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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

Previous Page


Special Event #64
CE Offered: BACB
SQAB Tutorial: Facts and Theories in Decision Making: Sturnus vulgaris Vs. Benjamin Franklin
Saturday, May 24, 2008
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Stevens 5
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: Alex Kacelnik, Ph.D.
Chair: John E. R. Staddon (Duke University)
Presenting Author: ALEX KACELNIK (Oxford University)

Understanding decision-making involves many disciplines, including Evolutionary Biology, Economics, Psychology and Quantitative Behavioural Analysis. In this tutorial I review recent experiments on choice between different combinations of amount and delay to food that used starlings as experimental animals. The results are contrasted with predictions from theoretical models originating in these disciplines (including those advocated by B. Franklin). I show that while ome models are better at data fitting they can be weaker in other respects. My overall message is that the worth of theoretical models is not identical to their predictive performance (how well they fit the data): Theories and models are validated by the accuracy of their predictions but should be judged by many additional criteria, including their value to guide research, and to place observations within broader fields of knowledge.

ALEX KACELNIK (Oxford University)
Dr. Alex Kacelnik was born and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduating in Biological Sciences he moved to Oxford where he completed his doctorate studying optimality models of decision-making in birds. As is often the case, topics addressed during his doctorate continued to interest him to this day. In particular, his early research dealt with the trade-off between maximising immediate gains and acquiring information that could lead to greater longer-term benefits (the conflict between exploration and exploitation). In later work he addressed other decision systems, such as the conflict faced by parent birds between feeding their offspring or themselves, the preference for certainty versus risk, or preference between larger, more delayed rewards against smaller, more immediate ones. Alex also works on animal cognition, including research on interval timing, on the notion of rationality, on state-dependent learning, and on tool use by New Caledonian crows. He has published over 130 scientific papers, was co-editor of Volume VI (Foraging) of the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior series, and has supervised over 30 PhD dissertations and 15 postdoctoral researchers. Alex’s work typically treats biologically inspired problems combining behavioural analysis with evolutionary and economic theory, and blending theoretical with experimental research.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh