Steven C. Hayes grew up in southern California, attended high school and college there in the 1960’s, and was influenced by the heyday of the hippie counter-culture. He came to psychology with an interest in its impact on human development and well-being, such as was described in Maslow’s self-actualization approach. He found in B. F. Skinner’s utopian novel Walden II a way of combining that interest with science. Like many in the counter-culture, he developed an interest in eastern philosophy, and lived for several months in an eastern religious commune in Grass Valley, California.
As a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in 1966 he was exposed to behavior therapy, and gravitated toward it. His first undergraduate paper was on the possibility of applying exposure methods to emotions, not just situations. He completed an honor’s thesis comparing response prevention, shaping, and observation in the reduction of avoidance behavior in rats. Getting into graduate school proved to be unexpectedly difficult, due to a poor letter from a faculty member who objected to his hippie appearance, but after two years of failure the problem was detected and solved and he was accepted into the doctoral program in clinical psychology at West Virginia University (WVU).
WVU’s psychology department was (and remains to this day) one of the strongholds for Behavior Analysis. The faculty he worked with who were behavior analysts or cognitive behavior therapists including John Cone, Rob Hawkins, Andy Lattal, Nathan Cavior, John Krapfl, and Hayne Reese, publishing both human and animal work.
Other than Skinner, Steve’s biggest influences were his undergraduate advisor, Irving Kessler; his major advisor at WVU, John D. Cone; his internship advisor at Brown University, David Barlow; his early colleagues at UNC-G, Rosemery O. Nelson and Aaron J. Brownstein; a sabbatical year with A. Charles Catania; and his colleague Dermot Barnes-Holmes. All of these people can be linked to functional behavioral thinking. Kessler was an early behavior therapist, completing a dissertation on eye blink conditioning at the University of Southern California in 1966. John D. Cone founded the journal Behavioral Assessment and studied under the psychometrician Allen Edwards, who studied under A. R. Gilliland, who completed his degree at the University of Chicago while it was still heavily influenced by the functionalist and contextualistic thinking of such faculty members as James Rowland Angell, J. R. Kantor, and John Dewey. Gilliland was also a well known psychometrician, but had published some of the earlier well-developed work on the law of effect in the 1930’s. Steve completed his clinical internship under David Barlow. David Barlow studied under Harold Leitenberg who studied under basic behavior analyst James Dinsmoor who studied under William Nathan (“Nate”) Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld, along with Fred S. Keller (a roommate, fellow graduate student, and close friend of B.F. Skinner at Harvard), coauthored the first major textbook in behavior analysis in 1950. Rosemery Nelson was trained in behavior therapy at SUNY-Stony Brook in the late 1960’s; Aaron Brownstein in basic behavior analysis in the late 1950’s at Missouri; A. Charles Catania in behavior analysis at Harvard with Skinner and Richard Herrnstein. Barnes-Holmes was trained by Michael Keenan who’s lineage traces thru Julian Leslie and Jock Millenson to Fred Keller and Nate Schoenfeld.