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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Paper Session #174
Behavior Analysis and Physiology
Sunday, May 25, 2014
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
W175b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: TPC
Chair: Travis Thompson (University of Minnesota)
Integrative Behavior Analysis: Resolving Some of Radical Behaviorism’s Anachronisms
Domain: Theory
TRAVIS THOMPSON (University of Minnesota)
Abstract: Radical Behaviorism, is no longer tenable theoretically and counterproductive in the communities of science and practice. Contending that reference to private states as causally relevant is challenging to defend and practically problematic. The epistemological foundation of behavior analysis will be progressively transformed into a “covert event radical behaviorism,” Ullin Place’s identity theory of behaviorism or described by this author as a Functional Systems relative dispositional states approach (Thompson, 2007). Behavior analysis should continue to eschew idle speculation about unknown mental causes taking place in some unidentified non-objectively knowable sphere. An Integrative Behavior Analysis allows for measurable neurobiological dispositional state causes corresponding to mental dispositional mediators and would encourage objective data collection to evaluate such claims. A philosophically more comprehensive behaviorism would not be built upon unrealistic unity of science assumptions designed to reduce behavior analysis to neuroscience, but would embrace solid science at other levels of analysis.
Levels of Analysis in Neurobehavioral Research
Domain: Theory
DANIELE ORTU (University of North Texas)
Abstract: When discussing how to approach the existence of different levels of analysis within the behavioral sciences, it may seem intuitively plausible to parse levels of analysis a priori based on specific time scales or space scales. In the case of defining what counts as behavior, for instance, behavioral and neural scientists typically take into account variables such as muscle movements that yield a specific effect on the environment (e.g. button presses). This kind of definition implicitly constrains the dependent variables counting as behavior to responses occurring several hundreds of milliseconds after stimulus presentation. However, if we measure the initiation of the muscle movement preceding the switch closure of the button press, we would see that the muscle movement necessarily precedes the switch closure. Similarly, brain activity in the motor cortex preceding muscle activity and the switch closure can occur a hundred milliseconds before any detectable muscle movement (Okano and Tanji, 1987). What counts then as the moment in which behavior initiates after stimulus presentation? Can brain activity measured in the motor cortex be considered as behavior? If we accept the possibility that brain activity preceding overt movements may count as behavior, then we could potentially go back to sensory-perceptual neural activation preceding motor activation. Brainstem responses following auditory stimulation, for instance, occur in the first ten milliseconds following auditory stimulus presentation (Stockard et al., 1977). A possible alternative to defining the behavioral level of analysis based on spatial and timing constraints (parts of the cerebral cortex involved, latency of the measured response), would be a functional definition based on detection of orderly relationships between environmental stimulation and the measured dependent variable of interest (Skinner, 1938). For instance, if a stimulus reliably occasions a response (whether is constitutes a button press, a muscle movement, neural activation) then we could say that the stimulus constitutes a discriminative stimulus for the response of interest. Similarly, if stimulation following the response increases the probability of a similar response to occur in the future, then we would say that that stimulus constitutes a reinforcer for the response of interest. This approach circumvents the obligation to define ‘what counts as behavior’ based on arbitrary time scales or space scales.



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