psychology and taught at the community college and university level for 10 years. My sister, Jude, also got her Master’s degree in psychology and has been a family and marriage counselor for 27 years. And contrary to any rumors you may have heard, neither of us ever had to press a bar or peck a key to get our dinner.

As a senior in high school, I applied to Reed College. One of the requirements was to write an autobiography that you were allowed to show one person to get some feedback. I asked Dad to read it and his comment was “Haven’t you ever done anything bad or failed at something?” I went back to my room and added a section about the rocky and difficult relationship I’d had with my debate coach. She and I managed to overcome our differences, stick it out, and have a very successful year. I was accepted to Reed and received a wonderful education there.

Dad and I were always close. When I was young, he was the best Dad a guy could have. We went fishing and boating and built stuff in the workshop. When I got in trouble with the law (the one and only time), he saved my bacon. “I think he’s already had punishment enough by just being arrested,” he said, and we walked out of the police station.

When I was older, he was my best friend. We talked about everything from science to sports to current affairs. He was the solid, hard-headed, clear-thinking empiricist; I was the child of the 60s who had a happy little store in California. But we always saw eye-to-eye when it came to science and we both lived by the two most fundamental principles of behavior analysis, stated in folksy, everyday terms: “You can see a lot just by looking” (partial credit to Yogi Berra) and “Praise the positive.”

When Mom passed away in 2000, Dad moved to Santa Barbara to live with Jude, where he enjoyed the scenery, the weather, the birds, and two cats. Like clockwork, I visited them every three weeks. We’d go out for quiche and veggie burgers. We’d figure out a way to keep the cats from destroying the houseplants. We’d watch the Lakers or Tiger or Roger Federer or the Williams sisters. Or sit around and talk about what Obama could do to make the world a better place.

He set a high standard for all of us — to be loving, honest, inspiring, and modest.

Bob Bijou
Mill Valley, CA

Observer Vol.22, No.9 November, 2009

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