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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #289
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Observing Behavior and Discrimination Processes in Children and Adults

Monday, May 30, 2016
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Grand Ballroom AB, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: DEV; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Gerson Yukio Tomanari, Ph.D.
Chair: Iver H. Iversen (University of North Florida)
GERSON YUKIO TOMANARI (Universidade de São Paulo)
Dr. Gerson Yukio Tomanari is a full professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil, institution in which he has completed the Bachelor degree in Psychology (1993), as well as the master (1995) and doctoral (1997) degrees in Experimental Psychology - the latter in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School - Shriver Center. At the University of São Paulo, Dr. Tomanari coordinates the Laboratory of Experimental Analysis of Behavior. From a comparative perspective involving humans and non-humans, his main interests have been: Behavioral and learning processes, attention, observing behavior, eye movements, visual discrimination, symbolic behavior and concept formation. On these topics, Dr. Tomanari has published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals, books and chapters, and supervised more almost 30 master and doctoral students. He has lectured and taught in the United States, France, Norway, Peru, Japan, and served as “ad hoc” reviewer for the main journals in the field. Dr. Tomanari is the current dean of the Institute of Psychology, USP, as well as the adjunct coordinator of the National Psychology Graduate System of CAPES, an agency of the Ministry of Education in Brazil.

Observing behavior is an operant behavior that has the production of discriminative stimuli as consequence. This presentation will review the main course of the scientific production in this field, from early investigations up to some of the most recent works. To analyze this quite numerous and diverse literature, the speaker will identify and describe the basic observing-response procedures that employed humans as participants, especially children and adults. The maintenance of observing behavior by discriminative stimulus of extinction (that is, S-) compared to discriminative stimulus of reinforcement (that is, S+) will be addressed and two sets of empirical works involving adults and children with typical and atypical development will be presented. The first work will present the current advances in the study of observing behavior by tracking the participants' eye movements. The second work will focus on the role of observing responses in conditional discrimination processes that lead to the formation of equivalence classes. Based on these recent findings, the speaker will discuss how discrimination is established as the product of the main three-term contingency interlocked with the observing-response contingency.

Target Audience:

Basic and applied researchers interested in mechanisms of behavior change. Additionally, it should be of great interest to practitioners in a variety of applied settings.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) define and conceptualize observing behavior in theoretical and methodological terms; (2) describe different studies that investigated observing behavior in children and adults, comparing and discussing their results; (3) expand the role of observing behavior to a variety of learning contexts, including the formation of symbolic classes.



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