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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #60
Interactions Between Organisms: Experimental Analyses of Social Behavior
Saturday, May 27, 2023
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: The experimental analysis of social behavior investigates the parameters of operant social behavior in which the behavior of two or more organisms interacts with and/or influences each other. Social interaction (e.g., cooperation) is a type of operant social behavior in which the presentation or distribution of consequences is modulated by the behavior of participating organisms. Three experiments that investigated different domains of social interaction will be discussed in this symposium. The first presentation discusses experiments in which the behavior of pigeons was maintained under mediated reinforcement contingencies. The second presentation involves experiments related to social interactions using game theory and its relevance to principles of positive reinforcement. The third presentation is concerned with experiments regarding coordinated responding and the influence of environmental contexts on coordination contingencies. This symposium thus will provide the audience with an overview of contemporary developments in the experimental analysis of several different types of operant social interactions.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): "animal behavior", "social behavior", "social interaction"
Altruism in Pigeons?: Maintenance of Responding When Each Co-actor Produces the Other’s Reinforcers
KENTO YASUKAWA (West Virginia Univeristy ), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: In this research we examined mediated reinforcement, where each of two co-actors produced reinforcement for their partner, but not for themselves. In Experiment 1, a discrete trials procedure was used to alternate after each reinforcer between the pigeons making a single response to produce a reinforcer for its co-actor and on the next trial receiving a single reinforcer produced by the other pigeon. In Experiment 2, the requirement to transition between responding and receiving reinforcers was progressively increased across sessions. For example, if the pigeons successfully alternated between co-actors by responding/receiving reinforcers three consecutive times, the next session on the following day would require four consecutive responding/receiving reinforcers. This procedure continued until the pigeons failed to complete a social episode for three consecutive days. A social episode was defined as both pigeons responding an equal amount of time and receiving equal amounts of reinforcers. Responding between the pigeons was maintained and reinforcement not directly contingent on the pigeon’s own response maintained their behavior. The data suggest that behavior that may seem altruistic on the surface may be accounted for by interlocking contingencies impinging on the behavior of each co-actor.

Prisoner's Dilemma and the Free Operant: John Nash, I'd Like You to Meet Fred Skinner

JOHN V. KELLER (Geriatric Behavior Laboratory - GerBL)

The games of Game Theory model important social interactions. Recently (Keller, 2022), I reported studies in which pigeons and people played different games. In every case the results were entirely predictable from Skinner’s principle of positive reinforcement in conjunction with Nash’s equilibrium concept. My studies, like most, used a trials procedure. Players made a choice of one of two (or three) alternatives. The outcome of that choice was determined by the choice just made by the other player. While it is tempting to apply game-theory principles to human affairs (unsurprisingly, many theoreticians have done so) there is at least one major difference between laboratory studies of game theory and ordinary human conduct. Seldom is everyday behavior a simple response to a repeatedly presented stimulus (i.e., a trials procedure). Rather, it is a stream of behavior in constant interaction with the environment. It is the activity captured by Skinner’s term operant behavior. The present experiments determined whether game theory principles equally describe such operant behavior -- an investigation of game-theory with coupled concurrent schedules of reinforcement. The results demonstrated that Nashian mathematical principles and the principle of positive reinforcement, again entirely accounted for all the results.


Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Analyses of Coordinated Responding

BRIAN R. KATZ (University of Vermont), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)

Experimental analyses of coordinated responding (i.e., cooperation) have been derived from a procedure described by Skinner (1962) in which reinforcers were delivered to a pair of subjects (a dyad) if both responded within a short interval, thus satisfying a coordination contingency. Although it has been suggested that this contingency enhances rates of temporally coordinated responding, limitations of past experiments have raised questions concerning this conclusion. The present experiments addressed limitations of previous work by holding the schedule of reinforcement (Experiment 1: fixed-ratio 1; Experiment 2; variable-interval 20 s) constant across phases and between dyad members, and varying the number of keys across which responses could be coordinated. Greater percentages of coordinated responding were observed under coordinated- than under independent-reinforcement phases in most conditions. The one exception during the one-key condition of Experiment 1 appeared to be a consequence of variability introduced by the independent-reinforcement phase procedure. Furthermore, coordination percentages decreased systematically with increasing response options under both schedules. The present results thus confirm that coordination contingencies induce higher rates of temporally coordinated responding than independent-reinforcement contingencies. The results further indicate that the effects of coordination contingences can be influenced by the environmental context in which those contingencies operate.




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