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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #481
Behavior Analysis, Ecological Psychology, and Dynamical Systems: Promoting an Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Complexities of Behavior
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
W175b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Kenneth W. Jacobs (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Robert W. Isenhower (Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University)

Adherence to the study of unmediated (i.e., non-mentalistic) functional relations is one of the many commonalities between ecological psychology and behavior analysis (Costall, 1984; Morris, 2009). As such, the theoretical, philosophical, and historical underpinnings of each field have much in common. In this symposium we expand upon the common features of behavior analysis and ecological psychology in order to foster greater collaboration between these conceptually allied disciplines. In particular, ecological psychologists have developed unique experimental designs guided by the theory of affordances and by new models of organism-environment interaction, namely, dynamical systems models, in order to account for the complexities of the behavior of organisms. How such non-mentalistic theories have led to these developments and how they might influence the field of behavior analysis will be explicated. This symposium will entail an exposition of such theories with respect to the experimental analysis of behavior. In addition, a discussion of dynamical systems models and how such models may be implemented will follow. The implications of this discussion may increase the comprehensiveness of the science of behavior as well as establish new guiding principles for future inquiry.

Keyword(s): Affordances, Dynamical Systems, Ecological Psychology, Interdisciplinary
Theories of Perception and their Methodological Implications
KENNETH W. JACOBS (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Parallels have been and continue to be drawn between ecological psychology and behavior analysis (Costall, 1984; Morris, 2003; Morris 2009). Obvious overlap inheres in the study of unmediated functional relations, but further details about such overlap and its implications for areas such as the experimental analysis of behavior have received little attention. How ecological psychologists talk about perception and behavior in general has led to the development of unique experimental arrangements that account for the complexities of human behavior, which some behavior analysts refer to as private and accessible only through interpretation. This presentation will entail an exposition of concepts within the framework of ecological psychology (e.g., the theory of affordances) that have led to such experimental developments. Of particular concern is the use of affordances as experimental manipulanda, and how such manipulanda may better incorporate the relationship between the organism and the environment into the experimental analysis of behavior. Attendees should leave with an understanding of the theory of affordances, how it relates to the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of the science of behavior, and how such a theory may be a guide for future inquiry with respect to experimentation.
Understanding Dynamical Models
MAURICE LAMB (University of Cincinnati), Anthony Chemero (University of Cincinnati)
Abstract: Neo-mechanists argue that in order for a claim to be an explanation in cognitive science it must reveal something about the mechanisms of a cognitive system. Recently, they claimed that JAS Kelso and colleagues have begun to favor mechanistic explanations of neuroscientific phenomena. We argue that this view results from a failure to understand dynamic systems explanations and the general structure of dynamic systems research. Further, we argue that the explanations by Kelso and colleagues cited are not mechanistic explanations and that neo-mechanists have misunderstood Kelso and colleagues’ work. As a part of our arguments we outline the basic features of dynamic systems explanations in terms of Kelso’s Tripartite Scheme. We then show that, contrary to recent claims made by neo-mechanists, research applying the neural field model to rhythmic tapping behaviors involves providing a dynamic systems explanation in line with the Tripartite Scheme. Understanding the basic structure of dynamic systems theory, as exemplified in the Tripartite Scheme, is important for the development of dynamic systems models in the context of behavior analysis.



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