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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #363
Why we Must Cease Avoiding Avoidance: Explaining Human Avoidance and Anxiety Requires Different Talk (and Processes)
Monday, May 25, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 228
Area: EAB; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: Bryan T. Roche (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Abstract: The current series of papers reports on a modern program of research in to human avoidance and anxiety in terms of derived stimulus relations. While traditional approaches to the analysis of avoidance have served us well, the concept of derived stimulus relations has facilitated rapid advances in research in this domain. The first paper in the series provides an overview of the history and current progress of avoidance research with humans and points the way towards some exciting new research questions. The second paper describes an experiment designed to assess the relationship between the development of functional classes and derived stimulus relations in an attempt to understand more fully the emergence and maintenance of avoidance repertoires. The third paper provides a modern account of human anxiety in terms of approach-avoidance conflicts, and provides empirical data to support the account. Finally, the fourth paper describes an empirical examination of the role of aversive conditioning in the emergence of processing and attentional biases commonly observed for anxious clients.
A Contemporary Behavioral Analysis of Anxiety and Avoidance
SIMON DYMOND (Swansea University), Bryan T. Roche (National University of Ireland, Maynooth)
Abstract: Despite the central status of avoidance in explaining the etiology and maintenance of anxiety disorders, surprisingly little behavioral research has been conducted on human avoidance. In the present paper, first we provide a brief review of the empirical literature on avoidance. Next, we describe the implications of research on derived relational responding and the transformation of functions for a contemporary behavioral account of avoidance, before providing several illustrative research examples of laboratory-based analogs of key clinical treatment processes. Finally, we suggest some challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for behavioral research on anxiety and avoidance.
Functional Classes of Anxiety-Provoking Stimuli Interfere with Arbitrary Equivalence Class Formation: A Process-Based Account.
IAN THOMAS TYNDALL (AMCD), Bryan T. Roche (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Jack E. James (NUI, Galway)
Abstract: The present experiment examined the effects of stimuli with aversive or neutral functions on derived relational responding to elucidate how stimulus function interacts with verbal processes. Fifty-seven subjects were exposed to an associative conditioning procedure, Phase 1, that paired six nonsense syllables with aversive images, and a further six stimuli with neutral images. Phase 2 involved selecting one aversive CS and one neutral CS and established a different operant response function for each stimulus. Phase 3 comprised a transfer-of-functions that examined whether the appropriate operant response transferred to the remaining five stimuli in each functional class by virtue of their previously established shared respondent functions. Forty-five of 57 subjects demonstrated the transfer of stimulus functions and progressed to Phase 4 equivalence training. Forty-two subjects were subsequently exposed to Phase 5 equivalence testing, 21 in each of the two conditions, Similar Aversive and Similar Neutral. Subjects took significantly longer to form stimulus equivalence classes in the Similar Aversive than the Similar Neutral condition (t = .032). The data suggest that cognitive-oriented therapy strategies designed to alter aversive stimulus classes, such as verbal categories, for anxiety-disordered clients may face significant challenges.
Human Anxiety and Approach-Avoidance Conflicts: An Experimental Analysis
STEVEN ROBERT GANNON (NUI Maynooth), Bryan T. Roche (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Simon Dymond (Swansea University), Jonathan W. Kanter (Department of Psychology/University of Wisconsin,-Milwaukee)
Abstract: The present paper reports on an experiment which first aimed to identify aversive (shock) and appetitive (money) stimuli of equal strength for each subject. Next, a non-word stimulus, B1, was established as a discriminative stimulus for avoiding shock, while B2 was established as a discriminative stimulus for approaching money. Two four-member equivalence classes (A1-B1-C1-D1 and A2-B2-C2-D2) were then trained and tested. Participants were then presented with C1 and C2 to test for the derived transfer of avoidance and approach functions, respectively. C1C2, C2C1, C1D1 and C2D2 compound stimuli were then presented in extinction. The results demonstrate consistency in response patterns across subjects when compound pairs were members of the same equivalence class, but variation across and not within subjects when compound pairs were members of different equivalence classes. Response delays and elevated self-reported anxiety levels were also recorded when compound pairs were members of different equivalence classes.
Attentional bias for laboratory-induced threat and transfer of color-naming interference
MARIA SONSOLES VALDIVIA-SALAS (University at Albany, State University of New York), John P. Forsyth (University at Albany, SUNY), Carmen Luciano Soriano (University Almer&íacute;a, Spain)
Abstract: Numerous studies have shown that anxious individuals selectively and disproportionately attend to unpleasant emotional stimuli. Such threat-biased processing is assumed to develop as a consequence of aversive emotional learning, but data showing that aversive conditioning contributes to the development and maintenance of processing biases is scarce. The present study aimed to fill this gap and had two main goals: first, to examine the effects of an aversive conditioning procedure on attentional bias for threat as index using a Stroop interference task. The second goal was to test for the transfer of Stroop color-naming interference across members of an equivalence class. Healthy college students were presented with a Stroop task containing six non-sense words: A1 (CS+), A2 (CS-), C1, C2 and two neutral words. Response latency and errors during the Stroop task were measured at (1) baseline; (2) after conditioning A1 to CO2-enriched air, and A2 to normal room air; and (3) after training four conditional discriminations: A1-B1, B1-C1, A2-B2, and A2-C2. This research, along with its implications for understanding the role of language in contributing to anxious suffering, will be described.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh