Association for Behavior Analysis International

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11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #110
Science of operant behavior at a molecular level
Saturday, September 3, 2022
11:30 AM–12:20 PM
Meeting Level 2; Wicklow Hall 2A
Area: EAB/PCH; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Per Holth (OsloMet -- Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: In the laboratory, operant behavior can often be precisely predicted and controlled at a molecular level. These three presentations will demonstrate such issues experimentally and outline theoretical and applied implications of the ability to predict and control operant behavior at the local level.
Instruction Level: Intermediate

Prediction and control of moment-to-moment pauses in operant behavior

IVER H. IVERSEN (University of North Florida)

Operant behavior is intermixed with a variety of other activities, often called collateral behavior. When behavior is analyzed at the molecular level, the various activities seem to occur in perplexing complex patterns. Experiments attempted to cast a light on predictability of operant behavior based on patterns of other activities. In one experiment, inter-response times (IRTs) in lever pressing could be predicted by which collateral behavior occurred at the onset of the IRT. For example, if rats were grooming one could predict a long IRT, if rats remained near the lever one could predict a short IRT. In a second experiment, a simple discrimination was established so that a lever press had to occur when a light turned on. The latency to respond to the light varied predictably with the position and activity of the rat when the light turned on. Operant behavior can also be controlled at the molecular level. Pauses in operant behavior can be made long or short by manipulating access to collateral behavior. The presentation will outline theoretical and applied implications of the ability to predict and control operant behavior at the local level.

Prediction and Control of Behavioral Variability at a Molecular Level
PER HOLTH (OsloMet -- Oslo Metropolitan University), Siv Kristin Nergaard (OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: Behavioral variability has been shown to increase when reinforcement is contingent upon it. However, the explanation of how that comes about is not quite clear. The interpretation of what happens when variability increases in typical variability experiments is hampered by the complexity of the descriptive behavioral units. Those units typically consist of sequences of responses, separated by forced inter-response intervals. Therefore, the current experiment focused on several clearly distinguishable responses to different operanda rather than sequences of responses to only two operanda. The results support earlier findings that the degree of behavioral variability changes with changing lag requirements. However, the study of easily discriminable responses makes possible a detailed description of how local contingencies of reinforcement oscillate between reinforcement and extinction of the different response types. These local changes in contingencies apparently suffice in explaining the resulting variability and makes redundant any explanation in terms of a random generator or variability as an operant dimension on its own.
Farewell, My Lovely!--nearly 50 years after
SIV KRISTIN NERGAARD (OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University), Per Holth (OsloMet -- Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: In Farewell, my lovely!, Skinner (1976) mourned the diminishing use of cumulative curves. He went on to write that he would miss the type of experiments where cumulative curves are needed to properly present the data even more than the cumulative curves themselves. Skinner was right, cumulative curves and the typical experiments performed to produce these curves are more or less completely absent from behavior analytical journals. Instead, the molar framework of aggregated statistics is more commonly used to present results today. In the same editorial, Skinner argued that something gets lost when an experiment has to reach steady-state before data collection even begins. Why did Skinner mourn the loss of cumulative curves and the type of experiments needed to produce them? Could these records and type of experiments still be useful today? Do we get the same information when using aggregated statistics, or is it possible that we lose important information about the moment-to-moment behavior under study?



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