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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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #38
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Some Determinants of Behavioral Variability During Learning

Saturday, May 26, 2012
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
6BC (Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Aaron P. Blaisdell, Ph.D.
Chair: Matthew C. Bell (Santa Clara University)
AARON P. BLAISDELL (University of California, Los Angeles)
After receiving his BA and MA in Biological Anthropology (at SUNY Stony Brook and Kent State University, respectively), Dr. Blaisdell realized that animal cognition was even more interesting than studying dead humans. So he trekked on over to SUNY Binghamton for his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology with Dr. Ralph Miller, where he studied learning, memory, and temporal cognition in the rat. This was followed by a brief stint as an NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Robert Cook, an expert on Avian Visual Cognition at Tufts University, where he learned how pigeons perceive and think about the world. Since 2001, Dr. Blaisdell has emigrated to the climatological and cultural paradise of sunny LA as Associate Professor in Learning & Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience in the UCLA Psychology Department. He presides over a comparative cognition lab, studying cognitive processes in rats, pigeons, hermit crabs, and humans. Aaron is currently president of the International Society for Comparative Psychology and the Ancestral Health Society. His interest in Ancestral Health reunites his fascination with anthropology with his interest in comparative approaches to evolution and health. His lab website is

Behavior typically becomes more variable in the face of a drop in the value of a motivating outcome, such as food. Dr. Blaisdell will review converging lines of evidence for this relationship from studies in his lab. He will describe the negative relationship between found between the signaled probability of food and variability in behavior. This relationship is quite general: Observed in both temporal and spatial behavioral dimensions, in both rats and pigeons, and in both the operant chamber and in open-field settings. Behavioral variability is also greater under conditions involving smaller or delayed food rewards compared to larger or immediate rewards. Dr. Blaisdell will describe some manipulations of the response-outcome contingency that reveal interesting relationships between Pavlovian and instrumental processes. These data support a general conclusion that signaled outcome value is an important determinant of behavioral variability in a wide variety of conditioned behaviors.

Target Audience:

basic researchers

Learning Objectives: #none#
Keyword(s): behavioral variability



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