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.

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  • TPC: Theoretical, Philosophical, and Conceptual Issues

2012 Theory and Philosophy Conference

CE by Type: BACB


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Invited Symposium #2
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Consciousness and Private Events
Saturday, November 3, 2012
8:30 AM–11:00 AM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Service Delivery
Discussant: Michael J. Dougher (University of New Mexico)
CE Instructor: Michael J. Dougher, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Consciousness and Private Events

 
Methodological Behaviorism and Private Behavioral Events as a Radical Behaviorist Views Them
JAY MOORE (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)
Abstract: Methodological behaviorism is the name for a prescriptive orientation to psychological science. The principal feature of methodological behaviorism concerns verbal processes and the meaning of "psychological" terms and concepts. According to this feature, the only psychological terms that psychologists should deploy in their theories and explanations are those that are based on observable stimuli and behavior. Throughout the years, the phrase "based on" has been interpreted in at least three different ways. One interpretation required psychologists to remain formally silent on causal mental terms. A second allowed psychologists to appeal indirectly to causal mental terms, but required that they logically connect the terms to observables through exhaustive operational definitions. A third allowed psychologists to appeal indirectly to causal mental terms, but required that they logically connect the terms to observables through partial operational definitions. We conclude that methodological behaviorism is more closely tied to mentalism than to the radical behaviorism of B. F. Skinner.
Jay Moore received his master's degree from Western Michigan University in 1969, where his adviser was Dr. David Lyon. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1975, where his adviser was Dr. Edmund Fantino. Dr. Moore is on the faculty of the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he has been since 1977. His principal professional interests are in the experimental analysis of behavior and the theoretical-philosophical-conceptual analysis of behavior. He is the author of Conceptual Foundations of Radical Behaviorism. Dr. Moore has been a member of ABAI since 1977 and has served as editor of The Behavior Analyst, coordinator for ABAI's Accreditation and Professional Standards Board, and on the ABAI Executive Council—including a term as president.
 
Consciousness and Behavior
HOWARD RACHLIN (Stony Brook University)
Abstract: Historically, consciousness has been viewed as a spiritual occurrence within the body. Modern philosophers and psychologists who reject the spiritual view (behaviorists among them) nevertheless follow spiritual theories by identifying consciousness with intrinsically private events inside the body—usually covert behavior such as talking to yourself (subvocal speech) and picturing objects and events to yourself. This view has many logical and empirical problems. Dr. Rachlin will present another behavioral view. He will argue that consciousness consists of overt, intrinsically observable behavioral patterns extended in time—behavior of the organism as a whole. In the words of one modern philosopher, "consciousness is more like a dance than digestion." This concept of consciousness avoids the pitfalls of other theories. Although it disagrees with common introspection, introspection as a method of ascertaining psychological truth (or the meaning of psychological terms) is typically, and correctly, rejected by behaviorists.
Howard Rachlin obtained a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University in 1965. He is currently a research professor and an emeritus distinguished professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has published more than 100 articles, written six books including Behavior and Mind and The Science of Self-Control, and edited two other books. He has served on study sections for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). He is on the editorial boards of six journals. Since he received his Ph.D. his research (on choice, self-control, social cooperation, and experimental economics) has been continuously supported by grants from NIH and NSF including an NIH MERIT award. Among other honors, he has been elected a fellow at the American Psychological Society and the Society of Experimental Psychologists. He has been the recipient of a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship (1975–76) and an Award for the Impact of Science on Application from SABA (2005). He was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation (1988–89) and an invited speaker at the Nobel Symposium on Behavioral and Experimental Economics in Stockholm, Sweden (2001).
 
 
Invited Symposium #3
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics
Saturday, November 3, 2012
12:30 PM–3:00 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
CE Instructor: Maria R. Ruiz, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics

 

Hume's Words of Wisdom

JOHN E. R. STADDON (Duke University)
Abstract:

David Hume argued, Dr. Staddon believes irrefutably, that "ought" cannot be derived from "is." That is, no set of facts, no amount of scientific knowledge, is by itself sufficient to urge us to action. Yet, generations of well-meaning scientists-more and more as the years go by and secular influences grow in the West-seem to have forgotten Hume's words of wisdom. All motivated action depends ultimately on belief or beliefs that cannot be proved by the methods of science.

John Staddon is the James B. Duke professor of psychology and professor of biology and neurobiology emeritus at Duke University. He has served as faculty secretary and ex-officio member of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council since 2002. He has obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University, conducted research at the MIT Systems Lab, and taught at the University of Toronto. He also has done research at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the University of São Paulo at Riberão Preto, the University of Mexico, the Ruhr Universität, Universität Konstanz, the University of Western Australia, and is an honorary visiting professor at the University of York in the United Kingdom. He is a fellow of several scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and has a "docteur honoris causa" from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals and the history and philosophy of psychology and biology. Dr. Staddon is a past editor of the journals Behavioural Processes and Behavior & Philosophy. His laboratory has studied the simulated detection of landmines, optimality analysis and behavior, mechanisms of choice behavior, and interval timing in animals. His recent theoretical work includes papers on operant conditioning, memory, timing, and psychobiological aspects of ethical philosophy. He has written and lectured on public-policy issues such as education and evolution, traffic control, smoking, and the effects of social and biological processes on financial markets. He is the author of more than 200 research papers and five books, including The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society, Adaptive Dynamics: The Theoretical Analysis of Behavior, and Adaptive Behavior and Learning. He has a new book, The Malign Hand of the Markets, scheduled for publication in May 2012.
 
A Behavioral Analysis of Morality and Value
MAX HOCUTT (University of Alabama)
Abstract: Morality has long been conceived as a set of divinely instituted, otherworldly rules meant not to describe or explain behavior, but to guide it toward an absolute good. The philosophical formulation of this theory by Plato was later grafted onto Christian thought by Augustine and Aquinas. The equally ancient theory of the Greek sophist Protagoras—that the good is relative to personal preferences and morality to manmade social customs—was forgotten until revived in the 18th and 19th centuries by such empiricists such as David Hume and J. S. Mill. Then it was dismissed again by G. E. Moore in the 20th century as "naturalistic fallacy"—conflation of what is with what ought to be. However, those who took this dismissive attitude themselves made the reverse mistake of conflating what ideally ought to be with what actually is. In other words, they mistook ideals for actualities. As Skinner said in Beyond Freedom and Dignity, sorting things out requires behaviorist parsing of "the good" (the personally reinforcing) and "duty" (the socially reinforced).
Max Hocutt, formerly editor of Behavior and Philosophy, is the author of three books and a hundred or so scholarly articles. A native of Alabama, he was born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa and attended public schools in Mobile. He has bachelor's (1957) and master's (1958) degrees from Tulane University and a Ph.D. (1960) from Yale University, all in philosophy. He worked in the classroom for 41 years, five at the University of South Florida where he taught human behavior and 36 at the University of Alabama where—for 13 years—he chaired the Department of Philosophy. One of two philosophers (the other is Willard Van Orman Quine) mentioned in B. F. Skinner's autobiography, Hocutt spent the first half of his academic career focusing on psychology and the second on moral philosophy. After retiring from teaching in 2001, he added political philosophy to the large variety of topics on which he writes and speaks. He still resides in Tuscaloosa.
 
 
Invited Symposium #4
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Logical and Scientific Verbal Behavior: What's Happened to Skinner's "Empirical Epistemology"?
Saturday, November 3, 2012
3:30 PM–6:00 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Timothy D. Hackenberg (Reed College)
CE Instructor: Timothy D. Hackenberg, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Logical and Scientific Verbal Behavior: What's Happened to Skinner's "Empirical Epistemology"?

 

A Functional Analysis of Psychological Terms Redux

HENRY D. SCHLINGER (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract:

In his seminal paper, "An Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms," B. F. Skinner (1945) offered the revolutionary suggestion that rather than endlessly debating the meanings of psychological terms, psychologists should analyze the variables controlling their occurrence. Skinner's suggestion reflected the essence of his 1957 book, Verbal Behavior, wherein he argued that the behaviors of which language is composed (i.e., speaking and listening) are caused by variables found in the social environment (which he called the verbal community), and that analyzing those variables would lead to understanding the behaviors. Although Skinner formally introduced his radical approach to language in 1945, it has yet to be fully realized. The result is that psychologists, including behavior analysts, still debate the definitions of terms. In the present paper, Dr. Schlinger will review Skinner's functional approach to language and describe ways in which behavior analysts have already applied it to such traditional psychological terms as memory, cognition, intelligence, perception, imagining, and consciousness. He will conclude by encouraging psychologists as well as behavior analysts to apply a functional analytic approach to their own verbal behavior.

Henry D. "Hank" Schlinger Jr. received his Ph.D. in psychology (applied behavior analysis) from Western Michigan University with Jack Michael. He then completed a 2-year National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology with Alan Poling. He was a full tenured professor of psychology at Western New England University in Springfield, MA, before moving to Los Angeles in 1998. He is now an associate professor of psychology and director of the MS program in applied behavior analysis in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Schlinger has published 60 scientific articles and commentaries in more than 20 journals. He also has authored or co-authored three books, Psychology: A Behavioral Overview, A Behavior-Analytic View of Child Development (which was translated into Japanese), and Introduction to Scientific Psychology. He is a past editor of The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, current editor of The Behavior Analyst, and on the editorial boards of several other journals. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He lives with his wife, a writer and editor, and their 2-year-old son in the quiet, serene hills of Burbank, CA, just a stone's throw from Disney Hall.
 

A Behavioral Interpretation of Knowledge

DAVID C. PALMER (Smith College)
Abstract:

Nature has stumbled on the power of permutations in several domains, such as the composition of molecules, the codifying of genes, and the synthesis of proteins. Human behavior is distinctive in that verbal behavior facilitates "directed permutations" of elementary behavioral units analogous to the stringing together of amino acids under the control of RNA codons. The tacting of behavioral atoms following reinforcement, in the presence of an audience with a suitable atomic repertoire, permits the rapid transmission of adaptive behavior throughout a verbal community, and short-circuits the alternative process of shaping. In contrast, problem solving entails the marshaling of supplementary stimuli to generate novel permutations in behavior, only some of which might be captured by contingencies of reinforcement. When reinforced, behavior becomes the source of directed permutations. Such variation, in the first instance, is always blind, but it can become directed variation, as when "strategies" are explicitly inculcated. Knowledge, then, always arises from chance variation, possibly during long periods of time and highly uncertain of success, but once successful becomes rapidly transmitted as directed permutations of behavior. However, in the latter case, we ordinarily speak of "knowledge" only when control of the behavior has transferred to other variables.

Dave Palmer discovered B. F. Skinner by reading Walden Two while on a cave-exploring trip to North Carolina because he thought it must have had something to do with his hero, Henry David Thoreau. He spent the next decade on a soap box preaching about Walden Two and reading the rest of the Skinner canon. Eventually, he realized he was no Frazier, and he applied to graduate school in behavior analysis studying under John Donahoe. He was happy in grad school and would be there still if the University of Massachusetts had not threatened to change the locks. He spent the past 21 years as the token behaviorist at Smith College in Northampton, MA. During that time, he co-authored, with Donahoe, Learning and Complex Behavior. He continues to puzzle about the interpretation of memory, problem-solving, and—particularly—verbal behavior. He once referred to himself—in a jocular vein—as a goose-stepping Skinnerian, but he found that the label fit and now wears it without apology.
 
 
Invited Symposium #6
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
What Counts as Behavior?
Sunday, November 4, 2012
8:00 AM–10:30 AM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Raymond C. Pitts (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Raymond C. Pitts, Ph.D.
Abstract:

What Counts as Behavior?

 
The Molar Multiscale View of Behavior
WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)
Abstract: Behavior is not movement; to define behavior, we may first ask why behavior exists at all. According to evolutionary theory, behavior exists because organisms interact advantageously with the environment. Accordingly, behavior consists of getting a job done or performing a function. Examples are courtship and foraging. This definition implies that behavior must be temporally extended, because interaction with the environment cannot occur at a moment but only through time. The phrase "momentary behavior" is an oxymoron. Behavior is extended in time by its nature (i.e., by necessity). An analog to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle applies: at a moment, uncertainty of function is maximal, while uncertainty of structure is minimal; with longer periods of observation, uncertainty of function decreases, while uncertainty of structure increases. This principle applies to all behavior, including lever presses and key pecks. The principle implies also that, because activities take time, behavior entails time allocation. When choice is defined as time allocation among activities and that activities of shorter scale are nested within activities of longer scale, we conclude that all behavior entails choice and that all behavior is choice.
William M. Baum received his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Harvard College in 1961. Although originally a biology major, he switched to psychology after taking courses from B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein in his freshman and sophomore years. He attended Harvard University for graduate study in 1962, where he was supervised by Herrnstein, and received his Ph.D. in 1966. He spent 1965–66 at Cambridge University, studying ethology at the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior. From 1966–1975, he held appointments as postdoctoral fellow, research associate, and assistant professor at Harvard University. He spent 2 years at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory for Brain, Evolution, and Behavior and then accepted an appointment in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1977. He retired from there in 1999. He currently has an appointment as associate researcher at the University of California, Davis and lives in San Francisco. His research focuses on choice, molar behavior/environment relations, foraging, and behaviorism. He is the author of a book, Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.
 

Science and Control of the Behavior Stream Versus Freedom and the Free Operant

CHARLES P. SHIMP (University of Utah)
Abstract:

Abstract: Three categories of behavior analyses can be identified, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Skinner popularized a "molecular" category with his demonstrations of how to manually and powerfully shape new behaviors out of an individual behavior stream. A "molar" category involves a previously shaped activity, often a "free operant," which is assumed to be sufficiently stable so that its average rate or average duration of occurrence can be meaningfully computed, usually in order to study how reinforcement strengthens the stable response or activity. Molar analyses can be conducted independently of any known behavior stream such as when James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein analyzed average national crime rates. This category historically derives in part from Skinner's interpretation of Ernst Mach's philosophy of science. A third category integrates molecular and molar analyses. It automates shaping to create new behavioral patterns with specified quantitative properties and shows how shaping and strengthening processes of reinforcement interact to define and control behavior. It more precisely controls behavior than the first and second categories and thereby sharply restricts "freedom,"which requires abandoning Mach's philosophyand more closely resembles science as commonly understood.

Charles Shimp was raised in a musical family. He attended The Ohio State University, Brown University, Stanford University, and recently retired after 43 years of working in the Psychology Department at the University of Utah. Currently, he is enjoying life in the astonishing geological diversity and beauty of Utah. His interests include his own personal mental life and its relation to the mental lives of others, listening to and performing music, and interacting with family and friends. He sees the science of behavior as having unprofitably divided between analyses of "shaping" and "strengthening," neither of which by itself can define nor explain behavior. The problem with independent analyses is that shaping and strengthening processes continuously interact. He says if he were younger, he would automate the shaping and strengthening of ever more complex behaviors such as undistracted and focused driving, writing and talking, and composing and performing music. He would even try to control the behavior streams of scientists when they talk about what science is because the verbal behavior that contributes much to the culture of behavior analysis is currently based on fragile, empirically unexamined assumptions. Dr. Shimp suspects learning how to control scientific behavior will shed light on the nature of behavior analysis, freedom, and the experience of beauty.
 
 
Invited Symposium #7
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Patterns of Explanation in Behavior Analysis: Models and Theories
Sunday, November 4, 2012
11:00 AM–1:30 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: John W. Donahoe (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
CE Instructor: John W. Donahoe, Ph.D.
Abstract:

Patterns of Explanation in Behavior Analysis: Models and Theories

 
Theories of Learning Are Necessary
PETER KILLEEN (Arizona State University)
Abstract: Skinner's famous article, "Are Theories of Learning Necessary?" was provocative and elliptical. The answer to his title becomes obvious when the ellipses are resolved: ... Necessary for a Science of Behavior? His own life work, in particular his three-term contingency, provided an important start on such a theory. In this talk, Skinner's work is embedded in the Aristotlean causal framework that stipulates the four questions we must answer for a complete explanation—for a complete theory—of a phenomenon; and the fifth that is entailed in the case of a dynamic process such as learning. Skinner provided two of those answers, and repudiated the others as wrong because they are extra-dimensional. This talk reasserts those questions and discusses the techniques that may be used to determine the adequacy with which provisional answers to the questions accord with the phenomenon under study. The approach is exemplified with the work of some of the participants of this conference.
Peter Killeen received his doctorate in 1969 under the furrowed brows of Howard Rachlin, Dick Herrnstein, and B. F. Skinner. He then absconded to Arizona State University—previously known as "Fort Skinner in the Desert." His research involved choice behavior, schedule-induced activities such as polydipsia, models of reinforcement schedules, timing, and delay discounting (additive utility model). He has received numerous reinforcers including the Woodrow Wilson Graduate Fellowship, Graduate Student Faculty of the Year, the Poetry in Science Award, and the F. J. McGuigan Lectureship on Understanding the Human Mind. He also served as a resident of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior, and of the third International Seminar on Behavior. He received the Hilgard Award for the Best Theoretical Paper on Hypnosis and was featured on the "Faculty of 1,000" website (www.f1000.com) for a paper on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Additionally, he was covered in the "Emerging Research Front" feature on Thomson Reuters Sciencewatch for his work in inferential statistics (statistical hypothesis inference tests). Retired from teaching and administration, he continues his research on tobacco addiction, ADHD, and schedule effects and continues to mentor graduate students. He enjoys hiking in the desert mountains and admiring his grandkids.
 

Complexity Theories in Behavior Analysis

JACK J. MCDOWELL (Emory University)
Abstract:

A complexity theory is stated as a set of relatively simple rules that operate repeatedly to generate an output. The output, which typically exhibits properties and features that are not immediately derivable from the rules themselves, is then compared to the natural phenomena the theory purports to explain. At least four instances of complexity theory have appeared in behavior analysis. These are Charles P. Shimp's theory of momentary maximizing, John Donahoe and colleagues' theory of neural networks, A. Charles Catantia's theory of the reflex reserve, and Jack McDowell's theory of behavioral evolution. Each theory generates behavior by means of the rules it implements. If the generated behavior is comparable to the behavior of live organisms, then what is one warranted in asserting about the rules that constitute the theory? For example, is it important that they correspond to events and processes in the natural world? What is the nature of a theory that generates output that is consistent with observation, but that consists of rules that do not correspond, or cannot be determined to correspond, to events in the natural world? Answers to these questions may lead to a more or less maintainable distinction between a model and a theory, and to a profitable discussion of the relative value of these two types of account.

Jack J. McDowell received a BA from Yale University in 1972 and a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1979. After completing his clinical internship, he joined the faculty of Emory University, where he currently serves as a professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. McDowell also is a licensed clinical psychologist and maintains a private practice of behavior therapy in Atlanta, GA. His research has focused on the quantitative analysis of behavior. He has conducted tests of matching theory in experiments with humans, rats, and pigeons; has made formal mathematical contributions to the matching theory literature; and has proposed a computational theory of behavior dynamics. He also has written on the relevance of mathematical and computational accounts of behavior for the treatment of clinical problems. His current research is focused on his computational theory of selection by consequences, including studies of behavior generated by the theory's genetic algorithm and possible implementations of the theory in neural circuitry. His work, including collaborations with students and former students, has been funded by NIMH, NSF, and NIDA.
 

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