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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #238
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Behavioral Ephemera

Sunday, May 28, 2017
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: EAB; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: William M. Baum, Ph.D.
Chair: Eric S. Murphy (University of Alaska Anchorage)
WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)
Dr. Baum received his BA in psychology from Harvard College in 1961. Originally a biology major, he switched to psychology after taking courses from B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein in his freshman and sophomore years. He attended Harvard University for graduate study in 1962, where he was supervised by Herrnstein and received his Ph.D. in 1966. He spent the year 1965–66 at Cambridge University, studying ethology at the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior. From 1966 to 1975, he held appointments as post-doctoral fellow, research associate, and assistant professor at Harvard University. He spent two years at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory for Brain, Evolution, and Behavior and then accepted an appointment in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1977. He retired from there in 1999. He currently has an appointment as associate researcher at the University of California, Davis and lives in San Francisco. His research concerns choice, molar behavior/environment relations, foraging, cultural evolution, and behaviorism. He is the author of a book, Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.

Every species possesses abilities for successfully interacting with its environment. These result from phylogeny. In the laboratory, one may arrange artificial conditions that thwart an organisms abilities. The result may be a phenomenon. With sufficient training, however, the phenomenon may prove to be ephemeral, as the organisms basic abilities reassert themselves. A common ability among animal species is the ability to respond to differences and non-differences in rate of obtaining food. This ability may be thwarted in a variety of ways, but the results tend to be ephemeral. A clear example appears in an experiment that pitted pigeons preference for unimpeded responding against their ability to respond to food rate. In a concurrent-chains procedure, the terminal links were identical variable-interval schedules, but in one terminal link, every response produced a timeout. The duration of the timeout varied, and preference varied with it, but the relation vanished with training, in keeping with the equality of food rate across the two terminal links. Some other examples of phenomena that tend to disappear with sufficient training are behavioral contrast, conditioned reinforcement, and resistance to extinction. These appear to be behavioral ephemera.

Target Audience:

Graduate Students and Researchers in Behavior Analysis

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) state how a species' evolutionary environment determines the problems its members are likely to solve; (2) state the difference between behavioral ephemera and stable behavioral phenomena.



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