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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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #335
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Intelligent Behaviour of Animals and Plants

Sunday, May 28, 2017
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 4
Area: SCI; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Thomas Zentall, Ph.D.
Chair: Thomas Zentall (University of Kentucky)
Alex Kacelnik is professor of Behavioral Ecology at Oxford (UK). He studied biology in Buenos Aires and completed a doctorate at Oxford in 1979. After working periods in Groningen (The Netherlands), Cambridge (UK), and the Institute for Advanced Studies (Berlin), he founded the Oxford Behavioural Ecology Research Group that he still chairs. He is also a founder and non-executive director of OxfordRisk, a company dedicated to rationalize financial investment using scientific understanding of risk-related behavior. Alex's c.200 publications include work on the behaviour of (mostly) birds, mammals, insects, humans and, more recently, plants. His papers regularly appear in Science, Nature, PNAS, PRSB, and specialized behavioral journals. Currently, he works on risk sensitive behavior, on the nature of reinforcement, on the physical intelligence of birds, and on the adaptations and counter adaptations of parasitic birds and their hosts. Among other distinctions, he is a fellow of the Royal Society, was a fellow of, is an honorary professor at Buenos Aires University, has received the research award of the Comparative Cognition Society, and is delivering the 2016 Tinbergen Lecture at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (UK). Alex's work establishes bridges between evolutionary biology, economics, and behavioral analysis.

Many animal species have been shown to have abilities previously thought to be exclusive to humans, including the use and manufacture of tools, the capacity to solve novel problems without reinforcement of intermediate steps, planning behavioral sequences, and sudden acquisition of relational concepts without reinforcement. These findings pose hard challenges to behavioral analysis, as they require the articulation of hypotheses about the know-how that animals inherit, how this know-how is modified it by individual and social experience, and how all of this information combines to generate innovative behavior. I will present and discuss examples from research on crows, parrots, human infants and other species, with a focus on our quest for parsimonious theoretical accounts of apparently intelligent behavior.

Target Audience:

BCBAs with a Master's or Doctoral degree.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe what is meant by "intelligent behavior" when applied to nonverbal organisms; (2) discuss how behavior referred to as "problem-solving" or "insight" can be investigated in nonhuman species; (3) articulate how insights provided from the study of corvids and other species that spontaneously use tools can apply to human behavior.



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