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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #290
CE Offered: BACB
A Review of Behavioral Cusps and Their Extensions
Sunday, May 30, 2021
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: DEV/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Robin Kuhn (University of Kansas)
Discussant: Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Ph.D.

The concept of the behavioral cusp was introduced in the late 1990’s. Since then, the concept has been widely accepted as fundamental to an understanding of behavioral development. Despite widespread use of the term within behavioral parlance, exploration of the concept and its extensions within the literature or experimental validation of the concept and its extensions have been somewhat circumscribed. There remains considerable potential to build more momentum in the development of the concept as well as expanding its versatility and overall utilization. The first presentation in this symposium will review the behavioral cusp literature. The second presentation will provide an overview of social cusps, an extension of behavioral cusps. A discussion reflecting on the concept will follow by an originator of behavioral cusp concept. This symposium is meant to lead into a separately scheduled panel discussion following the symposium, with panelists further discussing the past, present, and future of behavioral cusps.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Prerequisites include familiarity with behavior analytic terminology and concepts as well as single-case research design methodology.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) summarize use of the behavioral cusp concept in the literature; (2) describe methods for experimentally validating the establishment of behavioral cusps; and (3) specify various extensions of the behavioral cusp concept.

The Behavioral Cusp: Where We Came From and Where We Are Going

APRIL M. BECKER (University of North Texas and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), Sarah E. Pinkelman (Utah State University), Robin Kuhn (University of Kansas)

Rosales-Ruiz and Baer (1996) introduced the concept of the “behavioral cusp,” or a “an interaction, or complex of interactions, that enables access to new reinforcers, new contingencies, and new communities of reinforcement and contingencies - and thus to new behaviors” (p. 165), extending the reach of behavior analysis into the developmental domain. Since the pioneering chapter and subsequent article were published (Rosales-Ruiz & Baer, 1997), several formative works have explored the behavioral cusp concept, expanding its application to novel domains as well as extending the concept itself. To date, no systematic reviews have been conducted examining the use of the cusp in the literature. Thus, the purpose of this presentation is to (a) broadly examine the ways in which the term has been used in the literature via systematic review, (b) identify and offer interpretations of trends in term use, and (c) discuss possible future uses that could benefit the field.

An Overview of Social Learning Cusps
(Applied Research)
JESSICA SINGER-DUDEK (Teachers College, Columbia University)
Abstract: Verbal Behavior Development Theorists posit that the cusps necessary for language and social development are in fact conditioned reinforcers that create the necessary stimulus control necessary for further development to occur. The emergence or deliberate establishment of a developmental cusp will make subsequent learning possible; without the cusp, the individual will demonstrate slow rates of learning, or no learning at all. Social cusps are conditioned reinforcers that are necessary for an individual to learn through indirect contact with environmental contingencies (e.g., through observation). This symposium will provide an overview of social learning cusps and the research behind the identification of each as well as procedures for establishing those cusps when they are missing.



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