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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #162
CE Offered: BACB
Conceptual Investigations in Complex Human Behavior
Sunday, May 30, 2010
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Bonham C (Grand Hyatt)
Area: TPC/VRB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jonathan J. Tarbox (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.)
Discussant: David C. Palmer (Smith College)
CE Instructor: Michael Commons, Ph.D.
Abstract: Since the very beginning, the field of behavior analysis has been intended to be a comprehensive science of the behavior of organisms, including the complex actions of humans. The field has progressed tremendously in research and practice related to relatively simple behavior, but arguably less progress has been made with respect to complex behavior. Part of the lack of progress in this area may be due to incomplete or inconsistent conceptual accounts of what complex human activity consists of and how or if we can study it. More conceptual work aimed at clarifying these issues therefore seems warranted. This symposium consists of three papers presenting conceptual analyses of three areas of complex human behavior. The first paper, by Dr. Potter, is on self-conditioning. The second paper, by Dr. Tarbox, is on the issue of cause in relations between public and private events. The third paper, by Dr. Fryling, is on observational learning. The symposium concludes with a discussion by Dr. Palmer
The Role of Self-Conditioning in Human Behavior
WILLIAM F. POTTER (California State University, Stanislaus)
Abstract: Self-conditioning or the skill of modifying your own behavior has not been examined much in the behavioral literature. This ability however, probably accounts for a fair portion of complex human behavior, including such things as sensitivity to remote contingencies, recall, listener behavior, learning to learn, etc. This paper will explore the impact that self-conditioning might have on these complex skills and how self-conditioning skills might be acquired and how these skills might be trained.
Thinking Causes Behavior: Another Look at Relations Between Public and Private Events
JONATHAN J. TARBOX (Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.), Marla Saltzman (Autism Behavior Intervention, Inc.)
Abstract: Skinner’s (1945) philosophical system, Radical Behaviorism, is based on the following assumptions; 1) mental events are not mental, but rather “private,” 2) they differ in no fundamental way from overt events, and 3) they must be included in a science of behavior. Unfortunately, in the sixty years which have passed since these assumptions were proposed, little scientific progress has been made in the area of private events. We argue that Skinner’s inconsistent position on the causal status of private stimuli is part of the problem. Skinner simultaneously suggested that private events are the same as public events and that they do not cause public behavior. These two statements are contradictory because the only thing that public stimuli do in behavior analysis is cause behavior. Indeed, if private stimuli do not cause behavior, then they do nothing at all in the science of behavior analysis, and are then presumably all but irrelevant. It is no surprise, then, than private events are all but ignored. We argue for a strict interpretation of Skinner’s premise that public and private events are equal. Specifically, when private events interact with overt behavior as discriminative stimuli, reinforcers, punishers, or rules, they do indeed cause overt behavior, in the same sense that their overt counterparts do. We discuss how this position is useful in the applied realm, consistent in the theoretical realm, and has the potential of expanding the breadth of behavioral theory and practice to the full range of complex human behavior.
A Critical Analysis of Observational Learning
MITCH FRYLING (The Chicago School, Los Angeles), Cristin D. Johnston (Behavioral Solutions, Inc), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Accounting for the fact that organisms can learn through observation is a conceptual challenge for behavior analysis. This presentation reviews some general findings of research on observational learning, and reviews some behavior analytic accounts of this process. An alternative perspective, based on the philosophy of Interbehaviorism and scientific system of Interbehavioral Psychology is presented. It is argued that this perspective may help guide behavior analysts toward a more wholly naturalistic interpretation of observational learning. As applied workers continue to be interested in observational learning techniques (e.g., video modeling), the pursuit of a solid conceptual foundation remains important.



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