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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #28
CE Offered: BACB
Relationships Between Reinforcement Value and behavioral Stages of Development I
Saturday, May 23, 2015
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
Texas Ballroom Salon E (Grand Hyatt)
Area: DEV/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: William Joseph Harrigan (Harvard University)
Discussant: Sagun Giri (Dare Association, Inc.)
CE Instructor: Michael Lamport Commons, Ph.D.

This symposium presents both theoretical analyses and data showing that behavioral developmental stage and value of reinforcers obtained can be combined to form a new theoretical model that explains behavior more powerfully than looking at reinforcing value alone. First, we illustrate how behavioral developmental stage on one hand and value of reinforcement interact. One way this happens is that the stage required for contingencies between one's own behavior and the consequences to be discriminable may exceed the stage of performance of the person. A second way is that stage has an influence on the effective value of events. This new integrative theory is then illustrated using data from a study of peddlers, in which it is shown that there is an empirical relationship between behavioral stages of development on economic tasks and the income people obtain (value). A third paper makes predictions about how investors might do in the stock market, given different behavioral stages of investing (lower stage investors net lower values). Finally, a fourth paper a study of how attachment entities change with development, with children reporting attachments mainly to people, pets, and objects, while adults report attachments to more abstract entities, such as ideals. These changes are shown to conform to the theory of behavioral developmental stages.

Keyword(s): Behavioral Stages, Reinforcement Value
The Sufficiency of Reinforcing Problem Solutions for Producing Transition to Formal Operations
MICHAEL LAMPORT COMMONS (Harvard Medical School)
Abstract: A racially and socio-economically integrated population of fifth and sixth grade students was repeatedly presented with problems that required formal behavioral stage action to address causality problems successfully. At the outset of the study, almost all of the participants performed at the concrete or abstract behavioral stage and not the formal behavioral stage. The participants were three to five years younger than those that typically exhibit formal-operational performance. Participants were presented with and trained on the laundry problem over six to eight weeks, an isolation of variables problem. With problem presentation alone and with problem presentation and feedback, no significant change occurred. The transition to the formal stage accelerated significantly only when correct answers were reinforced, supporting the sufficiency of reinforcement. By the end of the intervention, over 75% of the participants whose correct answers were reinforced, detected formal operational relationships on the laundry problem. Perhaps reinforcement could help supply less motivated students with the impetus to gain new, higher stage problem solving skill.
Behavioral Developmental Stage of Pricing Strategy and Country of Respondents Predicts Earnings: A Study of Informal Economics
LUCAS ALEXANDER HALEY COMMONS-MILLER (Dare Institute), Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School), Eva Yujia Li (University of Connecticut), Patrice Miller (Salem State University), Hudson Golino (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)
Abstract: Social stratification is a significant moral issue mostly driven by high levels of income disparity. A common notion is that such income disparity can be reduced by creating equal opportunity of education for all individuals. This cross-cultural study examines the relationship between behavioral stages of development on an economic task and income of the people being studied, controlling for education. Two groups of people were studied: people who sell things on the sidewalks (peddlers) and people who transport goods (carters). Participants were from Brazil and the United States. Studying informal economies across cultures allowed us to test the behavioral stage of pricing strategies used by people of varying education levels and determines the extent to which the behavioral developmental stage of economic reasoning affected income obtained. It was found that the developmental stage of participants’ pricing strategies, correlated most with how much they earned, r = .5. The developmental stage was a better predictor of income than education.
Behavioral Developmental Stages of Investing Using the Model of Hierarchical Complexity
CHRISTINE THEXTON (Harvard University), Michael Lamport Commons (Harvard Medical School)
Abstract: Most theories and studies of decision making are a-developmental. However, there is ample evidence that there are differences in behavior on many decision-making tasks between children and adults. This paper asserts that within adults there are differences in behavior on many decision-making tasks and discusses investment as a decision-making task that produce value. As the behavioral stages increase, the value obtained increases. The major properties of stages of investment behavior are a) does a person looks at variables, do they coordinate input variables with performance, do they form a system of possible causal variables? Whether a person can compare such systems built out of multiple causal relations, can they understand that such systems are either incomplete or not consistent? We propose that the rational theories of investing fail because most economic theories assume perfectly rational players in the market place. One of the major reasons that private investors do terribly in managing and investing money is the inadequate behavioral stage development of the investors on the task of investing.

A Behavioral Developmental Account of Attachment Across the Lifespan Integrating Notions of Reinforcement Value and Behavioral Stage

PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)

Old questions in moral development concern why individuals might act morally and why they might act in a caring way with others. Two seemingly alternative answers to these questions have been that these actions are based on justice judgments (Kohlberg, 1981 1984) or on relational concerns, such as caring (Gilligan, 1982). Here the notion of moral attachment is used to show how these notions fit together to address these questions. Notions of moral attachment, in fact, explicitly combine the caring aspect of relationships with the eventual development of moral judgments (Kohlberg & Kiessner, 1991). Attachment is a form of valuing the source of reinforcement. Based on work of Commons (1991), and more recently Miller and Commons (2011), it is shown that attachment develops in terms of: a) objects that attachment behaviors are directed toward (from one or two parents, to others in the family, to those outside the family, to groups, to pets, to objects, to abstractions, and so forth); b) the processes or contingencies that attachment behaviors develop within, c) attachment behaviors themselves, and d) verbal explanations of attachment relationships, among other aspects. These processes are shown to change due with behavioral stage, changes in responding to immediate versus delayed outcomes of different choices, and interactions of these two factors. The development of moral attachment and moral judgments based on the basic stages of attachment will be sketched out using this model. For example, at behavioral developmental stage 2, touching, holding, feeding are the major attachment processes. Those who are associated with consoling infants, typically the parents, become conditioned, comforting stimuli. Here, the groundwork for the infant's eventual attachment to the parents, and then their eventual behavior of approval seeking and internalization of moral values is established. Behavior at this stage is most responsive to immediate consequences with little tendency to delay. These early developments will be contrasted with those at later stages to give a more complete and detailed account of how stage and value determine moral action.




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