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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Special Event #290
CE Offered: BACB
Celebrating and Expanding our Scientific Foundations: State of the Science Addresses
Sunday, May 25, 2008
4:30 PM–7:30 PM
Stevens 5
Area: EAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Timothy D. Hackenberg (University of Florida)
CE Instructor: Timothy D. Hackenberg, Ph.D.

From its inception and through to the present day, progress in all areas of behavior analysis has been fueled by advances in basic science. With the successful application of behavioral principles to an ever-widening array of practical problems, however, the science behind the application is sometimes overlooked. To underscore the vital importance of science to our discipline, this years convention will highlight and amplify the good science that has and continues to infuse the various branches of behavior analysis. The theme of this years convention, Celebrating and Expanding our Scientific Foundations, weaves together a broad array of topics that speak to our scientific roots and to extensions to new areas of science and application. The keynote event in this track is a session that brings together luminaries in the field to give State of the Science lecturespresentations that trace the development of key ideas and concepts in a specific area of research and theory. The speakers have each made pioneering and enduring contributions to our science; at the same time, each remains active and well-positioned to comment on key developments for the future. The event promises to provide fascinating perspectives on the historical roots as well as the future directions of important scientific problems.

Choice and Conditioned Reinforcement.
EDMUND J. FANTINO (California State University, San Diego)
Abstract: Psychologists have always been intrigued with the rationales underlying our decisions. Similarly, the concept of conditioned reinforcement has a venerable history, particularly in explaining behavior not tied to obvious primary reinforcers. The studies of choice and conditioned reinforcement have often developed in lockstep. Over the past decades their study has become increasingly quantitative (even complex). Yet many contemporary approaches to these fundamental topics share an emphasis on context and relative value. We trace the evolution of thinking about the potency of conditioned reinforcers from stimuli that acquire their value by pairing with more fundamental reinforcers to stimuli that acquire their value by being differentially correlated with these more fundamental reinforcers. We discuss some seminal experiments that have propelled us to the conclusion that the strength of conditioned reinforcers, as measured in choice settings, is determined by their signaling a relative improvement in the organism’s relation to reinforcement.
Stimuli, Reinforcers, and Private Events.
JOHN A. NEVIN (University of New Hampshire)
Abstract: Radical behaviorism asserts that private events are like public behavior in that they enter into similar lawful relations with similar variables. Therefore, private stimuli can enter into the control of overt behavior, and private activities can be affected by external reinforcers. Recent models of conditional discrimination propose that the private activities involved in attending to stimuli depend on reinforcement in the same way as overt responses, and that remembering involves attending to private stimuli derived from conditional cues. The same approach can be applied to the private events involved in expecting future reinforcers. In some cases, public behavior corresponding to attending, remembering, and expecting can be identified, measured, and invoked to explain aspects of discriminative performance. When public concomitants of private events cannot be identified, however, explanation can be achieved through quantitative models which assume that reinforcement affects private activities in the same way as public behavior.
Reflections on Stimulus Control.
Abstract: The topic of stimulus control is too broad and complex to be traceable within the time allowed here -- less than an hour. It would probably take a two-semester course to cover just the highlights of that field’s evolution. The more restricted topic of equivalence relations has itself become so broad that even an introductory summary requires more time than we have available. An examination of relations between equivalence and the more general topic of stimulus control, however, may reveal characteristics of both the larger and the more limited field that have not been generally discussed. Consideration of these features may in turn foster future developments within each area. I speak, of course, about features of stimulus control that my own experiences have made salient to me; others would surely emphasize other characteristics of the field and it is my hope that cooperative interactions among researchers and theorists who approach stimulus control from different directions will become more usual than is currently the case.
Behavioral and Brain Mechanisms in Self-Awareness.
TRAVIS THOMPSON (Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota School of Medicine)
Abstract: Self-awareness refers to intraverbal responses based on the speaker’s previous verbal behavior and discriminative responding based on the state of strength of one’s own dispositions, i.e. autoclitic responding. According to cognitive and developmental theorists, a central feature of autism is lack of the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own. This has been called theory of mind. The lack of such ability has been called “mind blindness” by Utta Frith and Simon Baron Cohen. While a colorful metaphor, it does not lend itself to amelioration of the hypothesized deficit. Intensive early behavior therapy ameliorates this deficit to a significant degree in at least half of children with autism spectrum disorders (Lovaas, 1987; Sallows and Graupner, 2005). Children with ASDs who have shown the greatest social gains are those who exhibited motor and/or vocal imitation at baseline. Imitation requires that specific structures in the Mirror Neuron System are at least partially functional. Wise (2001) has shown Wernicke’s speech area is divided into several distinct functional components. The posterior superior temporal cortex is necessary for mimicry of sounds, including being able to transiently represent phonetic sequences, whether heard or internally generated and rehearsed. Iacoboni (2005) studied brain activation of typical volunteers in response to brief video vignettes of an action without a context (reaching to pick up a cup), an action with an intended consequence (drinking tea from the cup) and a context without an intended consequence (cleaning up after having tea). Activation of the superior temporal sulcus occurs to seeing a cup grasped with or without a context, much as if the person had actually been grasping a cup, i.e. it is a brain area involved in responding to biological motion. In other words, the STS plays a role in both verbal and non-verbal imitation. Observing another person engaging in a movement produces sensations in the child doing the observing, that resemble those that occur had the child made the same movement her/himself (i.e. proprioceptive feedback). Teaching the child with an ASD to verbally tact those events, become components of self-awareness and other-awareness. These data, together with the foregoing IEBT findings suggest children...



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