Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Paper Session #240
Rethinking Reinforcement: Allocation, Induction, and Correlation
Sunday, May 30, 2010
2:30 PM–3:20 PM
Ballroom A (CC)
Area: EAB; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: William M. Baum (University of California, Davis)
WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)
William M. Baum received his A.B. in psychology from Harvard College in 1961. Originally a biology major, he switched into psychology after taking courses from B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein in his freshman and sophomore years. He returned to Harvard University for graduate study in 1962, where he was supervised by Herrnstein and received his Ph.D. in 1966. He spent the year 1965-66 at Cambridge University, studying ethology at the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior. From 1966 to 1975, he held appointments as post-doctoral fellow, research associate, and assistant professor at Harvard University. He spent two years at the NIH Laboratory for Brain, Evolution, and Behavior, and then accepted an appointment in psychology at University of New Hampshire in 1977. He retired from there in 1999. He currently has an appointment as Associate Researcher at University of California – Davis and lives in San Francisco. His research concerns choice, molar behavior-environment relations, foraging, and behaviorism. He is the author of a book, Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.
Abstract: The concept of reinforcement is at least incomplete and almost certainly incorrect. An alternative way of organizing our understanding of behavior utilizes three concepts: allocation, induction, and correlation. Allocation means choice: All behavior entails choice and consists of choice. Allocation changes as a result of induction and correlation. The term induction covers phenomena such as adjunctive, interim, and terminal behavior—behavior induced in a situation by occurrence of food or another phylogenetically important event (PIE) in that situation. Induction resembles stimulus control in that no one-to-one relation exists between induced behavior and the inducing event. A PIE thus resembles a discriminative stimulus, except that a PIE depends on phylogeny. Much empirical evidence supports the idea that a PIE induces all PIE-related activities. Empirical evidence also supports the idea that stimuli correlated with PIEs become PIE-related conditional inducing stimuli. Contingencies create correlations between “operant” activity (e.g., lever pressing) and PIEs (e.g., food). Once an activity has become PIE-related, the PIE induces it along with other PIE-related activities. A contingency also constrains possible performances. Allocations that include a lot of operant activity are selected because they have high value (high rate of PIEs) within the constraints of the situation.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh