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 #364
Contingencies of Natural and Social Reinforcement in Animals
Monday, May 28, 2012
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
620 (Convention Center)
Area: AAB/EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Chris Varnon (Oklahoma State University)
Discussant: Christy A. Alligood (Disney's Animal Kingdom)
Abstract: When we seek to control or understand behavioral change, we often overlay arbitrary contingencies on top of the naturally occurring contingencies. This is especially the case when addressing animal behavior. This strategy can preclude us from understanding how the behavior of interest naturally arose and is currently maintained. Although the implemented contingencies are frequently effective in modifying behavior, it leads us with little understanding of the natural contingencies, or the competition between the natural and implemented contingencies. This lack of understanding becomes amplified when dealing with the social behaviors of animals. In this symposium, three presentations will discuss shaping new behaviors through naturally occurring contingences of reinforcement, isolating those contingencies in controlled settings, and comparing the effect of those contingencies to that of more traditional contingencies in several species of animals.
Keyword(s): animal behavior, natural reinforcement, social reinforcement

Teaching Dogs to Share Toys

Chase Owens (University of North Texas), SEAN WILL (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Resource guarding is a term used to describe a dog's tendency to protect food, toys, attention, or place of rest by growling, snarling, showing teeth, or biting when attempting to take the special item away or by getting too close to it. The problem has been addressed by procedures such as desensitization, counterconditioning, and DRA operant techniques. The present study investigates a shaping procedure using distance as a negative reinforcer. The subject is Rocky, a 5-year-old black lab mix who has had a history of resource guarding tennis balls. Every time a dog would approach while he is in the possession of a tennis ball Rocky would growl, show his teeth, and snap at the dog if it got too close. This shaping procedure consisted of a handler walking with a dog towards Rocky, while Rocky had the tennis ball in his mouth, and stopping at the moment Rocky looked at the dog. The handler and the dog would remain at that point and walk away when Rocky resumed his activity or displayed an alternative behavior. The results show a switch over from resource guarding to sharing and friendly behavior. The behavior generalized across multiple dogs.


Operant Analysis of Imprinting in Human-reared Pigeons

CHRIS VARNON (Oklahoma State Univeristy), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas), Charles Abramson (Oklahoma State University), Shellyn Long (Oklahoma State University)

Young birds are thought to imprint to the first object they encounter. They develop a preference for this object and treat it as a parent. When they mature, they often treat this kind of object as a potential mate. In captive breeding programs, human-reared birds often imprint to human caretakers and develop social and sexual preferences for humans. This often leads to inappropriate behaviors and a deficit in breeding efforts. Although these imprinted preferences are commonly thought to be unmodifiable, a consideration of contingencies of reinforcement suggests otherwise. Several experiments will be discussed relating to the general methodology required to demonstrate imprinting, as well as procedures to develop more appropriate behavior in human-reared birds by the modifying social contingencies that maintain imprinted preferences. The general results show that social and sexual behaviors expressed as a function of imprinting are greatly affected by stimulus conditions. Most subjects behaved differently in home cages than in the experimental apparatus. Several subjects also behaved differently in the presence of a human hand than a human face. The results also suggest that operant and respondent procedures may modify imprinted preferences, once the appropriate methods are found to detect those preferences in an individual.

Functions of Human Social Interaction for Domestic Dogs and Hand-Reared Wolves
ERICA FEUERBACHER (University of Florida), Clive D. L. Wynne (University of Florida)
Abstract: Despite the high level of interaction that dogs engage in with humans, we know little about the variables that maintain this interaction. We previously demonstrated that, for most dogs, brief human social interaction does not function as a potent reinforcer compared to a small piece of food, either for shelter dogs with an unknown experimenter, or for owned dogs, with their owners acting as experimenters. We have continued this analysis by assessing the potency of human social interaction for hand-reared wolves in an attempt to identify any effects of domestication. As with domestic dogs, social interaction functioned as a poor reinforcer compared to food, further indicating that we must look elsewhere for differences between dogs and wolves. Finally, we have continued to investigate the function of human social interaction for domestic dogs by assessing the effects of different types of interaction (petting vs vocal praise) on maintaining proximity to a human (a less arbitrary response than the nose touch we previously used). Petting resulted in most dogs remaining close to the experimenter, whereas there was little effect of vocal praise on the dogs’ behavior. This effect might be due in part to eliciting effects of tactile stimulation.



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