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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #408

The Urge to Smoke and the Urge to Urinate: Pavlovian Processes in Health-Related Behaviors

Monday, May 27, 2019
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom AB
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: R. Douglas Greer, Ph.D.
Chair: R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
KATHLEEN O'CONNELL (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Kathleen A. O’Connell, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FABMR is the Isabel Maitland Stewart Professor of Nursing Education at Teachers College Columbia University. She received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Kansas and did a Postdoctoral Fellowship in psychology at Purdue University. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. In her research on health behavior in diabetes, smoking cessation, and overactive bladder syndrome, she has applied various theories, including value expectancy theory, self-regulation theory, reversal theory, the theory of self-control strength, Pavlovian theory, and Pavlovian instrumental transfer.


Although it seems obvious that operant learning processes are important in the acquisition of addictive behaviors like smoking, I report on the importance of Pavlovian processes in the extinction of smoking and in the acquisition of urinary urge incontinence. Context is important in the extinction of behaviors. After responses to conditioned stimuli have been extinguished in one context, responding resumes when the organism enters a different context. Our work using ecological momentary assessment techniques showed that resisting urges to smoke is context-dependent and that using the stimulus control strategy of staying away from available cigarettes functions as an extinction context that does little to prepare ex-smokers for when they inevitably encounter a context with available cigarettes. Pavlovian processes are also responsible for the acquisition of some behaviors that contribute to pathological conditions, including the phenomenon of key-in-the-lock incontinence, which is cue-stimulated urinary urgency and incontinence when arriving at the entrance to one’s home. I will report our research on the effect of conditioned stimuli on daytime urinary urgency and nocturia, including the effect of displaying urge-related and neutral stimuli during urodynamic assessment of bladder contractions and during functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brains of individuals with urge incontinence.

Target Audience:

Researchers interested in Pavlovian processes in humans and researchers and clinicians interested in health behaviors.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) explain that extinction of conditioned stimuli is context-dependent, (2) discuss how stimulus control techniques may ultimately lead to relapse in addictive behaviors when individuals enter contexts where the stimuli are available, and (3) describe how Pavlovian processes are important in the acquisition of behaviors related to urinary urgency and incontinence.



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