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.


30th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2004

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #204
CE Offered: None

The Unique Role of Development for Learning

Sunday, May 30, 2004
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Area: DEV; Domain: Applied Research
CE Instructor: Gerald Turkewitz, Ph.D.
Chair: Jacob L. Gewirtz (Florida International University)
GERALD TURKEWITZ (Hunter College of the City University of New York)
Dr. Gerald Turkewitz received his BA from City College of New York and his PhD in Comparative Psychology from New York University. He began his research career in the Department of Animal Behavior of the American Museum of Natural History where, in conjunction with T. C. Schneirla, J. S. Rosenblatt and Ethel Tobach, he studied the development of social behavior in kittens and stress adjustment in rats. His dissertation, carried out under Schneirla, dealt with the development of cage orientation in rats. He joined Herbert G. Birch at the Einstein College of Medicine and began studying sensory and intersensory functioning in human infants. He has continued and expanded these research directions with his appointment to Hunter College. Throughout his career, development with a particular concern for the role of sensory function in shaping behavior has been focal. This has led to investigations of a variety of organisms, including rabbits and chinchillas. His belief in the complex interactions between different levels of and facets of an organism’s biology and environment have resulted in a consideration of the relationship between the senses, aspects of motor function, learning, the social milieu, and the development of the nervous system, among others, in the organization of cognitive functions. Most recently he has been concerned with the developing exemplars of ways in which disparate elements in the life histories of organisms shape developmental trajectories.

Features of development create special circumstances in which aspects of learning are both constrained and given systematic attributes which in turn influence subsequent development. It will be argued that the paucity of sensory input, i.e., the sequential onset of the senses and their relatively limited sensitivity, prevents young organisms from experiencing James buzzing booming confusion and simplifies the task of selective learning. It is proposed that early features of learning provide a scaffolding for subsequent learning. The purpose will be instantiated by examining the manner in which fetal exposure to maternal speech influences hemispheric specialization and subsequent processing of facial information, contributing to the separation of analytic and holistic modes of information processing in the two hemispheres. Suggestive data on the way in which fetal learning of taste preferences by rats come to influence preferences for novel and familiar experiences will also be presented. In addition preliminary data from rabbits that suggests that priming by learning in an early developing system facilitates, or indeed enables, learning in a later developing system will be presented. The foregoing represents an extension of T. C. Schneirlas genuinely interactive position which avoids the largely sterile issue of nature vs. nurture by placing learning and the role of experience in a biological and ecological framework.




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