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.


32nd Annual Convention; Atlanta, GA; 2006

Event Details

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Symposium #62
CE Offered: BACB
International Symposium - Dynamic and Complex Systems in Behavior Analysis and Development: Theory & Application
Saturday, May 27, 2006
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Area: DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: Gary D. Novak (California State University, Stanislaus)
CE Instructor: Gary D. Novak, Ph.D.

Behavioral development involves constant changes in individuals embedded in complex systems. Dynamic systems theory has been applied to many scientific fields, including behavior analysis and developmental psychology, but to a large extent there has been a total separation of these two fields. This symposium will begin by describing how dynamic systems or chaos theory can be useful in behavior analysis. Then, connecting complexity theory with behavior analysis it will then provide a basis for relating behavior analysis. Finally, a behavioral systems approach will be applied to real-world problems of children.

Using Dynamical Systems to Explore Variability in Schedules of Reinforcement.
MARK S. HOYERT (Indiana University Northwest)
Abstract: One of the classic problems in behavior analysis involves the examination of moment to moment variability in schedules of reinforcement. Some researchers have suggested that this variability is the product of a system of interacting variables. Other researchers have suggested that the variability is the result of stochastic inputs. Similar questions have been addressed recently by researchers in nonlinear dynamics. A number of techniques have been developed that are useful in distinguishing between stochastic and deterministic system. None of the procedures is sufficient to provide proof of the underlying character of the system, but a series of analyses used simultaneously may provide convincing multiple converging evidence. In this paper, I explored the utility of three methods: a) estimation of the correlation dimension, b) calculation of the fractal dimension, and c) attractor reconstruction for examining three types of data. a) Empirical data collected from four pigeons responding to a Fixed-Interval schedule of reinforcement. b) Theoretical data generated from a system of deterministic equations that model Fixed- Interval performance. c) Theoretical data generated to produce random performance. The techniques were able to identify correctly identify theoretically generated stochastic and deterministic output. They suggest that pigeon performance is deterministic.
Behavior Analysis and Complexity Theory: a Possible Unified Selectionist Enterprise?
INGUNN SANDAKER (Akershus University College)
Abstract: Complexity theory is being applied to many fields concerned with multiply determined, continuous, and nonlinear changes among its constituents. Just as other scientific fields have been enhanced by the incorporation of complexity theory principles, behavior analysis, would be enhanced by looking at behavioral change from the viewpoint of complex systems. The special relevance to longer run development will be noted.
Dynamic Systems Principles in Child Development: Changes in Complex Behavioral Systems.
GARY D. NOVAK (California State University, Stanislaus)
Abstract: Novak and Pelaez (Novak, 1996, Novak & Pelaez, 2003) have presented an approach to development that combines behavior analysis with dynamic systems principles. Called, a Behavioral Systems Approach, it adds many concepts from chaos theory to a contextualistic behavior analytic view of development. This paper will present this approach to the study of child development. It will explain concepts such as multiple determination, equifinality, nonlinearity, phase shifts versus stages, control parameters, coalescent organization versus self-organization, behavioral momentum, and behavioral cusps, and how these relate to the study of child development.
A Critique of Stage theories of Development: Optimizing Treatment with b\Behavioral Systems Approaches.
MARTHA PELAEZ (Florida International University), Victoria Minette (Florida International University)
Abstract: The scientific study of human development has the ultimate goal of optimizing humanbehavior, which can be accomplished through the creation of social service (behavior-analytic) programs. The programs have the mission of prevention, intervention, and treatment for individuals and society. Theories of human development have provided guidelines for program development but not always effectively. Stage theories (Freud, Erikson, Piaget) are linear and tend to be descriptive rather than explanatory. The behavioral systems approach outlined in this prevention incorporates some dynamic principles and places emphasis in nonlinear reciprocal interaction processes between behavior and environment. The approach emphasizes the multiple influences of human interactions within a contextualistic, and not mechanistic, world view. A critical and comparative analysis of stage theories is presented while illustrating how dynamical systems theories offer a more functional, comprehensive, and effective guideline for programs dealing with significant social problems such as adolescent suicide and substance abuse.



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