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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Paper Session #396
Theory and Data in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Zurich FG, Swissotel
Area: EAB
Chair: Nadia Santillán (UNAM)

Effect of Instructions on a Small-Scale Covert Operant

Domain: Basic Research
NADIA SANTILLÁN (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Carlos Alexis Perez Herrera (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Rogelio Escobar (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Ximena Escutia (Universidad de Chapultepec)

A classic study by Hefferline, Keenan and Harford (1959) showed that thumb movement can be established by avoidance and/or scape contingencies, while participants are unaware of the contingencies in effect. A systematic replication of the experiment was performed by changing the instructions used. A semi-descriptive instruction (this is an experiment on muscle movement), as used in the original study, and a distracting instruction (this is an experiment on relaxation) were presented to two groups of participants. Thumb movement was recorded using a glove equipped with a flexion sensor connected to an Arduino-Visual Basic interface. Movements of the right thumb were reinforced with a continuous reinforcement schedule. Points earned, a happy image, and a phrase were presented on the screen contingent on movements that reached a criterion. At the end of the session, money was delivered in exchange for earned points. Evidence of response acquisition was observed only in the participants in the semi-descriptive instructions group. Response-induction gradients and cumulative responses were analyzed and compared to those reported by previous studies. Even though participants were unaware of the reinforced response with the two sets of instructions, instructions apparently guided responses towards the criterion for reinforcement.

Building a Backward Bridge: Evolving a Natural Science of Behavior by Reversing the Relationship Between Experimental and Applied Behavior Analysis
Domain: Theory
NICHOLAS M. BERENS (Fit Learning), Kimberly Nix Berens (Fit Learning), Steven C. Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Turning the principles and laws of basic research into clinical practice has been a fruitful activity for the field of behavior analysis and society. The current paper posits that for the field to continue to evolve and have the impact it was designed for, the traditional relationship of translating experimental research into practice may need to be evaluated. A clinician oriented to the proper units with a sensitive measurement system is in the best position to make new discoveries. The decade of work at Fit Learning will be used to clarify how the use of the standard celeration chart combined with a Relational Frame Theory orientation has produced new information regarding the relationship between behavior, environment and behavioral history. Specifically, the importance of a measurement system that provides a clinician with a high frequency of contact with the phenomena of interest will be highlighted. According to the proposed model, it is now the job of the basic behavioral researcher to refine the knowledge gained from said clinical contact.



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