Paul Chance (1941–2021): An Appreciation

By Susan M. Schneider, Susan G. Friedman, and T. V. Joe Layng

“I met Paul when we were young editors at Psychology Today magazine in the early 1970s. He immediately became a beloved member of the staff for his dazzling wit, hilarious inter-office memos, and always-candid and well-argued opinions. He was fiercely devoted to behaviorism already, and never wavered in his conviction that behavioral principles would and should withstand the ensuing cognitive revolution in the field. Paul was one of those friends and colleagues who are unique in your life. You’re always glad you knew them and you never forget them.”

— Carol Tavris

Paul Chance, Ph.D., saw the importance of dissemination long ago, and was a stalwart champion of behavior analysis in the popular press. Chance’s articles appeared in the New York Times, Psychology Today, American Health, Science 1980, Family Circle, Self, Weight Watchers, APS Observer, and other outlets. His clear and accessible writing on a number of topics helped bring our field to millions. (He was sufficiently in the limelight that he once turned down an opportunity to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s program.)

Chance wrote two texts, Learning and Behavior and A First Course in Applied Behavior Analysis, and “L&B” was a widely praised bestseller for many years (first edition in 1979). Chance’s other books include The Teacher’s Craft, a favorite of one of us writing this remembrance, and Thinking in the Classroom, which was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Education. In 1994, Chance received the SABA Award for Effective Presentation of Behavior Analysis in the Mass Media.

After teaching high school, Chance got his master’s degree, then served in the U.S. Navy 1967 to 1969, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He obtained his PhD in Psychology from Utah State University in 1973. Chance served as an editor and consultant for Psychology Today from 1972 to 1989, but increasingly focused on his freelance career from the mid-1970s on. He taught at the university level for several different institutions. Later, he volunteered teaching young children computer skills at his public library. He loved teaching, and his highly effective style was reflected in his writing.

One of his high-profile articles was a contribution to the intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation debate with Alfie Kohn in the Phi Delta Kappan (1992 and 1993), a magazine that reached thousands of K-12 educators. Chance’s Psychology Today articles covered a wide range of topics; those with a behavior-analytic focus include an interview with Fred Keller and coverage of autism, coma, and head injury. In 1980, his collaboration with Carole Wade resulted in a series of filmstrips on “Basic Concepts in Psychology” that received favorable notice. In 1976, Chance collaborated with Psychology Today colleague Carol Tavris on a Time-Life filmstrip, “The Psychology of Success.”

Always appreciative of nature and caring about environmental issues, Chance managed a small private wildlife refuge. Committed to action on the climate crisis, in 2010, he joined Bill Heward in editing a special section of The Behavior Analyst on using behavior analysis to address it. He was as passionate on this subject as he was about our field. He was a beacon for behavior analysis.

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