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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Poster Session #91
TPC Poster Session
Saturday, May 26, 2012
5:00 PM–7:00 PM
Exhibit Hall 4AB (Convention Center)

B. F. Skinner, J. R. Kantor, and the Causal Construct: Who Got It Right?

Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
SIERRA LOCKWOOD (University of Nevada), Thomas G. Szabo (University of Nevada, Reno), W. Larry Williams (University of Nevada,Reno)

The topic of causality is often debated in the field of behavior analysis and may be seen as foundational. Two opposing viewpoints of causality are advanced by B.F. Skinner and J.R. Kantor. Though both consider the behavior of an organism in relation to the stimulating environment, causal explanation for Skinner is ultimately achieved by reduction to biology. According to Skinner, it is an organisms physiological capacity to be operantly conditioned that is responsible for the lasting effects of reinforcement. In contrast, J.R. Kantor opposes this kind of reductionism and suggests that psychological events must be described in purely psychological terms. The descriptive and functional view of causation inherent in interbehaviorism does not involve a reductionism to biology. To Kantor, explanation reduced to the level of analysis of other disciplines defeats the pursuit of behavior scientists searching for a valid psychological account. In contrast, Skinners functional approach has yielded potent treatments in such far reaching the areas of autism, education, and organizational behavior analysis. An account that includes both the pragmatic effectiveness of Skinners procedures and the conceptual clarity of Kantors philosophical system is needed. In this poster, we will propose a way of integrating these approaches.

2. The Relationship Between Misconceptions and General Principles of Behavior Analysis
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
ALYSSA COZINE (California State University, Chico), Paul Romanowich (California State University, Chico)
Abstract: In psychology, the field of behavior analysis has an image problem. Misconceptions concerning many of its major principles are prevalent, and range from simple technical misunderstandings (i.e., using the terms negative reinforcement and punishment interchangeably) to the belief that behavior analysts tend to skew towards totalitarianism. Our main questions are 1) whether students misconceptions about behavior analysis change throughout a course on Learning and Behavior and, 2) whether the misconceptions are related to the students general knowledge of behavior analysis. Students taking a senior-level Learning and Behavior course were tested twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the academic semester. During the first test, a negative correlation was found between the knowledge of basic behavioral principles (M = 7.73 out of 20) and knowledge of behavior analytic beliefs (M = 2.73 out of 7), r2 = -0.47 (Figure 1). At the end of the semester, the second tests showed no significant correlations (Figure 2). The results showed that some misconceptions of behavior analysis are more prevalent than others. In addition, a lack of knowledge for basic behavioral principles does not necessarily imply an increase in the misunderstandings about behavior analysis (see Figure 2).
3. Social Behavior and the General Form of the Prisoner's Dilemma Contingency
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
FRANCIS MECHNER (The Mechner Foundation)
Abstract: Many of the behavioral contingencies that underlie much of our social behaviorkindness, courtesy, honesty, self-sacrifice, altruism, voting, etc.can be described by a generalized form of the prisoners dilemma. Various generalized formulations of the prisoners dilemma have already been shown to generate behavioral phenomena that are of interest in sociology, economics, politics, international relations, and biology. The dependent variables in such studies are usually the behavior patterns of participating individuals, as well as the effects of these behavior patterns on consequences for the individual and for the larger group. The independent variables are the features and parameters of the contingencies studied. These features and parameters can be analyzed and specified by means of a formal symbolic language for codifying behavioral contingencies. Among these features and parameters are: the number of parties, the attributes of the consequences for each party, the information that each party obtains regarding other parties actions and the various operative consequences (including the delays and predictability of such information), and the length and content of each partys history of prior exposures to the contingencies and consequences. These and other features and parameters of the generalized prisoners dilemma contingency effectively provide a road map for a long-term research program in this important field.
4. Memes - The New Ghosts in the Machine? To What Extent Does the Concept of Meme Contribute to a Scientific Account of Cultural Practices?
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
William M. Baum (University of California, Davis), CARSTA SIMON (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)
Abstract: Causes of behavior are not illuminated by reference to hidden variables when those are merely derived from the observation they are supposed to explain. In psychological theories, reference to variables like mental representations, personality, or beliefs often amounts to restating the observed or naming illusionary immediate causes of behavior. What leads to actions in people can be more consistently illuminated by historical explanations referring to causes of behavior in past and present events in the environment, much as in evolutionary biology. An up-to-date example of a biological-psychological theory providing a pseudo-explanation for the causes of the spread of behavior is the concept of meme in its most common mentalistic interpretation. Other, non-dualistic, interpretations regard memes as neurological patterns. Alternatively, abstract memes in terms of representations, information or ideas of cultural practices could be interpreted from an instrumentalists stance. Another approach views behavioral units to be selected directly by their consequences. We argue that the latter, the behavioral approach, qualifies much better for a scientific theory than the view of memes as neuronal patterns or abstractions does.



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