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.


10th International Conference; Stockholm, Sweden; 2019

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Paper Session #79
CE Offered: BACB

Selection and Creation Processes in Operant Acquisition of Different Response Units From Lever Pressing to Brain Activity

Monday, September 30, 2019
10:30 AM–11:20 AM
Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Level 4, A1
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Advanced
CE Instructor: Iver Iversen, Ph.D.
Chair: Peter R. Killeen (Arizona State University)
IVER IVERSEN (University of North Florida)

Dr. Iversen received his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from University of Copenhagen, Denmark (1978). He is professor of experimental psychology at University of North Florida, Jacksonville, since 1986. His research has addressed basic mechanisms of operant behavior, primarily in non-human subjects. Examples are detailed analyses of effects of individual reinforcements in rats, intermittent reinforcement of stimulus control in rats, visual guidance of drawing in chimpanzees. Research has also involved operant conditioning of brainwaves in humans to enable communication in completely paralyzed ALS patients. He has served on the board of Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior for 5 3-year terms and currently serves on the boards of European Journal of Behavior Analysis and Mexican Journal of Behavior Analysis. Dr. Iversen believes that strong methodology is necessary to advance science of behavior, and he has developed several automated methods to shape and control behavior as well as methods to analyze complex data from behavioral experiments. Together with Professor K. A. Lattal from University of West Virginia, Morgantown, Dr. Iversen edited a two-volume text on methodology in operant conditioning (1991) and together with Dr. Wendon Henton wrote a book on response patterns in classical and operant conditioning (1978). In addition, he has published several papers that document development of behavior control techniques and methods of data analysis.


Acquisition of operant behavior customarily takes place within a few minutes for standard response units such as brief lever presses, and the process of operant acquisition is often referred to as “simple”. However, research shows that acquisition may consist of several different processes operating at different times within the overall acquisition process. Experiments will illustrate the different processes when acquisition is “slowed down” by making response units more complex by adding dimensional requirements such as duration, direction, distance, or speed to the response. Examples will range from lever presses that are studied in duration and direction, through wheel running studied as length, direction, and speed of individual run bouts, and sequences of different responses. Acquisition of complex response units is also demonstrated in chimpanzees drawing in different directions with a finger on a monitor and further illustrated for the human EEG (electroencephalogram) where different EEG patterns can be brought under stimulus control. In operant acquisition, already existing responses can be selected and modified, and non-existing responses can be created by reinforcement contingencies. The defined response unit and the arranged contingencies of reinforcement are crucial variables in acquisition of operant behavior. The distinction between response selection and response creation is not always heeded in the literature but has implications for both experimental and applied research.

Target Audience:

Graduate students, researchers, and experienced clinicians.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) articulate subtleties in contingencies of reinforcement beyond what is ordinarily taught; (2) draw different aspects of response units and contingencies of reinforcement in diagrams; (3) connect data directly with methodology; (4) state how single-case methodology is crucial for understanding contingencies of reinforcement; (5) articulate the distinction between molar and molecular views of behavior from a research perspective.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh