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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #26
CE Offered: BACB
Measuring Behavior Using Scaling: A Behavioral Developmental Approach
Saturday, May 26, 2012
1:00 PM–2:20 PM
4C-1 (Convention Center)
Area: DEV/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Patrice Marie Miller (Harvard Medical School)
CE Instructor: Michael Lamport Commons, Ph.D.

In psychophysics and perception, sensitivity to differences in magnitude comes in two forms, discrimination and scaling. Animal behavioral methods show how animals scale various stimulus properties. Since there are procedures that work well with animals for obtaining scales, scaling cannot be mentalistic. Scales are important because they are useful in predicting behavior. Quantitative analysis of behavior is largely built around how animals respond relative to the rate of reinforcement, a stimulus property of reinforcement. The rate of responding is a way of scaling the perceived value of various reinforcement contingencies. Here, task difficulty may be viewed as another stimulus or contingency dimension. How difficult a discrimination is, has most often been found by varying the closeness of stimuli along some dimension. These are all flat forms of difficulty, meaning that, these are direct properties of the stimulus or the response. Here we are going to consider the order of hierarchical complexity of the task requirements, a property of the overall contingency, which is a different form of difficulty. We are also going to look separately at the dimension of the time between the reinforcer and the response. Finally, a model is presented that integrates the two. The models discussed here will be shown to have a number of applications.

Keyword(s): Discounting Value, Hierarchical Complexity, Predicting Action, Scaling

Measuring the A Priori Difficulty of a Task Contingency Using Order of Hierarchical Complexity

ANDREW M. RICHARDSON (Dare Association, Inc.)

The Model of Hierarchical Complexity is a quantitative behavioral-developmental theory that suggests an objective way of determining the a priori difficulty of a tasks contingencies. The model explains why stage-like performances are observed. The model proposes that stages result from the hierarchical structure of tasks. A task is defined as hierarchically more complex when it organizes, in a non-arbitrary fashion, two or more less complex tasks. Using this model, sixteen orders of hierarchical complexity have been generated. In this study, the model is used to generate stimuli in the form of either problems or stories. The stimuli within a domain consist of an ordered series of tasks, from order 1, reflexes and conditioned reflexes, up to order 12, the discrimination of efficient market. Tasks were generated in several domains, including reinforcement contingencies (economic), mathematical, scientific, moral, political, and social domains. 280 people were recruited through online groups. A Rasch analysis of the responses showed that, within each domain, items were well scaled on a single dimension reflecting the predicted difficulty of the item. Participants performances were shown to conform to the predictions of the model, with very high amounts of variance accounted for (from .73% and up).

Systematic Dimensional Behavioral Approach to Diagnoses
EVA YUJIA LI (Mount Holyoke College)
Abstract: Traditionally, stimuli have a few physical dimensions. These include color, brightness, shape, and they sometimes represent objects. Functionally, these may be conditioned respondently, or operantly discriminated. Some models of discrimination have also considered the detectability of various stimulus properties, including density, numerosity, and time between. A dimension is the time between the reinforcer and the response. One method for scaling value is to titrate preference for a standard relative to a delayed reinforcer. The other method is to determine the discriminability of reinforcers as a function of how far they occur before choice. For eight pigeons, the detectability of how much reinforcement had been previously delivered as a function of time between a reinforcer and a choice was found. In applied behavior analysis, there has been an emphasis on discrimination of various kinds of stimuli and responses showing whether or not such relations exist. Here, we are going to look at a property of stimuli that is embodied in task demands called the order of hierarchical complexity. Secondly we are going to look at perceived value as a function of the type of reinforcer, its delay, its change in delay, and theoretically, the change in the change of delay.

An Integrative Account of Stage and Value as Determinants of Action

MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)

Accounts of stage and moral action have not integrated behavioral, developmental and quantitative paradigms. This presentation integrates the three by using a mathematical model of value obtained from developmental action and from stage, as in the Model of Hierarchical Complexity. The result is a behavioral-developmental account of stage and action, rather than a mentalistic one. Both value and stage are necessary for determining actions. Each consists of a matrix. The Value matrix has a number of vectors. For humans, there are 6 Holland Code variables in the value vector. The second vector is discounting-difference ratio between change in the overall value vector and change in time. The third vector is the change in differences in value over time, or risk. The second matrix is Stage, which measures performance in meeting difficulties produced by the order of hierarchical complexity of particular tasks, as discussed in the earlier talks. A mathematical account of the value and the stage matrices and their interaction terms are used to predict moral behavior.

Herrnstein's Behavioral Scaling Notions of Trait and Attitudes
Abstract: Attitudes and traits are often considered to be outside of behavior analysis because they are considered to be mentalistic. They are obtained by presenting a stimulus question, whose properties are unknown and then recording responses. What might be mentalistic are interpretations given to the results obtained from such procedures. Herrnstein considered attitudes as simply response tendencies to such stimulus sentences. Usually, the scales that derive from such responses are obtained by using factor analysis and scaling programs. Behavior analysts prefer psychophysicistical scales in being able to describe the stimulus properties without resorting to the response properties alone. But Herrnstein thought that the degree to which these stimulus questions grouped together and could be scaled as to degree of endorsement by participants was more psychophysical. Traits on the other hand were such properties obtained over longer periods of time. If response strength is acceptable in behavior analysis, then degree of endorsement should also be acceptable. So, using things like Rasch scales to determine the difficulty of items, or bias in favor or not in favor, is an intermediate step between being able to figure out the difficulty of an item a priori or the value of a reinforcement contingency a priori.



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