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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #231
The Rat is Always Right: Why the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Still Matters
Sunday, May 25, 2014
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
W176a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB/TPC; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Matthew Lewon (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Michael Perone (West Virginia University)

A number of articles have appeared in behavior analytic journals recently criticizing what some view as the overly esoteric nature of contemporary basic research in the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB) and questioning its future as a scientific enterprise. Howsoever one may view the current usefulness of EAB research, concerns about the future of EAB certainly cannot be founded on the assumption that we have already discovered all there is to know about the various conditions of which behavior is a function. There are still many fascinating phenomena which require the elucidation of further investigation, and it is in these behavioral frontiers that EAB has its greatest relevance. In the interests of identifying some of these frontiers and EABs role in exploring them, the speakers in this symposium will offer their perspectives on areas in which they believe interesting and important EAB research remains to be conducted. In so doing, we hope it will become clear that not only is EAB as relevant as ever, it is a primary means by which we may shed light on some of these heretofore overlooked areas of investigation.

Keyword(s): behavioral momentum, motivation, nature-nurture, Pavlovian conditioning
Back to Basics: Operants, Respondents, and "Instincts" in the Nature-Nurture System
SUSAN M. SCHNEIDER (University of the Pacific)
Abstract: While a focus on complex operant phenomena in birds and mammals is understandable in basic research, the exploration of basic principles in a wider taxonomic sphere is important as well. Long ago, behavior analysts helped discover that operant behavior and principles interact with species-typical "instincts," as they do with Pavlovian processes. Beyond that basic fact, the scope and details of these interactions remain unknown to a surprising extent, even as still do the behavioral and biological nature of the major functional behavior categories themselves. Just as basic research in atomic physics brought great benefits--including unexpected applications--pursuing the corresponding foundational principles of behavior is likely to do the same. Are there indeed discrete or at least pragmatically useful categories? Along with the notable advances in neuroscience, the increasing power of genomic analyses should help shed light on the evolution of operant learning and its full scope, and the nature of behavioral categories and interactions. An increased focus on invertebrate learning can be expected to be an essential component. By actively pursuing interdisciplinary research in this fundamental area, we will in addition be laying the groundwork for significantly greater recognition and application of the operant principles in which we specialize.

Pavlov's Science is Still at the Forefront of Methodological and Conceptual Advancement

DANIEL GOTTLIEB (Sweet Briar College)

The study of Pavlovian conditioning has progressed like most successful areas of basic scientific research: through the investigation of questions that, at a given time, are the most answerable and the most broadly applicable. Over the last several decades, the field has made enormous progress in characterizing the general function of Pavlovian conditioning as well as in understanding more specific phenomena. Perhaps the greatest strides, however, have been in the area of methodological advancement. A stunning array of previously untestable questions are now empirically addressable, not because of advances in technology but rather because of advances in experimental design and statistical analysis. I will briefly highlight recent advancements of which few who work outside of the field are aware. I will then discuss some of the questions most in need of answering in the future. There is nothing esoteric about modern research in Pavlovian conditioning, and there is more of use still to be learned.


Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Motivation and the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

MATTHEW LEWON (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)

The study of motivation within behavior analysis has historically pertained to organism-environment interactions that alter the extent to which stimuli function as reinforcers and/or aversive stimuli, thereby producing a change in an organisms behavior with respect to such stimuli. In contemporary behavior analysis, such interactions are typically accounted for via the motivating operation (MO) concept. While an increasing number of applied studies are manipulating MOs as the independent variables of interest, such studies remain rare within the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB), and relatively little is known about the effects of different motivational states on a variety of otherwise well-studied phenomena, including habituation to reinforcers, delay discounting, stimulus control, and escape and avoidance learning. Furthermore, the environmental conditions associated with the phenomena we learn to describe as emotions appear to function as MOs, a phenomena that was relatively well-studied during the early years of EAB but has received relatively little attention in the last 50 years. In the present paper, all of these issues will be discussed and we will argue that motivation is one of the many areas in which further basic experimentation is required.


Persistently Momentous: Basic Research on Behavioral Momentum

AMY ODUM (Utah State University), Andrew R. Craig (Utah State University), John A. Nevin (University of New Hampshire)

One way to conceptualize behavior is in terms of its persistence. Some behavior challenges may result from behavior that lacks persistence (e.g., poor academic performance, lack of exercise), while others may stem from behavior that is too persistent (e.g., addiction, anxiety). Behavioral momentum encompasses the empirical study of the factors contribute to response persistence as well as a theoretical system for understanding those factors. Briefly, how fast a behavior occurs is separable from how persistent it will be. Response rate is related to response-reinforcer contingencies, whereas resistance to change is related to stimulus-reinforcer relations. This straightforward distinction has important, counterintuitive, and under-appreciated implications for our attempts to modify behavior.




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