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.


39th Annual Convention; Minneapolis, MN; 2013

Event Details

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Special Event #38
SQAB Tutorial: Reinforcement: History and Current Status
Saturday, May 25, 2013
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Auditorium Room 1 (Convention Center)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Presenting Authors: : JOHN W. DONAHOE (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

The following topics will be among those discussed: (1) implications of Darwinian thinking (selectionism) for selection by reinforcement, (2) the problem of "circularity" and its treatment by the probability differential (Premack) and response-deprivation (Timberlake & Allison) hypotheses, (3) the Rescorla-Wagner model of conditioning and its conceptual problems, (4) experimental evidence relating to the Unified Principle of Reinforcement (UPR), (5) the operant-respondent distinction as viewed by UPR, (6) implications of UPR for phenomena such as those identified in studies of behavioral momentum, conditioning of behavior-systems, and temporal coding, (7) issues in the experimental analysis of the free-operant procedure and their implications for the molar-molecular debate, (8) neural-networks as a means of interpreting the effects of reinforcement, and (9) the role of neuroscience in the formulation of the reinforcement principle.

JOHN W. DONAHOE (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
After majoring in chemistry at Rutgers University, John W. Donahoe did his graduate work at the Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Psychology. He received his doctorate in 1958 after study in experimental psychology and neurophysiology. He spent a postdoctoral year at the Center for Brain Research, University of Rochester. Dr. Donahoe returned to the University of Kentucky where he held joint appointments in the Psychology Department and the Computing Center as an assistant and then an associate professor. In 1969, he joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of Massachusetts and became a professor and founding member of the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and Behavior. Although the director of his doctoral research was a former student of Clark Hull at Yale, Donahoe’s approach to research was primarily influenced by Ernest Meyer, a Columbia graduate, and especially by Fogle Clark, a North Carolina graduate, both of whom were “Skinnerians.” Hull’s scientific rigor proved illusory when it confronted the reality of the laboratory, whereas Skinner’s experimental analysis of behavior flourished. Skinner’s description of behavior analysis as “a rigorous, extensive, and rapidly advancing branch of biology” was especially appealing. Donahoe’s research interests are reinforcement theory, stimulus control, neural networks informed by neuroscience, and implications of basic conditioning processes for the interpretation of complex behavior.



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