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

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Invited Tutorial #499
CE Offered: BACB
Tutorial: A Molar View of Behavior
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: William M. Baum, Ph.D.
Chair: Sam Leigland (Gonzaga University)
Presenting Author: WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)

Two propositions about behavior seem uncontroversial: (a) all behavior takes time; and (b) all behavior entails choice. The first, because it implies that duration is universal, suggests that all behavior is measurable on the scale of time. The second, which arises from the recognition that every situation allows the occurrence of more than one activity, suggests that all behavior may be viewed as the allocation of time among activities. Every activity is composed of parts that are other activities of lesser time scale and is also a part of an activity on a more extended time scale. The parts of every allocation function together to produce results which accompany or are correlated with the activity. Every activity-part produces such results and contributes to the whole results, which may be greater than the sum of the part-results. The time allocations inherent in activities are shaped by phylogenetically important events (PIEs), both as results and as inducers of behavior. An activity is defined by its results, the job it gets done. Results at different time scales sometimes conflict with one another, in the sense that local results may be higher or lower in value than extended results. These conflicts lead either to impulsiveness or self-control, depending on whether the resolution favors local or extended control. This molar view allows us to re-cast many familiar concepts, such as reinforcement, punishment, stimulus control, and verbal behavior.

WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)
Dr. 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.



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