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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #480
CE Offered: BACB
New Directions for Animal Labs in Teaching and Research in Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 30, 2022
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 203
Area: TBA/AAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Christina A. Alligood (Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Disney’s Animals, Science, and Environment)
CE Instructor: Andrew Bulla, Ph.D.
Abstract: Animal models have benefited behavior analysis for many years by providing controlled research opportunities and by offering students hands-on learning experiences. While the traditional pigeon and rat models are excellent standards, nontraditional models also offer benefits. First, practical considerations related to the cost and housing requirements of pigeon and rat laboratories can sometimes be prohibitive, while novel species may provide a pragmatic alternative. Second, unique models also offer unique learning opportunities for students, both in teaching exercises and in research experiments, that may foster their ability to solve a larger range of behavioral problems. In this symposium, presenters will discuss their experiences with animal laboratories in behavior analysis, with a focus on less common species, education, and student involvement in research. Presentations will discuss coursework, classroom exercises, and student-driven experiments in a diverse variety of taxa, from cockroaches to goldfish to wolves.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): animal, student, teaching, undergraduate
Target Audience: Instructors of behavior analysis courses.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) incorporate animal exercises into their behavior analysis instruction; (2) understand how student driven research in behavior analysis can be used as a way to integrate teaching and research.; (3) understand challenges and benefits related to working with different species, and how learning to solve those challenges relates to solving challenges working with individuals in applied settings.
Cockroaches as Model Organisms for Behavior Analysis
Abstract: This presentation discusses the use of the orange head cockroach (Eublaberus posticus), a large, flightless, tropical insect, as a model organism for research and teaching in behavior analysis. Insects and other invertebrates are inexpensive, practical organisms that many behavior analysts have considered as alternatives to pigeons and rats when cost and laboratory space requirements become prohibitive. Among invertebrate models, cockroaches offer several benefits. Most notably, they can be easily maintained in controlled laboratory conditions year-round. The generalist nature of cockroaches may also facilitate the development of robust behavioral procedures. Research from my laboratory has shown that the orange head cockroach may be a particularly useful species and has involved several experiments in habituation and respondent conditioning. Variations of these experiments have also been conducted as classroom demonstrations. Additional work on alcohol consumption, intoxication, and the subsequent effect on baseline responses and habituation indicate that this species could also be useful for work in behavioral pharmacology. This presentation will discuss this work, as well as methodological considerations when working with an insect species that, while very capable, is vastly different from organisms traditionally used in behavior analysis.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears?! How about Rats, and Sea Turtles, and Grey Wolves?! Providing Learning Opportunities Using Animal Models to Teach Behavior Analysis

Andrew Bulla (Georgia Southern University - Armstrong )

This presentation highlights the use of animal models in Georgia Southern University’s behavior analysis programs. The presentation will cover two major areas: (1) specific coursework and animal labs at both the undergraduate and graduate level and (2) research endeavors with external partners using unique animal models. In addition, the presentation will highlight a recent project featuring methods to establish concept learning in grey wolves in which student researchers traveled on site to implement multiple aspects of the project. The presenter will share strategies and lessons learned from using animal models as part of educational activities and the benefits of such models.

Toward an Aquatic Animal Learning Lab: Goldfish as a Model for Teaching Basic Learning Principles
LINDSAY MEHRKAM (Monmouth University)
Abstract: Classic learning research has shown that goldfish are able to successfully demonstrate basic learning processes in strict laboratory settings; however, despite their cost-effectiveness and relevance as a common companion animal, it is unknown whether the goldfish’s success as animal models of learning would generalize to classroom or educational settings. This study assessed whether goldfish were a successful animal model to demonstrate basic learning principles in an undergraduate Psychology of Learning course across two consecutive semesters. Naive goldfish (N = 16) of various breeds served as subjects for this study. Students in each cohort (N = 32 total) met IACUC-approved training requirements and participated in 10 weekly laboratory exercises focused on various learning procedures with their goldfish and collected behavioral data on goldfish. All goldfish demonstrated successful habituation, counterconditioning, preference and reinforcer assessment and shaping by the end of the 14-week course, with individual-level variability observed in time to reach criterion. These findings demonstrate that learning concepts can be applied to goldfish to provide undergraduate students with hands-on educational activities in the classroom. Future research is needed on quantifying student learning outcomes with animal models as well as evaluating the welfare of goldfish used as animal models of teaching.



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