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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Invited Tutorial #27
SQAB Tutorial: Using the Past to Predict the Future
Saturday, May 25, 2019
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Swissôtel, Concourse Level, Zurich D
Area: SCI; Domain: Basic Research
PSY/BACB/QABA/NASP CE Offered. CE Instructor: Sarah Cowie, Ph.D.
Chair: Michael C. Davison (University of Auckland)
Presenting Authors: : SARAH COWIE (The University of Auckland)

Behavior analysis is on the cusp of a major change in the way we think about our most fundamental process: Reinforcement. Whereas the law of effect stipulates that reinforcers control behavior because of their special function in increasing a behavior’s strength, an alternative approach casts reinforcers as stimuli with current value to the organism, but no unique function in changing behavior. Under this approach, behavior is controlled by relations between stimuli, depending on the affordances and dispositions of the organism. This tutorial explores some of the data that has led us to change the way we understand control by current environmental conditions. First, the tutorial examines some of the evidence for prospective control, when reinforcers are absent, or temporally distant, or when reinforcer effects are inconsistent with strengthening. Next, I explore how quantitative models can provide a testable explanation of control by the likely future, as extrapolated from the past. Finally, the tutorial considers the implications of a shift from understanding control in terms of retrospective response-reinforcer pairings to prospection on the basis of the perceived structure of the environment, and argues that in conjunction with quantitative models, prospective control need not invoke an inner organism.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

This talk is aimed at behavior analysts interested in new ways to measure and describe apparently changes in behavior, and/or in new approaches to understanding how reinforcers affect behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss a prospective-control approach to understanding the transaction between behavior and environment, and why this approach might be advantageous in research and practice; (2) discuss some ways to use quantitative models to provide a simple description of apparently complex behaviour; (3) discuss a quantitative model that asserts that behavior comes under control of relations between stimuli (including brief stimuli like reinforcers and behaviors).
SARAH COWIE (The University of Auckland)

Sarah Cowie obtained her Ph.D. in 2014 at the University of Auckland, under the supervision of Professor Michael Davison and Dr. Douglas Elliffe. Since graduating with her Ph.D., Sarah’s research has explored how past experience translates into control by the present and the likely future.

Keyword(s): discrimination, prospection, quantitative modeling, reinforcement



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