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.

Theory & Philosophy Conference

Perspectives on Behavioral Complexity

October 28-29, 2024

The Drake Hotel; Chicago, Illinois

Invited Presenters

 

This single-track program spans two days and is organized into thematic clusters under the broad umbrella of complex behavioral phenomena, with an emphasis on how complexity can – and often does – arise from basic behavioral processes. Each cluster includes three or four 50-minute presentations by cutting-edge scholars representing a range of established and alternative perspectives; the wrap-up speaker for each cluster will serve as synthesizer and discussant for the earlier talks. Our format, cluster themes, and speaker line-up were selected to maximize opportunities for productive interactions, both within and across the different clusters, and with the audience. A panel discussion on the role and status of theory and philosophy in behavior-analytic training programs will allow for additional audience input. Day 1 will also include a poster session, one of the highlights of the first Theory and Philosophy conference, and another opportunity for creative exchange of ideas among all attendees.

 

Day 1:

Cluster 1: Evolution & Neuroscience

Cluster 2: Cultural Systems

Day 2:

Cluster 3: Symbolic Processes

Cluster 4: Computational Modeling

 

 

Day 1

 

Cluster 1: Evolution & Neuroscience
 
Louise Barrett Photo

What You See is What You Get: Embodiment, Action and the Evolution of Primate Brains

Monday, October 28

8:10 AM - 9:00 AM

Presenter: Louise Barrett, FRSC (University of Lethbridge)

Abstract:

Primate social life is often deemed to be complex, requiring inferences about (allegedly) unobservable phenomena, like mental states and social bonds, in order to render it intelligible, along with the navigation of a complex web of emergent, often unpredictable, outcomes. But what if social life is just really very complicated, rather than complex? That is, there is a lot going on, everywhere, all at once, but all can be readily observed and inference is unnecessary. Understanding social life then becomes a perceptual, not conceptual, task. If we adopt such a view, how does this change our theorising about primate brain evolution, and its links to sociality? Here, I suggest if we recognize that a more affordance-driven form of perceptual learning is what enables animals to navigate their environments successfully, and understand that the role of the brain, first and foremost, is to control action in an unpredictable environment, then we will be able to produce a truly evolutionarily theory of brain evolution, and more accurately align the cognate, but distinct, disciplines of psychology and neuroscience.

Bio:

Louise Barrett is Professor of Psychology, and Canada Research Chair in Cognition, Evolution and Behaviour, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge. She was educated at University College London, UK, and has a degree in Ecology and a PhD in Biological Anthropology. Her research programme centres on the issue of how ecology shapes patterns of social and cognitive evolution. To this end, she has conducted a number of long-term studies of non-human primates in South Africa. In addition, she also works on culture and biology intersect to influence human behaviour, along with aspects of philosophy of mind and cognition.

 

 

Brian D. Kangas Photo

Leveraging Evolutionarily Relevant Cross-Species Continuity in Medications Development for Neuropsychiatric Illness: A Reverse-Translational Approach

Monday, October 28

9:10 AM - 10:00 AM

Presenter: Brian Kangas, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School)

Abstract:

Current treatment strategies for neuropsychiatric conditions, including major depression, are woefully inadequate. Recent estimates indicate that only approximately 30% of those suffering report full recovery from available frontline pharmacotherapeutics. In response to this disheartening state of affairs, highly active research programs have emerged, organized around correcting what they view as a longstanding failure in bidirectional alignment between the human (clinical) and animal (preclinical) laboratories. One promising tactic to accelerate medications development is an increased focus on reverse-translational assays. That is, among aspects of animal behavior thought to reflect elements relevant to the human experience, priority is assigned to tasks developed in the human laboratory that can be transformed for animals with maximal formal and functional similarity. This presentation will summarize the theoretical and methodological arguments in favor of this approach by using perhaps the most instructive example to date – medications development for anhedonia. Indeed, anhedonia, the loss of pleasure from previously reinforcing stimuli, is a prominent behavioral phenotype in virtually every neuropsychiatric condition, including depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders. Unfortunately, despite its transdiagnostic prevalence, there are currently no approved pharmacotherapeutics to treat anhedonia. Recent work has capitalized on established quantitative frameworks from the experimental analysis of behavior, bolstered by advances in electrophysiology, to objectively characterize responsivity to reward in humans, rodents, and monkeys. Subjects make visual discriminations under asymmetric probabilistic conditions such that correct responses to one alternative are rewarded more often (rich) than correct responses to the other (lean). Both healthy humans and animals consistently develop a highly adaptive response bias in favor of the rich alternative. However, patients with neuropsychiatric disorders often exhibit blunted response biases, which correlate with current, and predict future, anhedonia. Likewise, animals exposed to chronic stress or early-life adversity have also shown blunted response biases. Importantly, concordance among species in electrophysiological outcomes and pharmacological treatment with drugs known to enhance hedonic tone are commonly observed. Taken together, this quantitative framework offers a highly translational approach to accelerate treatment development for disorders involving anhedonia and, more generally, typifies the promise of reverse-translational endeavors via realignment in the study of evolutionarily relevant cross-species behavior.

Bio:

Dr. Brian Kangas is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Lab Director in the Behavioral Biology Program at McLean Hospital. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology at Southern Illinois University, his master's degree in behavior analysis at the University of North Texas, and his doctorate in psychology at the University of Florida. He focuses on the development and empirical validation of animal models and apparatus designed to assay complex behavioral processes relevant to addiction, pain perception, chronic stress, and neuropsychiatric disorders. He currently directs a research program focusing on diverse pursuits in behavioral biology funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, biopharmaceutical industry, Department of Defense, and NASA.

 

John Krakauer Photo

The Cognitive-Motor Interface

Monday, October 28

10:30 AM - 11:20 AM

Presenter: John Krakauer (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)

Abstract:

There has long been a divide between simple motor skills and what are deemed more complex cognitive abilities. Here I will discuss the problems associated with this dichotomy. I will then provide a progression of examples of how behaviors can be built up of explicit cognitive components and implicit control policies.

Bio:

Dr. Krakauer is currently John C. Malone Professor, Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Director of the Brain, Learning, Animation, and Movement Lab (www.BLAM-lab.org) at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is also an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute and a Visiting Scholar at The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. He is Chief Medical Advisor to MindMaze. His areas of research interest are: (1) Experimental and computational studies of motor control and motor learning in humans (2) Tracking long-term motor skill learning and its relation to higher cognitive processes such as decision-making. (3) Prediction of motor recovery after stroke (4) Mechanisms of spontaneous motor recovery after stroke in humans and in mouse models (5) New neuro-rehabilitation approaches for patients in the first 3 months after stroke.(6) Philosophy of mind, philosophy of neuroscience.

Dr. Krakauer is also co-founder of the company MSquare Health (acquired by MindMaze) and of the creative engineering Hopkins-based project named KATA. KATA and MSquare are both predicated on the idea that animal movement based on real physics is highly pleasurable and that this pleasure is hugely heightened when the animal movement is under the control of our own movements. A simulated dolphin and other cetaceans developed by KATA has led to a therapeutic game that has been interfaced with an exoskeletal robot in a multi-site rehabilitation trial for early stroke recovery, and with motion tracking for cognitive therapy in the normal aged. Dr. Krakauer was profiled in the New Yorker in 2015 and his book, “Broken Movement: The Neurobiology of Motor Recovery after Stroke” was published by the MIT Press in the November 2017. He is slowly working on a new book on the mind and intelligence for Princeton University Press.

 

 

Dave Schaal Photo

Discussion: Evolution & Neuroscience

Monday, October 28

11:30 AM-12:20 PM

Presenter: Dave Schaal, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Dr. Schaal will wrap up this symposium with a discussion about the three presentations from Cluster 1.

Bio:

Dave Schaal got a PhD in behavioral pharmacology at the University of Florida and was a post-doctoral fellow in neurobehavioral pharmacology at the University of Minnesota. He served on the faculty of the Department of Psychology of West Virginia University for 11 years before joining the Neurosurgery Department of Stanford University to write grants and do stroke research. There he served as Co-Editor of the first Behavioral Neuroscience special issue the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. After a few years at Stanford trying to figure out how to be a neuroscientist and radical behaviorist at the same time, he inexplicably left academia to work in the radiation oncology industry in Silicon Valley, first at Accuray Incorporated and eventually at Varian, a Siemens Healthineers Company. Because much therapeutic radiation is directed to sites within the brain, Dave has remained on the sidelines of neuroscience, where he can safely yell compliments and insults to the hard-working players on the field without messing up his uniform.

 

 

Cluster 2: Cultural Systems

 

Ed Wasserman Photo

Unhinging Design From Darwinian and Skinnerian Selection

Monday, October 28

1:50 PM - 2:40 PM

Presenter: Ed Wasserman, Ph.D. (The University of Iowa)

Abstract:

Darwin explained how purposeful and foresightful design could be unhinged from natural selection. Skinner followed suit for selection by reinforcement. These complementary selectionist ideas together with cultural selection now represent the prime pillars of evolutionary thought in biological and behavioral science.

Bio:

Edward Wasserman received his B.A. from UCLA and his Ph.D. from Indiana University. His only academic home has been The University of Iowa, where he is the Stuit Professor Experimental Psychology. He was President of the Comparative Cognition Society as well as President of Divisions 3 (Experimental Psychology), 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology), and 25 (Behavior Analysis) of APA. He is a member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. And, he has received the Hebb Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from Division 6 of APA, the Career Research Award from the Comparative Cognition Society, the Distinguished Contributions to Basic Behavioral Research Award from Division 25 of APA, and the Gantt Medal from the Pavlovian Society. He has edited four volumes, including the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition, and he has recently authored, As if by Design: How Creative Behaviors Really Evolve. Wasserman has published extensively in the areas of comparative cognition and perception with support from NSF, NIMH, NEI, NICHD, and HFSP.

 

 

Maria Malott Photo Sigrid Glenn Photo

Behavior and Cumulative Cultural Evolution

Monday, October 28

2:50 PM - 3:40 PM

Presenters: Sigrid Glenn, Ph.D. & Maria Malott, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Cultural evolutionary theory has been approached from writers in numerous disciplines who often draw from literature both within and outside their own disciplines. Although virtually all the writers view behavior as fundamental to cultural evolution, the function of behavioral contingencies is reliably neglected. A subset of this interdisciplinary work has focused on cumulative cultural evolution, which features the cultural environment more prominently than has been typical. Here we offer a first approximation of a contingency-based theory on the origins and evolution of sociocultural phenomena. We propose that this behavioral approach adds a missing dimension to the earlier interdisciplinary work. We also address topics such as the origin and evolution of cultural organization, which have rarely been tackled in this literature.

Bio:

Sigrid Glenn is Regents Professor Emeritus at the University of North Texas. Her published work includes four books, 60+ articles and six book chapters on experimental, conceptual and applied topics in behavior analysis and culturo-behavior science. She has served on multiple publication boards and as editor of The Behavior Analyst (1988-1989). As founding chair of the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, Dr. Glenn established master's and bachelor's degree programs in behavior analysis, leading the faculty in the first accreditation of a graduate program by ABAI. She is a founding fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis and a fellow of the American Psychological Association. Awards from students and colleagues include the 2015 SABA Award for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis, TxABA’s 2011 Award for Career Contributions in Behavior Analysis and its 2015 Award for Pioneers of Behavior Analysis in Texas; and awards from the University of North Texas, Cal ABA, the Behavior Analysis Certification Board, and the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Students at UNT named her Honor Professor in 1987 and ABAI student committee gave her Outstanding Mentorship Award in 2008. Dr. Glenn served as president of Texas Association for Behavior Analysis in 1992 and President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 1994.

 

Dr. Maria E. Malott has served as consultant for a variety of businesses in service, retail, manufacturing, education, government, and others. In all this work, she has combined systems analysis with the analysis of individual behavior. Since 1993, Dr. Malott has served as Executive Director/CEO of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. She has used organizational behavior management to improve every aspect of the operation of ABAI, which now serves more than 7,000 members and is the parent organization for nearly 100 affiliated chapters.

Dr. Malott has served as an affiliate faculty several universities in the United States and Mexico. She published over 40 peer review publications and nearly 100 newsletter articles. She has made over 300 presentations in 22 countries, including lectures and seminars in 37 universities around the world. She is a fellow of ABAI and was the recipient of the 2003 Award for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis, the 2004 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organizational Behavior Management, and the 2012 Award for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis. She also received the 2002 Outstanding Alumni Award from the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University.

 

 

Jonathan Krispin Photo

Discussion: Cultural Systems

Monday, October 28

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM

Presenter: Jonathan Krispin, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Dr. Krispin will wrap up this symposium with a discussion about the two presentations from Cluster 2.

Bio:

Jonathan Krispin is Associate Professor of Management, joining the Langdale College of Business at Valdosta State University in January, 2013, returning to academics after a 17-year career in the private sector. His research interests are primarily in the areas of organizational culture, business process improvement, organizational change and adaptation, and leadership development.

After completing his Ph.D. in Social and Organizational Psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA in 1997, Jonathan joined the Prestolite Wire Corporation, a Tier One Supplier in the Automotive Industry. While there, he led the effort to implement a leadership and process improvement process that resulted in a 20% productivity improvement, and commensurate improvements in quality and safety. Based on these and other achievements, the plant was awarded the Georgia Oglethorpe Award for Organizational Excellence (based on the Malcolm Baldrige Award Criteria) in 2000 by the Governor of Georgia.

In 2002, Jonathan joined Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration, the commercial refrigeration division of Lennox International. In 2004, while he was Acting Director of Operations for the Tifton manufacturing plant, the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education recognized the facility he led as the mid-sized Manufacturer of the Year. Jonathan continued at Heatcraft in several positions of increasing responsibility, including roles as a Master Blackbelt in the Lennox LeanSigma program, and then as Global Operations Leader for Marketing and Product Development, coordinating efforts across operations in North America, South America, Europe, China and Australia. In 2008, Jonathan joined Pinnacle Prime Contractors in Valdosta, GA, first as Vice President for Human Resources, then Vice President of Operations, and finally as Executive Vice President, a role in which he continued until leaving the company to return to academics.

Since returning to academics, Jonathan has focused his writing and research efforts on joining concepts from behavior analysis with concepts from systems analysis, particularly from theory related to self-organizing systems. This has led to several publications in Behavior and Social Issues and Perspectives on Behavior Science. He has presented at numerous conferences including numerous ABAI Annual Conventions, the ABAI International Conferences in Paris and Stockholm, as an invited speaker at the Culturo-Behavior Science for a Better World Conference sponsored by ABAI in 2020, and as an invited speaker at the 12th Annual European Conference on Behavior-Based Safety and Performance Management hosted by AARBA (the Italian Chapter of ABAI) in Como, Italy in 2018. He serves on the editorial board of Behavior and Social Issues. He has also been a guest lecturer at Oslo Metropolitan University, instructing in their Master’s in Behavior Analysis (formerly Learning and Complex Systems) program since 2018.

 

 

Panel Discussion: Theory and Philosophy in Today's Graduate Training Programs

Monday, October 28

5:00 PM - 5:50 PM

Panelists: Louise Barrett, David Cox, Dermot Barnes-Holmes

Moderator: Carol Pilgrim

 

 

Poster Session

Monday, October 28

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

 

 

 

Day 2

 

Cluster 3: Symbolic Processes

 

Francesca degli Espinosa Photo

Contacting Leads to Knowing: A Verbal Behaviour Analysis of Theory of Mind

Tuesday, October 29

8:10 AM - 9:00 AM

Presenter: Francesca degli Espinosa, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Abstract:

Theory of Mind is typically used as an umbrella term to refer to, but also to interpret, a collection of responses that involve humans’ ability to explain and predict others’ behaviour based on an understanding of others’ mental states, such as beliefs and desires. Not only is the construct of Theory of Mind universally accepted in the field of psychology, but it has also come to represent a theoretical system from which to explain additional social and cognitive processes in both typical and atypical children and adults, with false-belief tasks becoming its litmus test. Challenging the basic premise that mental states cause behaviour, I will firstly deconstruct false-belief tasks into their individual verbal components. Secondly, I will attempt to answer the question of what it is that we as humans do when we engage in the complex verbal behaviour regarding another person’s behaviour through an analysis of its component controlling repertoires. Rooted in early social responding, I will thirdly provide an account of its development from infancy to early childhood and show how an applied technology can further and validate both a conceptual and experimental analysis of the subject matter.

Bio:

Francesca gained her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Goldsmith’s College, University of London and her Ph.D. at the University of Southampton, under Prof. Bob Remington. She was the Lead Clinician for the first UK-based EIBI outcome study (Remington et al., 2007) at the University of Southampton and within that context developed the Early Behavioural Intervention Curriculum (EBIC) an intervention framework derived from functional analyses of language to establish generative multiply controlled verbal behaviour, which subsequently formed the principal focus of her Ph.D. Currently, she runs a small diagnostic and assessment clinic in the UK, teaches advanced behaviour analysis in a number of postgraduate programmes in Italy, the UK and the US, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the B.F. Skinner Foundation.

Originally schooled in cognitive developmental psychology, Francesca’s academic pursuit is the translation of cognitive and developmental descriptions of key processes in language and childhood development into an analysis of controlling variables, with the aim of deriving a technology to remediate deficits in children with autism. Her clinical and research work focuses on early social responding, generative verbal behaviour and theory of mind.

 

 

Dermot Barnes-Holmes Photo

Back to the Future With Relational Frame Theory (RFT): Is it Now More Kantor Than Skinner?

Tuesday, October 29

9:10 AM - 10:00 AM

Presenter: Dermot Barnes-Holmes, Ph.D.

Abstract:

The basic idea of relational frame theory, as a behavior analytic account of human language and cognition, was presented almost 40 years ago (Hayes & Brownstein, 1985), and it is approaching a quarter of a century since the publication of the seminal volume (Hayes et al., 2001). In that time, both conceptual and empirical progress has been made. In particular, the last eight or so years have seen a period of intense empirical and conceptual updating of the account (see Barnes-Holmes & Harte, 2022, for a detailed description of some of these updates that are directly relevant to the core thesis of the current presentation). Paradoxically, however, these recent advances appear to be drawing on early and much underplayed features of RFT, including field theoretical (interbehavioral) analyses and concepts, which are assisting in recent RFT-based experimental analyses. Although these analyses are just beginning to evolve, they may have the potential to help move the behavior-analytic study of human language and cognition into new and exciting areas. The current presentation will begin with a brief overview of the “traditional” RFT approach to human language and cognition, thus providing an appropriate context in which to introduce and consider the more recent, field-based, conceptual and empirical developments within the theory.

Barnes-Holmes, D., & Harte, C. (2022). Relational frame theory 20 years on: The Odysseus voyage and beyond. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 117, 240–266.

Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational frame theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. Plenum.

Hayes, S. C., & Brownstein, A. J. (1985, May).Verbal behavior, equivalence classes, and rules: New definitions, data, and directions. Invited address presented at the meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Columbus, OH.

Bio:

Dr. Dermot Barnes-Holmes graduated from the University of Ulster in 1985 with a B.Sc. in Psychology and in 1990 with a D.Phil. in behavior analysis. His first tenured position was in the Department of Applied Psychology at University College Cork, where he founded and led the Behavior Analysis and Cognitive Science unit. In 1999 he accepted the foundation professorship in psychology and head-of-department position at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. In 2015 he accepted a life-time senior professorship at Ghent University in Belgium. In 2020 he returned to his alma mater as a full professor at Ulster University. Dr. Barnes-Holmes is known internationally for the analysis of human language and cognition through the development of Relational Frame Theory with Steven C. Hayes, and its application in various psychological settings. He was the world's most prolific author in the experimental analysis of human behaviour between the years 1980 and 1999. He was awarded the Don Hake Translational Research Award in 2012 by the American Psychological Association, is a past president and fellow of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, and a fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International. He is also a recipient of the Quad-L Lecture Award from the University of New Mexico and became an Odysseus laureate in 2015 when he received an Odysseus Type 1 award from the Flemish Science Foundation in Belgium. In 2024 Professor Barnes-Holmes will receive the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) award for the International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis.

 

 

David C. Palmer Photo

A Behavioral Interpretation of English Grammar

Tuesday, October 29

10:30 AM - 11:20 AM

Presenter: David C. Palmer, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Can the orderly arrangement of words in sentences—grammar—be interpreted in terms of familiar behavioral principles? In the face of the novelty, subtlety, complexity, and speed of acquisition of verbal behavior, this position will remain difficult to defend until the field can show that a representative range of relevant phenomena is within reach of its interpretive tools. Using modern English as a case in point, this talk points to the important role of automatic reinforcement in language acquisition and suggests that the concept of autoclitic frames (e.g., X is taller than Y) is central to a behavioral interpretation of grammatical phenomena. An enduring puzzle facing this interpretation is how stimulus control can shift from term to term in such frames as one speaks, for such permutations of verbal forms are often novel and rapidly emitted. A possible solution to the puzzle is offered by a consideration of contextual cues, prosodic cues, and the stimulus properties of the roles played by the content words that complete the frames. That these roles have discriminable stimulus properties is supported by considering that in Old English such roles directly controlled case inflections that correspond to positions in autoclitic frames.

Bio:

With undergraduate degrees in geology and English, Dave Palmer knew nothing about behaviorism until he stumbled on Skinner’s Walden Two. He was electrified and soon became a public nuisance trying to persuade all-and-sundry of the merits of a behavioral interpretation of human problems. After a decade of fruitlessly attempting to start an experimental community, he turned to graduate school. He studied inter-response times and conditioned reinforcement in pigeons at the University of Massachusetts under John Donahoe in the early 1980s. Upon graduation, he took a job teaching statistics and behavior analysis at Smith College, from which he retired in 2018. His interests in behavior analysis are broad, but his main contributions have all been attempts to extend Skinner's interpretive accounts of human behavior, particularly in the domains of language, memory, problem solving, and private events. Together with John Donahoe, he authored the text, Learning and Complex Behavior, which attempts to offer a comprehensive biobehavioral account of such phenomena.

 

 

Manish Vaidya Photo

Discussion: Symbolic Processes

Tuesday, October 29

11:30 AM - 12:20 PM

Presenter: Manish Vaidya, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Dr. Vaidya will wrap up this symposium with a discussion about the three presentations from Cluster 3.

Bio:

Dr. Manish Vaidya earned his master’s degree with Dr. Sigrid Glenn at the University of North Texas and his doctorate with Dr. Tim Hackenberg at the University of Florida. His experience with these and other foundationally impactful teachers left a deep and long-lasting interest in generative learning and verbal behavior. These interests found partial instantiation in research related to stimulus equivalence and conditional discrimination learning which he had the good fortune to pursue with his students at the University of North Texas. Dr. Vaidya has recently retired from his position as Chair of the Department of Behavior Analysis to pursue his current interest in integrating applied behavior analysis with rehabilitation science to optimize health outcomes for patients. Beginning January 2024, he will serve as the Executive Director of the Institute for Behavior Science and Technology in Rehabilitation (IBSTR).

 

 

Cluster 4: Computational Modeling

 

Name Photo

Verbal Frontiers: Combining Words in the Wild, Computational Modeling, and Behavior Analysis to Explore Verbal Communities

Tuesday, October 29

1:50 PM - 2:40 PM

Presenter: David Cox, Ph.D., MSB, BCBA-D

Abstract:

The verbal community plays a critical role in the analysis of verbal behavior because it selects conventional verbal forms; shapes listeners' behavior that mediates the consequences of speakers' behavior; and specifies the conditions under which specific verbal forms will contact consequences. However, despite the importance of the verbal community, past authors typically describe “the verbal community” theoretically instead of observing, measuring, or describing verbal communities directly. In this presentation, we review recent technological advances in data collection and computational modeling that allow researchers to directly observe and measure verbal communities in real-time as they evolve. Further, because data is often collected at the individual level, researchers can directly observe, measure, and model the influence of a verbal community on individual speaker and listener behavior. We show how this can be done through two examples where two distinct verbal communities were directly observed, measured, described, and modeled. In doing so, previously theoretical questions about what constitutes a verbal community and how it influences speaker and listener behavior can be answered with data. Researchers able to sort out compatible and incompatible assumptions from this methodological integration might be poised to ask and answer questions novel to the analysis of verbal behavior.

Bio:

Dr. David J. Cox, Ph.D., M.S.B., BCBA-D has been a behavior science junky since 2004. Scratching that itch led to a PhD in Behavior Analysis from the University of Florida and Post-Doctoral Training in Behavioral Pharmacology and Behavioral Economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. David gets into random things and so has also picked up a M.S. in Bioethics from Union Graduate College and Post-Doctoral Training in Data Science through the Insight! Data Science Fellows program. David's interest in computational modeling originated after watching The Matrix as a kid, however, it took a more serious, academic turn after seeing Ex Machina in 2014 and realizing the conceptual similarities between artificial intelligence and behavior analysis. Since then, his research and applied work has focused on leveraging technology, quantitative modeling, and artificial intelligence to understand the behavioral processes of decision-making so as to ethically optimize behavioral health outcomes and clinical decision-making. Based on individual and collaborative work, Dr. Cox has published 50+ peer-reviewed articles, four books, and 165+ presentations at scientific conferences.

 

 

J. J McDowell Photo

Complex Systems Theory in Behavior Analysis

Tuesday, October 29

2:50 PM - 3:40 PM

Presenter: J. J McDowell, Ph.D. (Emory University)

Abstract:

Traditional scientific theories typically abstract simplified variables from phenomena and enter them into mathematical expressions to test empirically. In behavior analysis, for example, behavioral and environmental phenomena are often reduced to simple rates of target responding and reinforcement, which are then entered into mathematical expressions such as the matching law. A modern version of theory development instead treats observable phenomena as the result of the operation of a complex system. The operation of the system is stated in the form of low level rules, which constitute the theory. A system that follows the rules produces higher level emergent outcomes that can be compared to data. One advantage of complex systems theory over traditional theory in science is that it naturally produces a wider range of phenomena, both steady-state and dynamic, that can be compared with experimental findings. An example of a complex systems theory in behavior analysis is the evolutionary theory of behavior dynamics (ETBD), which is stated in the form of low-level Darwinian rules that can be used to animate artificial organisms (AOs). The behavior of the AOs is a form of artificial intelligence that can be studied empirically and compared to the behavior of live organisms. The ETBD has been shown to accurately describe the behavior of live organisms, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in a wide variety of environments. The theory has also been successfully applied to the study and treatment of clinically significant behavior problems.

Bio:

J. J McDowell received an A. B. from Yale University in 1972 and a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1979. After completing his clinical internship, he joined the faculty of Emory University, where he is currently Emeritus Professor of Psychology. Dr. McDowell is also a licensed clinical psychologist, and maintains a private practice of behavior therapy in Atlanta. Dr. McDowell's research has focused on the quantitative analysis of behavior. He has conducted tests of matching theory in experiments with humans, rats, and pigeons, has made formal mathematical contributions to the matching theory literature, and has proposed a computational theory of behavior dynamics. He has also written on the relevance of mathematical and computational accounts of behavior for the treatment of clinical problems. Dr. McDowell's current research is focused on his computational theory of selection by consequences, including studies of behavior generated by the theory's genetic algorithm, and possible implementations of the theory in neural circuitry. His work, including collaborations with students and former students, has been funded by NIMH, NSF, and NIDA.

 

 

Peter Killeen Photo

Discussion: Computational Modeling

Tuesday, October 29

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM

Presenter: Peter Killeen, Ph.D.

Abstract:

Dr. Killeen will wrap up this symposium with a discussion about the three presentations from Cluster 4.

Bio:

Peter received his doctorate in 1969 under the perplexed gazes of Howie Rachlin, Dick Herrnstein, and Fred Skinner. His first and last known position was at Arizona State University (witnessing the fall of the Department-Previously-Known-As Fort Skinner in the Desert). He has studied choice behavior, schedule-induced responses like polydipsia (which he devoutly practices), reinforcement schedules, interval timing, and delay discounting. His reinforcers include the Poetry in Science Award; the APA Div. 25 Med Outstanding Researcher Award; Banco de Santander Research Prize; the Hilgard Award for the Best Theoretical Paper on Hypnosis (!); the F. J. McGuigan Lecture on Understanding the Human Mind (!!); Presidents of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior, and the 3rd International Seminar on Behavior (SINCA). A year at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Oslo birthed a paper that received The Faculty of 1000’s “Must Read” for its behavioral energetics theory of ADHD. His statistic prep was an Emerging Research Front Feature on Thomson Reuters Sciencewatch, before it was quashed by jealous others. (All of these reinforcers were seriously delayed from the behavior that instigated them, fwiw.) He has written oodles of screeds on choice and on timing; his first, now receiving paltry social security, showed that pigeons were indifferent between free food and schedules where they had to work for food (now disproved by many wayside signs indicating work as a preference, I am compelled to add); his latest were deep dives into the perception of sequential stimuli in the context of timing, an omnium gatherum on reinforcement schedule models, and an article on discounting which the editor blinked and let fly with a title that included “Portfolio of Desires”; [what are in yours, if I may rudely inquire?]. His portfolio includes the well-being of friends, family, and our field; and that of the many others now in dire straits. It includes the hope for your joy in research and the helping of others. And also suds with good music at a local speakeasy.

 

 

 

Modifed by Eddie Soh
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