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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Special Event #398
Presidential Address: Follow Those Data: Ten Lessons in the Science and Application of Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 30, 2005
4:30 PM–5:30 PM
International North (2nd floor)
Chair: Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Presidential Address: Follow Those Data: Ten Lessons in the Science and Application of Behavior Analysis
Abstract: Approximately 15 years ago, my students and I noticed that the rate of operant responding changes systematically within experimental sessions even when the programmed conditions of reinforcement are constant across the session. Subsequent research revealed that these within-session changes in responding are caused by systematic changes in the effectiveness of the reinforcer with its repeated presentation. Changes in reinforcer effectiveness are, in turn, produced by sensitization and habituation to the reinforcer. I will discuss the lessons that I learned while investigating this finding. These lessons include “when you run onto something interesting, drop everything else and study it” (Skinner, 1956); the first reaction to a new finding is denial (Bindra, 1978); any question you ask will be the wrong one; your worst enemies will be those who should be your best friends; reading other literatures will get you into trouble; people prefer complex to simple explanations; many data are needed to change opinions; and “in a cold world, you need your friends” (The Big Chill). Along the way, I’ll discuss the theoretical and applied implications of dynamic changes in reinforcer effectiveness for the field of behavior analysis.
FRANCES K. MCSWEENEY (Washington State University)
Dr. Frances K. McSweeney is Regents Professor of Psychology and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at Washington State University (WSU). She received her B.A., Summa Cum Laude, from Smith College (1969) and her Masters (1972) and Ph.D. (1974) from Harvard University. She joined the faculty at WSU in 1974 and has served as chair of the Psychology Department, as well as chair of the WSU Faculty Senate. Dr. McSweeney has published more than 100 papers on topics such as the Matching Law, behavioral contrast, and dynamic changes in reinforcer value. She has received grants from sources such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. She has served on the editorial boards of many journals such as Animal Learning & Behavior, the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and The Behavior Analyst. She is currently Associate Editor of Learning and Motivation. Dr. McSweeney served two terms as Program Committee Chair for ABA and is currently a member of the ABA Executive Council. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (Divisions 3 and 25) and of the American Psychological Society. Dr. McSweeney has won many awards including the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, the Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award, the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor Award, and the Eminent Professor Award, WSU’s highest award for a faculty member.



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