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 #24
How to Think About Time
Saturday, May 29, 2021
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: PCH/EAB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Elizabeth Kyonka (California State University - East Bay)
Abstract: How do behavior analysts think about time and timing, and how does that thinking influence our science and practice? Three presentations will discuss different areas of contemporary interval timing research and explore some possible implications for how behavior analysts should think about time. Many factors can affect the rate at which time seems to pass. For example, sometimes time seems to drag for people engaged in repetitive tasks. Could this subjective slowing account for systematic changes in delay discounting that occur within experimental sessions? Duration discrimination and motivation to respond both involve hippocampal function, and both impact the distribution of responses in time. Can investigating interactions between timing and motivation in behavioral experiments help behavioral neuroscientists to disambiguate the underlying neurobiological processes? Why is there seemingly so much laboratory research on interval timing in behavior analysis, and comparatively little interval timing research in applied settings? This discrepancy may be real, or it might be an artefact of differences in terminology. Regardless, what might be gained by addressing the apparent discrepancy and how might behavior analysts begin to do so?
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): hippocampus, interval timing, temporal bisection, translational research
Delay Discounting and Temporal Bisection: When People Are Less Willing to Wait Does Time Subjectively Drag?
(Basic Research)
ANNE C. MACASKILL (Victoria University of Wellington), Kate Witt (Victoria University of Wellington), Maree J. Hunt (Victoria University of Wellington)
Abstract: People often choose a smaller reward now over a larger reward later, and are even more likely to do this when they have to wait for the larger reward. To study this we ask people to make choices like whether to watch five seconds of a funny video now or wait for 15 seconds and then watch 10 seconds of video. Across several experiments in our lab people have become more impulsive during an hour- long experimental session. On the first trial they might opt to wait for 10 seconds, but on the 30th trial they are no longer willing to wait. We wondered: is that because time starts to drag as the session wears on? To test this, we had participants complete a temporal bisection task three times during the session. In this task, participants learn to classify a two-second stimulus as “short” and a four-second stimulus as “long” and then classify intermediate stimuli (e.g three seconds) without feedback. There was no change across the session in participants’ subjective time perception even while willingness to wait decreased. In a second experiment we removed forced-choice trials that reminded participants of the trained durations; the pattern of results replicated. It remains unclear why participants make more impulsive choices later in the session, and why this order effect is in the opposite direction to that seen in other kinds of delay-amount trade-off tasks.

Isolating Temporal Control in Long-Interval Timing Tasks: Implications for Research on Hippocampal Function

(Basic Research)
TANYA GUPTA (Arizona State University), Federico Sanabria (Arizona State University)

Differential responding to long intervals—i.e., long-interval timing—requires a functional hippocampus (HPC). However, reduced timing capacity in HPC-lesioned animals performing timing tasks is complicated by ostensible motivational effects which arise from the delay-to-reward imposed by interval timing tasks, as well as overlap between timed and non-timed responses. To address these concerns, two adjustments to long-interval timing tasks are proposed. First, subjects should be afforded with reinforced non-timing behaviors concurrent with timing. Second, subjects should initiate the onset of timed stimuli. Under these conditions, interference by extraneous behavior would be detected in the rate of concurrent non-timing behaviors, and changes in motivation would be detected in the rate at which timed stimuli are initiated. In a task with these characteristics, rats initiated a concurrent fixed-interval (FI) random-ratio (RR) schedule of reinforcement. Changes in schedule requirements affected the rate of initiating responses and the timing of changeovers, but reduced reinforcer efficacy, via pre-session feeding, only affected the former. A similar task using concurrent FI FI schedules revealed the effects of chronic variable stress—which reliably impacts hippocampal function—on motivation and interval timing.

The Untapped Translational Potential of Interval Timing Research
ELIZABETH KYONKA (California State University - East Bay), Shrinidhi Subramaniam (California State University, Stanislaus)
Abstract: Discovering ways that responses unfold in time has been an objective of the experimental analysis of behavior since its inception. Laboratory experimental analyses of behavior frequently address interval timing. Using temporal bisection tasks, fixed intervals, differential reinforcement of low rate and variations of those schedules, behavior analysts and others have characterized some of the ways that contingencies temporally regulate behavior. Interval timing research has provided an empirical foundation for the development of behavioral theories of timing and served as common ground between behavior analysts and scientists with other perspectives. Curiously, the subject of interval timing has attracted relatively little attention in applied settings. This disparity may have been established by historical limitations in available technology, but those limitations do not persist. This presentation will explore some perceived barriers to conducting research on the temporal characteristics of operant behavior outside of operant conditioning laboratories, outline the value of doing so, and imagine some first steps for tapping the translational potential of interval timing research.



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Modifed by Eddie Soh