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

Previous Page


Symposium #436
The Molar-Molecular Debate: A Further Discussion on the Unresolved Issue
Monday, May 31, 2010
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
Lone Star Ballroom Salon E (Grand Hyatt)
Area: EAB; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: Toshikazu Kuroda (West Virginia University)
Discussant: William M. Baum (University of California, Davis)
Abstract: The molar-molecular issue is one of the unresolved problems in the experimental analysis of behavior. For proponents of molecular theory, the response-reinforcer relation is mediated by the temporal contiguity between the two. Proponents of molar theory, on the other hand, argue that the relation is mediated by the correlation between response rate and reinforcement rate over extended time. Previous studies have supported one of the other. The present symposium is intended to extend the discussion on this unresolved issue. Having invited William Baum – a leading proponent of molar theory – as our discussant, the symposium will include following individuals as presenters: Grace and Kyonka will present data from a frequently-changing concurrent chains plus peak procedure that permits comparisons of molar and molecular interpretations; Kuroda and Lattal developed a discrete trial procedure that may differentiate effects of molecular variable (contiguity) from that of molar variable (correlation). They will present effects of the disruption in the correlation; Popa and McDowell will present their Darwinian-based evolutionary theory of behavior dynamics and discuss its implication to the molar-molecular issue.
Molar and Molecular Analyses of Choice and Timing
RANDOLPH C. GRACE (University of Canterbury), Elizabeth Grace Evel Kyonka (West Virginia University)
Abstract: An enduring question for behavior analysis has been to determine the proper level of analysis for choice. Molar accounts such as the generalized matching law provide an excellent quantitative description of aggregate data but are silent regarding an efficient cause for responding, whereas molecular accounts such as momentary maximizing can explain responding over small time scales but are difficult to apply to aggregated data. Here we consider the question of level of analysis with respect to results from experiments which have investigated choice and timing under dynamic conditions (e.g., Kyonka & Grace, 2007). In this research, pigeons were trained on a concurrent chains procedure with fixed-interval (FI) terminal links that changed unpredictably across sessions. Occasional no-food terminal links were scheduled to allow for temporal control to be assessed. Although data were orderly at both aggregate and local levels, abrupt changes in responding at the local level gave rise to apparently gradual changes in the aggregate. These results suggest that analysis of data within individual sessions is necessary to illuminate the mechanism underlying choice responding.
Effects of the Disruption in Correlation Under a Variant of Correlated Reinforcement Schedule
TOSHIKAZU KURODA (West Virginia University), Kennon A. Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Four White Carneau pigeons served as subjects in the present study. We disrupted the correlation between responding and reinforcer deliveries by using a new discrete trial procedure in which a trial is comprised of four components in the following order: 30-s response component, blackout, 30-s reinforcement component, and intertrial interval. Food reinforcers were delivered only during the reinforcement component in which a random-interval (RI) schedule was in effect. In the correlated condition (baseline), the RI schedule value was determined by the number of responses made in the response component of the same trial; that is, the number of reinforcers was positively correlated with the number of responses. In the uncorrelated condition, the RI schedule value was yoked to the preceding baseline. In so doing, we removed the correlation while maintaining overall reinforcement rate constant across the two conditions. The removal of the correlation resulted in lower responding, suggesting the importance of correlation as a controlling variable of behavior. Data are being collected at this time.
Evolutionary Behavior Dynamics Causally Generates Both Molar and Molecular Properties of Behavior
ANDREI POPA (Emory University), Jack J. McDowell (Emory University)
Abstract: Both molar and molecular causality may be illusory. Molar and molecular features of behavior are emergent properties of an evolutionary theory of behavior dynamics that instantiates the idea that behavior evolves in response to selection pressure provided by reinforcement from the environment. This theory consists of Darwinian rules of selection, reproduction, and mutation that operate on a population of potential behaviors over time to generate a continuous stream of emitted behavior. The evolutionary theory has been shown to generate behavior on single random interval (RI) and concurrent RI RI schedules that has molar properties consistent with matching theory, and that are quantitatively indistinguishable from molar properties of live-organism behavior. At the same time, the theory has been shown to generate molecular interresponse time (IRT) distributions that can be studied in the form of log-survivor plots, and that are similar to log-survivor IRT distributions from live organisms. A parallel selectionist theory of neural functioning has been discussed as a plausible material mechanism for this evolutionary theory of behavior dynamics.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh