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 #493
CE Offered: BACB
Behavior Analysis is Game
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
W193a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: TBA/PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kathleen Dignan (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Julie S. Vargas (B. F. Skinner Foundation)
CE Instructor: Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Ph.D.

This symposium will introduce a game that can be used to teach behavioral principles, inquire about behavioral phenomena, and conduct research. The game, which is called PORTL (Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab), is played between two people, the teacher and the learner, using a collection of small objects, a clicker, and tokens. The teacher communicates with the learner entirely through reinforcement. No instructions, prompts, or models are used during the game to direct the learner. The game, which can be played by both children and adults, uses simple, inexpensive equipment and can be played anywhere. The first presentation will describe a series of exercises that can be used as a laboratory component in behavior analysis classes to allow students to come in contact with the principles of behavior. The second presentation will show how to use PORTL as a tool to explore and gain insight about how behavioral phenomena work under different conditions. The third presentation will demonstrate how to ask and answer research questions using PORTL.

Keyword(s): behavior analysis, learning, shaping, teaching
Teaching with PORTL
JESUS ROSALES-RUIZ (University of North Texas), Mary Elizabeth Hunter (Pappy's Pet Lodge), Kay Laurence (Learning About Dogs)
Abstract: An integral part of teaching behavior analysis is that students come in contact with the subject matter. Traditionally, this has been accomplished by having students perform guided laboratory exercises on topics such as reinforcement, extinction, schedules of reinforcement, shaping, and chaining, using rats or pigeons (e.g. Michael, 1962). With the decline of animal laboratories, students now often miss out on this experience entirely or must conduct these types of exercises using computer software programs that model animal behavior. This is unfortunate because hands-on exercises with living organisms give students real life experience observing, analyzing, and changing behavior and serve as a foundation for the extension of behavior principles to applied situations. This presentation will describe an outline of a manual that teaches students how to prepare an environment that is conducive for training, collect baseline data, construct a teaching program, observe behavior during teaching, and modify their teaching program based on the behavior of the learner. Students see the effects of contingencies in action through a series of progressive exercises that bring them in contact with topics such as reinforcer delivery, shaping behavior, stimulus control, schedules of reinforcement, the role of the learner’s previous history, and teaching conceptual behavior.
Inquiring with PORTL
ERICA FOSS (University of North Texas), Kathleen Dignan (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)
Abstract: An important aspect of gaining insight into behavioral processes is the ability to recreate the phenomena under a variety of controlled conditions. Our understanding of how behavior processes work is informed by a combination of science and intuition and we often wish to know more about how certain variables influence certain patterns of behavior. PORTL offers a way to rapidly gain insight into behavior by providing a framework to model particular behaviors or situations observed in applied settings. PORTL can be used to explore a variety of questions, including what is the best way to transfer a verbal discriminative stimulus to a nonverbal discriminative stimulus? How can a complex behavior chain be taught with minimal errors? What is the simplest way to teach a new behavior to replace a behavior already in the learner’s history? This presentation will demonstrate how to use PORTL to inquire about behavior processes. In particular, we will discuss using PORTL to explore patterns of behavior observed during extinction and how certain variables and situations produce different, but predictable, patterns of resurgence.
Researching with PORTL
MARY ELIZABETH HUNTER (Pappy's Pet Lodge), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)
Abstract: PORTL offers a convenient and inexpensive apparatus for conducting behavioral research. It can be used to rapidly determine the appropriate baseline and environmental arrangements for asking a variety of research questions. This presentation will discuss guidelines for conducting research using PORTL and describe the process that goes into setting up research experiments. To demonstrate PORTL’s capability as a research apparatus, this presentation will showcase a study that examined the effects of one reinforcer during shaping. During shaping, if the organism is engaged in behaviors other than approximations to the target behavior, the trainer may resort to delivering a reinforcer for a behavior that is not a successive approximation. Anecdotal reports suggest that sometimes the animal continues to repeat the behavior that received only one reinforcer, even in the absence of further reinforcement for this behavior. This study compared whether, during extinction, participants spent more time engaged in a behavior that had been reinforced only once after a brief period of no reinforcement or in a behavior that had been reinforced multiple times. This study provided new information about how reinforcement works during shaping and demonstrated the usefulness of PORTL as a research apparatus.

On the Road with PORTL

KATHLEEN DIGNAN (University of North Texas), Erica Foss (University of North Texas), Mary Elizabeth Hunter (Pappy's Pet Lodge), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

PORTL can be used effectively as a teaching tool for large groups of learners, for example, in a classroom or workshop setting, or with pairs of learners working on their own. This presentation will discuss how to set up optimal learning situations using PORTL in a variety of different teaching settings, including classrooms, workshops, and small groups. This presentation will also explain the different roles used during PORTL, including teacher, learner, and data collector, and discuss how participating in each of these roles contributes to the students learning.




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