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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #496

Transfer and Transformation of Stimulus Functions in Cultural Phenomena: Attitudes, Values, and Aesthetic Responses

Monday, May 28, 2018
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, San Diego Ballroom B
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Advanced
CE Instructor: Julio C. De Rose, Ph.D.
Chair: David C. Palmer (Smith College)
JULIO C. DE ROSE (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos)
Julio de Rose received his Ph.D. at the University of S?o Paulo, Brazil, in 1981, and was a postdoctoral Fulbright fellow at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation. He is now Professor of Psychology at the Federal University of S?o Carlos, Brazil, and Research Director of the Brazilian National Institute of Science and Technology on Behavior, Cognition and Teaching, of which he is one of the founders. He is the author and co-author of more than 130 articles and chapters on experimental, applied, and conceptual Behavior Analysis, and has served in the editorial boards of several international journals in the field of Behavior Analysis.

Stimulus functions are transferred or transformed across relational networks. Studies in our laboratory, for instance, have shown that evaluative functions of meaningful stimuli, such as facial emotional expressions, transfer to abstract stimuli equivalent to them. These abstract stimuli become symbols of the emotional expressions. However, stimuli related by opposition to happy facial expressions are subsequently rated as sad. This has been confirmed with several measurement procedures, such as Semantic Differential ratings, IRAP, Semantic Priming, and Event-Related Potentials. The influential cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz has characterized cultures as sets of symbolic devices that control behavior. Transfer and transformation of stimulus functions across relational networks may be the foundation of a behavioral account of how symbolic devices control behavior. In this presentation we will focus on cultural phenomena such as attitudes, values, and aesthetic responses, interpreting them on the basis of transformation of evaluative, consequential and discriminative functions in complex stimulus networks. Thus, the concept of attitude, in mainstream Psychology, although not precisely defined, points toward evaluative responses to stimuli. These evaluations may often originate in direct conditioning experiences with the stimuli. They may also be based on experience with stimuli related by equivalence or other types of relations. Similar analyses will be advanced for values and aesthetic responses. Skinner defined values in terms of reinforcers, and studies have confirmed that reinforcing (and punishing) functions are also transformed in relational networks, so that humans may value stimuli based on their experience with related stimuli. Works of art constitute complex packages of stimuli that participate in complex relational networks. Although responses to art may, to some extent, involve phylogenic dispositions, personal histories will shape individual responses to a work of art.

Target Audience:

Researchers or students interested in basic and translational research on stimulus equivalence and transfer of functions and social and cultural implications.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify trained and derived relations in diagrams of relational networks; (2) describe transfer and transformation of functions across relational networks; (3) define symbols and how they can control behavior by transformation of discriminative, eliciting, and consequential functions; (4) explain how the traditional concepts of attitudes and values may be recast in terms of transfer and transformation of evaluative functions; (5) explain how works of art may be conceived as packages of stimuli that control aesthetic responses.



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