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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Special Event #243
CHOICE: Session 3
Sunday, May 26, 2019
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom CD North
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Chair: R. Douglas Greer (Columbia University Teachers College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
CE Instructor: R. Douglas Greer, Ph.D.

CHOICE: How Stimuli Come to Choose: Transformation, Valuation, and Durability of Learned Reinforcers


From a behavioral selectionist perspective, it is not the individual who chooses, but the consequent stimuli (e.g., reinforcers) that select out responding. New reinforcers are learned throughout the lifespan, just as new responses are learned. When new reinforcers are acquired, stimuli that do not function to reinforce are transformed such that new stimulus control is established. The question is: How do stimuli that did not have value come to be transformed into reinforcers, or, how are new reinforcers learned? This presentation will describe three ways in which new reinforcers are established with children: stimulus-stimulus pairings, operant procedures, and observational conditioning-by-denial procedures. These procedures have been successful in altering the value of stimuli leading to changes in a) musical preference and “appreciation,” b) food preferences, c) social reinforcers, d) educational reinforcers, e) foundational verbal developmental cusps, such as observing responses, and f) stimulus control for social learning.

JESSICA SINGER-DUDEK (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek is the Director of Transdisciplinary Programs in ABA at Columbia University Teachers College. She also serves as a Senior Behavior Analyst Consultant to schools implementing the Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling (CABAS®) model, and serves as the CABAS® Professional Advisory Board Secretary/Treasurer. Dr. Dudek’s research interests include component analyses of successful behavior analytic models of education, teacher and supervisor training, verbally governed and verbally governing behaviors, establishment of early observing responses, verbal behavior development, conditioned reinforcement, and observational learning.


CHOICE: How Should/Do People Choose When Discrimination is Difficult?


Classic models of signal detection assume that subjects set a criterion on a similarity dimension, calling all events below that S1 and all above S2. The criterion should be set at the point that maximizes the expected (long run) payoffs. This tutorial describes that model and the effect of discriminability (d’) on the ability to accurately position the criterion. It is shown that the forces driving the criterion toward optimal are too weak and complicated to ever work when discriminability is poor. How do subjects do it? They don’t: They deviate systematically from optimality. Why? What do they actually do? Will any model successfully predict their behavior? How is Gerd Gigerenzer relevant? These questions will be answered, and those answers questioned.

PETER KILLEEN (Arizona State University)

Peter received his doctorate in 1969 under the perplexed gazes of Howie Rachlin, Dick Herrnstein, and Fred Skinner. His first (and only) position was at Arizona State University (in the department Previously-Known-As Fort Skinner in the Desert). He has studied choice behavior and schedule-induced responses like polydipsia, reinforcement schedules, timing, and delay discounting. His reinforcers include the Poetry in Science Award; the APA Div. 25 Med Outstanding Researcher Award; 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. He has written oodles of screeds on Choice; his first, now receiving social security, showed that pigeons were indifferent between free food and schedules where they had to work for it; his last was a deep dive into the logistics of choice What matters in his golden years is family and friends, the well-being of behavior analysis, and thinking deep thoughts. He is urging our field to turn some of their efforts to understanding the role of emotions in behavior, and bridging to the outer world through embodied cognition. About these you will hear more at the presidential address.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss a behavioral selectionist point of view of choice; (2) discuss various methods of how stimuli are transformed into conditioned reinforcers; (3) discuss the effects of learned reinforcers on a wide variety of social and non-social behaviors; (4) draw the logo of SDT, and show how the criterion should move with changes in frequency of signal or payoff changes; (5) explain what today’s analysis demonstrates to be the strategy people probably use; (6) scratch your head over why optimality analysis persisted as a descriptive model many decades after it was invalidated; (7) argue whether it remains a good normative model; (8) explain what “to Gerd” means.



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