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 #365
Science Board Translational Series: Choice
Monday, May 25, 2009
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
North 226 AB
Area: EAB/DEV; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: Randolph C. Grace (University of Canterbury)
Discussant: Randolph C. Grace (University of Canterbury)
Abstract: Choice has been a major topic in the experimental analysis of behavior since Herrnstein’s (1961) pioneering study. His finding – that response allocation matched the proportion of reinforcers obtained from each alternative – became known as the matching law and stimulated development of models for behavioral choice such as the quantitative law of effect and delay-reduction theory. Most of this research has been conducted with nonhumans such as pigeons and rats, although the basic findings have also been replicated with humans. In broad terms, the question addressed by this symposium is, can principles derived from research on choice with nonhumans be usefully applied to humans? The symposium will include presentations by three eminent researchers – James Snyder, Jack McDowell, and Edmund Fantino – who have successfully applied behavioral models to human choice in situations of practical and clinical significance. These presentations will show in various ways how results from basic research on choice have increased our understanding of human behavior.
Constructive or Antisocial Behavior: Doing What Works
JAMES SNYDER (Wichita State University)
Abstract: Data on children’s choice behavior during social interaction in family and peer environments are examined as processes contributing to the development of antisocial behavior. Four hours of interaction of 267 5 to 6 year-old children with their parents were observed and coded for parental negative reinforcement of child aversive behavior (“giving in” during conflict) , and 1½ hours of the children’s interaction with same gender classmates were observed and coded for peer positive reinforcement of child norm-violating discourse and rehearsal. In each case, children’s choice behavior (aversive versus not, and norm-violating discourse and rehearsal versus not) fit a reinforcement-choice model: the relative rate at which children were observed to engage in the target behavior was reliably and strongly correlated with the relative rate at which that behavior (compared to other behaviors) resulted in social reinforcement. In turn, the rates at which children displayed aversive behavior during parent-child interaction and norm-violating discourse and rehearsal during peer interaction predicted growth in multi-setting displays of antisocial behavior over the next 2 years. The findings support the notion that interventions which alter contingencies in natural social interaction (e.g., parent skills training, good behavior game) are potent methods to prevent and treat antisocial behavior.
From Human Social Behavior in Natural Environments to the Laboratory and Back
JACK J. MCDOWELL (Emory University)
Abstract: Behavior analysis as pure basic science focuses on behavior in controlled laboratory environments. Many findings from the basic science, including matching theory, can be translated to the human social environment. A different approach begins with issues in human social behavior, translates them into laboratory forms, and then returns relevant findings to the natural human environment. Both approaches are valuable, although the latter is less often pursued. In both cases, the complete return trip to the natural environment entails confirming laboratory findings using human subjects, testing the confirmed findings in engineered human social environments, and finally, testing the findings in completely undisturbed natural human environments. The last step is critical but rarely taken.
Principles of Choice and Their Applications
EDMUND J. FANTINO (University of California, San Diego), Stephanie S. Stolarz-Fantino (University of California, San Diego)
Abstract: Study of quantitative theories of choice, of the situations in which information about reinforcing events is selected, and of behavioral analogs to decision-making problems all have important theoretical implications and have wide generality. However the principles that have emerged from this research also have significant application to the decisions we make in our everyday lives.



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