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 #160
Private Events: A Matter of Threshold, Culture, and Analysis Refinement
Saturday, May 29, 2021
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Area: PCH/BPN; Domain: Theory
Chair: Aecio De Borba Vasconcelos Neto (Universidade Federal do Para)
Abstract: Skinner’s1945 paper, outlined the conceptual underpinnings by which behaviorists may begin to analyze private events without relying on psychological constructs. By emphasizing how the verbal community gains confidence in delivering differential reinforcement contingent on verbal reports under control of private events, Skinner laid the initial foundation for developing a sophisticated interpretation of diverse private phenomena (thoughts, emotions, and perceptions). Though this initial foundation placed private events firmly in the behavior analytic framework, little progress has occurred in the way of refining our understanding or optimizing the utility of an analysis of private events. This symposium will discuss three potential foci for consideration as possible avenues for further refining the analysis of private events. The first talk discusses deep neural network analysis and how shifting the threshold of observability might affect our analysis of private events. The second talk discusses the importance of verbal community in analyzing private events and suggests potential benefits of emphasizing cultural and verbal practices when attempting to understand private events. The final presentation highlights two-factors limiting our analysis of private events and contributing to the lack of conceptual refinement and discusses how behaviorists might address these factors through terminological refinement and consideration of analyses across dimensions.
Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): Cultural Events, Neuro Science, Private Events, Radical Behaviorism
Radical Behaviorism and Deep Neural Network Reconstruction of Perceptual Responses
DANIELE ORTU (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Radical behaviorism suggests that behaving perceptually often involves responding privately, or covertly. For instance, an organism may engage in "seeing" behavior, in the presence or absence of an object. The observability of a perceptual response, however, is not a property of the response itself but depends on the sensitivity of the measurement tool used by the experimenter. Recent neuroscientific research based on Deep Neural Network algorithms has been able, starting from neuroimaging data measured while participants were exposed to visual stimuli, to measure a perceptual response corresponding to the visual stimuli participants were exposed to (e.g., Shen, Dwivedi, Majima, Horikawa, and Kamitani, 2019). Here we provide a critical assessment of the DNN analysis and discuss the theoretical and practical implications of shifting the threshold of response observability.
Private Events: A Good Start, But More to Go
AECIO DE BORBA VASCONCELOS NETO (Universidade Federal do Para)
Abstract: In his classical The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms, Skinner offered a perspective on talking about psychological events that did not resort to mental, fictional constructs. This framework offered behavior analysts a way to interpret and discuss diverse phenomena as thoughts, feelings, emotions, and perceptions. The concept is not widely accepted in the area, though, as equating psychological and private events may hinder the analysis of the contingencies of reinforcement. In this conceptual talk, we discuss private events highlighting Skinner’s remarks that learning how to talk about private events requires contingencies of reinforcement maintained by a verbal community, and that understanding psychological event needs to take those practices in account. By adding cultural and verbal practices to this discussion, the behavior analyst may better understand and intervene in the contingencies governing behavior, without falling into the trap of internalist accounts. Thus, the concept of private events is an important step to understand psychological phenomena in an internalist culture, but cannot be the last step in the behavior analyst analysis.
Making Progress in Our Analysis of Private Events
BRENNAN PATRICK ARMSHAW (University of North Texas), Manish Vaidya (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Skinner (1945) offered a conceptual analysis of the conditions under which a speaker’s report comes to be controlled by events accessible only to the speaker. In particular, Skinner outlined the ways in which the verbal community gains confidence in delivering differential reinforcement contingent on verbal reports under control of private events. The paper offered an interpretation of the difficulties inherent in talking about private events and also hinted at a process for creating and sharpening the control exerted by private events. However, there has been little progress in understanding of private events or our ability to teach control by private events. In this paper, we explore the contributions of two limiting factors. One is the failure to distinguish between private stimuli and private responses and, instead, treating the phenomena generically as an event. Terminological clarity regarding the target of analysis may be important if our understanding is to progress. Another limitation may result from our failure to distinguish private events along potentially relevant dimensions such as temporal extent and chronic versus punctuated occurrences. In this presentation, we discuss the potential conceptual and practical benefits of addressing these limitations.



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