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.

  • AUT: Autism

    BPH: Behavioral Pharmacology

    CBM: Clinical/Family/Behavioral Medicine

    DEV: Behavioral Development

    EAB: Experimental Analysis of Behavior

    VRB: Verbal Behavior

34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Program by B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Events: Sunday, May 25, 2008

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #213

Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution

Sunday, May 25, 2008
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
International North
Area: DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: William M. Baum (University of California, Davis)
PETER J. RICHERSON (University of California, Davis)
Dr. Peter J. Richerson is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California—Davis. His research focuses on the processes of cultural evolution. His 1985 book with Robert Boyd, Culture and the Evolutionary Process, applied the mathematical tools used by organic evolutionists to study a number of basic problems in human cultural evolution. His recent books with Boyd include Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, an introduction to cultural evolution aimed at a broad audience and The Origins and Evolution of Cultures, a compendium of their more important papers and book chapters. His recent publications used theoretical models to try to understand some of the main events in human evolution, such as the evolution of the advanced capacity for imitation (and hence cumulative cultural evolution) in humans, the origins of tribal and larger scale cooperation, and the origins of agriculture. He collaborates with Richard McElreath, Mark Lubell, and William Baum in an NSF funded research group devoted to the study of cultural transmission and cultural evolution in laboratory systems.

Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth using an incredible variety of tools and subsistence techniques. Our societies, heavily regulated by culturally transmitted institutions, are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In this talk, Richerson will argue that the key to understanding human behavior is a theory of cultural evolution and gene-culture coevolution that is built on Darwinian principles. Our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Culture has played a leading rather than lagging role in human evolution. Culture creates novel environments than then act as forces of natural selection on genes. Most strikingly, our cooperative societies have led to something like the domestication of our genes.

B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #214
CE Offered: BACB

Finding the Consistency of Social Behavior in its Stable Variability

Sunday, May 25, 2008
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Grand Ballroom
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
CE Instructor: Walter Mischel, Ph.D.
Chair: Allen Neuringer (Reed College)
WALTER MISCHEL (Columbia University)
Dr. Walter Mischel is the Robert Johnston Niven Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology at Columbia University where he has been since 1983. Before Columbia, he taught at the University of Colorado (1956-1958), Harvard University (1958-1962), and Stanford University (1962-1983). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991, and in 2007 was elected president of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Mischel’s work over 50 years has (1) re-conceptualized research and theory in personality and social psychology on the stability and variability of behavior and its links to situations; (2) clarified basic mechanisms underlying delay of gratification, and future-oriented self-control; and (3) traced the implications of self-control ability for development over the life course. He received the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the Distinguished Scientist Award of the Society of Experimental Social Psychologists, the Distinguished Contributions to Personality Award of the Society of Social and Personality Psychologists, and the Distinguished Scientist Award of APA's Division of Clinical Psychology. He is past editor of Psychological Review, and was president of APA Division 8 (Social and Personality), and of the Association for Research in Personality.

To build a science of the person, the most basic question is: How can one identify and understand the psychological invariancethe basic coherence and organization-- that distinctively characterizes an individual and that underlies the variations in the thoughts, feelings, and actions that occur across contexts and over time? This question proved particularly difficult because discrepancies soon emerged between the expressions of consistency that were expected and those that were found. The resulting classic personality paradox became: How can we reconcile our intuitions---and theories---about the invariance and stability of personality with the equally compelling empirical evidence for the variability of the persons behavior across diverse situations? Which is right: the intuitions or the findings? I discuss some advances to answer this question since it was posed decades ago. These findings have allowed a resolution of the paradox, and provide the outlines for a conception of the underlying structure and dynamics of behavior, and its links to situations, that seems to better account for the data on consistencies and variability in the expressions of individual differences. This conception is applied to the analysis of self-control, focusing on the ability to delay gratification, and its determinants, development, and implications over the life course.

B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #267

Brain Pathways for Behavioral Variation and Selection in a Vocal-Learning Songbird

Sunday, May 25, 2008
3:30 PM–4:20 PM
Grand Ballroom
Area: VRB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Matthew P. Normand (University of the Pacific)
FRANK JOHNSON (Florida State University)
Dr. Frank Johnson is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Florida State University, where his principal research activities involve the neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying vocal learning. In particular, his lab studies the zebra finch, a songbird that learns a vocal pattern much in the same way that humans acquire language. Songbirds are the preeminent animal model for human vocal learning, and they represent the only model system that allows investigation of vocal learning at cellular and molecular levels. Dr. Johnson earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside.

Male zebra finches learn a vocal pattern during juvenile life in a manner that bears a striking behavioral resemblance to human vocal learning. Following an early tutoring phase where the song of an adult male is heard, juvenile male zebra finches begin a sensory-motor learning phase where auditory feedback is used to shape initially variable vocal sounds into the sequence of distinct note types heard earlier in life. The neural circuit that controls this learning is composed of two neural pathways that converge on a common vocal/motor output. Here, I will present the view that the interaction between these two pathways is one of ontogenetic variation and selection. Interestingly, the neural pathway responsible for generating vocal variation includes the basal ganglia, a brain region highly conserved in architecture and neurochemistry across birds and mammals. Thus, our findings in songbirds suggest a broader model, where basal ganglia function contributes to the pre-existing behavioral variation necessary for operant learning to occur.

B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #283
CE Offered: BACB

Neurobiology of Cocaine Self-administration: Some Findings in Monkeys and Rats

Sunday, May 25, 2008
4:30 PM–5:20 PM
Grand Ballroom
Area: BPH; Domain: Basic Research
CE Instructor: Drake Morgan, Ph.D.
Chair: Jesse Dallery (University of Florida)
DRAKE MORGAN (University of Florida)
Dr. Drake Morgan obtained a Ph.D. degree in Experimental and Biological Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998 under the direction of Mitchell Picker, where he was trained as a behavioral pharmacologist studying the effects of opioids. He spent several years in a post-doctoral position in the laboratory of Michael Nader at Wake Forest University in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Most studies here explored the role of social influences on cocaine self-administration in group-housed monkeys. Following this experience, he remained at Wake Forest University to study drug self-administration in rats, with a major focus on the influences of various self-administration histories on subsequent self-administration. Two years ago, he joined the Department of Psychiatry (Division of Addiction Medicine) at the University of Florida where he’s had the pleasure to interact with the behavior analysts in the Department of Psychology. Current lines of research include studying of effects of potential pharmacotherapies for cocaine use and the long-term effects of chronic opioid administration in rats of varying ages.

Advances in neurobiological techniques are occurring at an astonishing rate. In many respects, study of drug self-administration happens in a similar manner to the initial studies nearly 40 years ago. If the sophisticated techniques available to neuroscience are to be used to help understand drug self-administration (and potentially drug use in humans), help explain some of the interesting findings, or find biological correlates of behavioral changes, then the behavioral models used need to be equally as sophisticated, interesting and dynamic. Data from two series of experiments will be presented and discussed with reference to neurobiological correlates of the behavioral differences. In monkeys, social housing and the establishment of dominance hierarchies was used to induce neurobiological changes that were then associated with differences in cocaine self-administration. In rats, various histories of self-administration result in animals that, for example, respond to considerably higher breakpoints maintained by cocaine on a progressive ratio schedule, relative to control animals. Neurobiological investigation of these groups of rats can help find biological correlates related to changes in the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine (which might be related to the development of addiction in humans). The overall focus of the presentation will be to strengthen the idea the behavioral scientists need to continue developing interesting behavioral models if we are going to try to use some of the neurobiological and molecular biological techniques that are being developed in other fields of science.




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