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Ninth International Conference; Paris, France; 2017

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #5
A Brief History of Basic Behavior-Analytic Research on Human Language and Cognition: From Skinner to Derived Relations and Beyond
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Scene AB, Niveau 0
Area: PCH
CE Instructor: Dermot Barnes-Holmes, Ph.D.
Chair: Martha Costa Hubner (University of São Paulo)
Dr. Dermot Barnes-Holmes received his D.Phil. in behavioral analysis and behavioral biology from the University of Ulster, Coleraine, N. Ireland. He currently serves as Senior Full Professor and Odysseus Laureate at Ghent University, Belgium, having previously served on the faculties of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and University College Cork. Dr. Barnes-Holmes is an extraordinarily prolific researcher who has made extensive contributions to the behavior analytic literature, especially in the areas of language and cognition. The competitive and prestigious Odysseus Laureate awarded to Dr. Barnes-Holmes in 2015 is just the most recent recognition of the esteem in which his work is held among behavioral scientists internationally. He contributed substantively to the development of Relational Frame Theory and has been a major source, either directly or through his more than 35 doctoral students, of the frequently cited empirical studies that support the theory. Since 1989, Dr. Barnes-Holmes has published 224 peer-reviewed articles, 40 book chapters, and 7 books or edited volumes. His work is known for its creativity and breadth in addressing complex questions about human language and cognition, with a coherent conceptual and methodological approach. This work has received more than �3.5 million in competitive funding since 2000, and has resulted in a number of prestigious awards and recognitions.
Abstract: The history of basic research in behavior analysis on human language and cognition could be traced back to the publication of Skinner's (1957) Verbal Behavior and to the distinction that he made subsequently between contingency-shaped versus rule-governed behavior in An Operant Analysis of Problem Solving (Skinner, 1966). Although basic research studies were slow to emerge from the former work, the latter publication was critical in generating a whole plethora of studies that were directly relevant to the behavior analytic study of human language and cognition. The seminal research on equivalence relations by Sidman (1994) and colleagues, which commenced in the early 1970s and led to the development of relational frame theory (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001), provided another critically important source of inspiration for basic research in this area. The current paper will present an overview of this 60-year-old unfolding research story and will consider some empirical and conceptual issues that appear to require focused attention as the story continues to unfold across the coming decades.
Target Audience: Licensed behavior analysts, psychologists, graduate students.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) provide a brief summary of the major milestones in the history of basic research in human language and cognition from a behavior-analytic perspective; (2) explain how Sidman’s research on equivalence relations clarified the concept “specification” in the area of rule-governed behavior; (3) articulate the definition of arbitrarily applicable relational responding and provide some simple examples of how it provides a behavior-analytic account of human language and cognition.


Modifed by Eddie Soh