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

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Symposium #406
Behavioral Contingency Analysis of Complex Verbal and Motor Behavior
Monday, May 25, 2009
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
North 132 A
Area: TPC/EDC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Francis Mechner (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: A formal symbolic language for analyzing and codifying any type of behavioral contingency will be presented and explained. The language has a small vocabulary of about twelve terms, and a specialized grammar and syntax. A contingency analysis typically requires identification of the parties whose actions are relevant, their possible actions, the consequences—positive, negative, or neutral—of those actions for all the parties involved, the parties’ likely perceptions and predictions of those consequences, as well as their possible misperceptions, non-perceptions, wrong predictions, non-predictions, and uncertainties regarding these. The analyst would typically also consider time lags, probabilities, and magnitudes of the likely consequences, the actions that can prevent or alter such probabilities or magnitudes, and changes in the consequences as a function of other acts or the passage of time. The papers will illustrate how the language can be applied to various types of complex situations including certain verbal behaviors, pedagogy, dance performance, reading comprehension, and locomotion. These examples will also show how behavioral contingency analysis, by the use of this language, can reveal parallels between behaviors that seem highly diverse on the surface, but actually share common contingency structures. Key words: Behavioral contingency, contingency analysis, locomotion, verbal behavior, language, reading, education, codification, notation system.
Templates and Modular Units: Building Blocks of Behavioral Contingency Analysis
LAURILYN DIANNE JONES (The Mechner Foundation), Francis Mechner (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: The formal symbolic language for codifying and analyzing behavioral contingencies proposed by Francis Mechner in his paper “Behavioral Contingency Analysis” has a small vocabulary of about a dozen words and a simple grammar. Practical applications of this language to a wide variety of behavioral contingencies in both experimental and applied behavior analysis, as well as in areas such as education, economics, therapy, sociology, law, or public affairs, require the use of a relatively small number of recurrent modular units or standard templates. These are combinations of words and symbols that correspond to commonly used phrases in a natural language. They occur in many different types of contingency diagrams, and can serve as useful building blocks in creating them. Becoming familiar with these templates and/or modules makes diagramming contingencies using the formal language considerably easier and faster. A number of the most common of these templates and/or modules will be presented and discussed, with demonstrations of how they appear in various practical applications.
Behavioral Parallels Between Locomotion and Certain Complex Verbal Skills
FRANCIS MECHNER (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: This paper illustrates how behavioral contingency analysis can be used to discover parallels between seemingly disparate behaviors. The example developed here shows that the behavioral contingency structure of locomotion and of reading out loud is virtually the same. The terrain being traversed and the locomotion behavior involved are shown to be analogous to a section of text being read and the articulation of the words. In both cases, successive upcoming segments are perceived and processed, and during the processing phases, motor behavior is formulated. In both, the smooth concatenation of the motor phases for successive segments requires buffering by holding the formulated motor behavior in memory. Both involve corrective or digressive actions in response to obstacles or unanticipated stimuli encountered during the motor phases. Both involve looking ahead at the upcoming segment and processing it while the motor phase of the prior segment is still in progress. For both, the size, entropy, familiarity, and other attributes of the upcoming segment are parameters of the performance. It is suggested that locomotion has similar parallels with certain other complex skills, such as listening, copying, receiving Morse code and simultaneous interpreting, and may therefore be their phylogenetic prototype and evolutionary ancestor.
Behavioral Contingency Analysis of Complex Skill Instruction
Abstract: The structure and dynamics of learner-teacher interactions in the teaching of certain complex skills is analyzed by means of a formal symbolic language for codifying behavioral contingencies. The two situations studied were the teaching of certain basic psychology concepts to undergraduate students and the teaching of the performance of certain dance steps to dance students. Although these two learning situations seem vastly different, and involve very different behaviors, the structure of the behavioral contingencies of the instructor-student interactions appears to be the same. Both involve diagnosis of student errors, choice of feedback that the instructor provides to the learner, and the learner’s response to the feedback. The analysis of this structure provides information on (a) the initiation of interactions; (b) the identification of possible positive and negative outcomes; and (c) a stimulus for reflection and exploration of effective ways to approach various types of pedagogic problems. In addition, this type of analysis can provide the student with assistance in choosing between alternative answers and actions. The implications and potential benefits of this type of behavioral contingency analysis are discussed.
Analyzing the Behavioral Contingencies Involved in Teaching Inferential Reading Comprehension
MARTA LEON (Headsprout)
Abstract: The contingencies analyzed are those that confront an elementary grade learner interacting with a computer-based program designed by Headsprout to teach reading comprehension. The student sees instructional material on a screen, hears a sound track, and answers reading comprehension questions by making responses with a computer mouse. The program is designed to teach the student to apply a strategy consisting of a sequence of interrelated responses that use both textual and intraverbal stimuli. The program systematically introduces and establishes each component skill necessary to answer comprehension questions correctly. The program teaches four major types of reading comprehension skills (factual, inferential, summative, and derived vocabulary). The paper will present a behavioral contingency analysis of the student's interaction with the computer program when learning inferential comprehension in particular. This analysis will use Mechner's proposed formal symbolic language to codify the complex contingency relations involved in the student's interactions with the program. Key instructional sequences designed to teach inferential comprehension will be presented, followed by their decomposition into the component contingency relations as expressed in Mechner's specialized coding system.



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