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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #473
The Experimental Analysis of Social Behavior: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Operant Social Behavior
Monday, May 27, 2019
11:00 AM–12:50 PM
Swissôtel, Concourse Level, Zurich E-G
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Andres H. Garcia-Penagos (Delta State University)
Discussant: Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Compared to other disciplines like social psychology and behavioral ecology, relatively little research has been devoted in the experimental analysis of behavior to the understanding of social behavior, and of behavior in social circumstances, despite the recognition of the importance and relevance of such knowledge. The four papers in this symposium will present and discuss methodological approaches and the data collected by this means into our understanding of these phenomena that suggest a renewed and increasing interest in this topic and that extend the possibility of productive collaborative research outside of the traditional areas of inquiry in the experimental analysis of behavior. Two papers (Yencha; Garcia-Penagos & Shteynberg) explore the issue of audience effects in the operant responding of pigeons and humans, respectively, the first one on responding controlled by variable interval contingencies, and the second one on optimal response allocation in a three-choice task. The remaining two papers (Hackenberg, Wan & Kirkman; Avila & Toledo) explore determinants of altruistic behavior and cooperation in rats and humans, respectively. Hackenberg et al., will discuss evidence for and against the assumption that rats display cooperative behaviors in a social-release paradigm. Avila and Toledo will present data on the effects of increasing costs and decreasing benefits for cooperating on cooperative human behavior in prisoner dilemma scenarios. Discussion of these papers will center on the methodological and conceptual implications of introducing social variables in the traditionally isolated operant box (and its analogues with human participants), as well as in the contributions that the experimental analysis of behavior can make to the understanding of the phenomena related to social behavior.
Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): cooperation, social behavior, social discounting, social stimulation
Antecedent Effects of Social Stimuli on Operant Behavior
MICHAEL STEELE YENCHA (West Virginia University )
Abstract: The variables affecting social behavior are myriad, making the prediction and control of behavior occurring in social contexts relatively difficult. One can attempt to create a controlled social context in the laboratory by introducing a second organism into an operant chamber. To investigate antecedent effects of social stimuli on operant responding, key pecking responses of three pigeons were maintained on a variable-interval (VI) schedule of reinforcement. During the baseline condition no social stimuli were present in the operant chamber. When VI responding was stable, a mirror was introduced into the operant chamber to simulate the presence of another organism. The mirror covered the right side wall of the chamber adjacent to the work panel containing the response key. Relative decreases in rates of responding were observed when the pigeons had access to their reflections compared to when no mirror was present. Response rates returned to baseline levels when the mirror was removed in the following reversal condition, suggesting that access to visual-social stimuli disrupted pigeon behavior controlled by VI schedules of reinforcement.

Do Rats Share Food?: Tests with the Social-Release Paradigm

TIMOTHY D. HACKENBERG (Reed College), Haoran Wan (Reed College), Cyrus Fletcher Kirkman (Reed College)

Rats were given repeated choices between food and 30-s social access to a familiar rat, with the amount, location, and availability of food systematically manipulated across conditions. Social access was arranged by lifting a door to a restraint, within which the partner rat was held. Of primary interest was if, and under what conditions, rats would share food with the partner rat, operationally defined as a sequence of responses, consisting of (a) producing food; (b) producing social release; and (c) with food remaining in the receptacle, permitting food consumption by the partner rat. Consistent responding was maintained for access to both reinforcers across a series of conditions designed to vary the motivational value of food (varying the number of pellets per response and homecage food access). Responding for social access tended to occur later in the session, following high levels of food consumption, but sharing rarely occurred (<1% pellets produced), even with very rich schedules (5 pellets under FR1) and no food restriction outside the sessions. Taken as a whole, the present results cast doubt on claims in the literature that rats are motivated by empathy to share food with other rats.

Undiscounted Costs and Socially-Discounted Benefits of Cooperating as Predictors of Cooperation in Prisoner’s Dilemma Games
RAUL AVILA (National Autonomous University of Mexico), ALDO TOLEDO (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
Abstract: Cooperation is commonly defined as costly acts of an individual by which other person or persons benefit, as well as himself. It has been suggested that cooperative behavior is more likely to occur whether the benefit to others, discounted as a function of social distance (social discounting), is greater than the undiscounted cost of cooperating. The purpose of the current study was to contribute to the costs-benefits analysis, estimated with the social-discounting equation, as a prediction of cooperative behavior. We tested five two-player prisoner’s dilemma reward matrices in 117 participants, among which both undiscounted costs and socially-discounted benefits to others of cooperating varied. Costs and benefits were defined as the amount the participant lose and the amount the other player won whether the participant cooperated, respectively. Globally, systematically increasing costs and decreasing benefits of cooperating decreased the percentage of participants who cooperated, as predicted. These results suggest that costs-benefits of cooperating analyses are useful to predict cooperative behavior in social situations.
Shared Attention in a Three-Alternative Choice Task
ANDRES H. GARCIA-PENAGOS (Delta State University), Garriy Shteynberg (University of Tennessee)
Abstract: The allocation of behavior in a modified version of a three-alternative choice task (Kangas et al., 2009; Lie, Baxter & Alsop, 2013) was examined with 168 undergraduate students as participants. These participants completed the choice task either by themselves or with a confederate in the experimental room who had limited access to the participant's responding and performance. In this abridged version of the three-alternative choice task, which consisted of a computerized version of the classic rock-paper-scissors game, the probabilities that each of the three-alternatives was the correct choice in a particular trial was manipulated across four blocks. Furthermore, these probabilities were presented in either an ascending or descending order of discriminability. Overall, the social manipulation of shared attention by a coattending confederate didn’t have any significant effect in optimal allocation, with most participants showing undermatching, but differences were observed in the participant's strategies even if they didn't reflect in more optimal allocation. The sequence of probabilities across blocks, in contrast, was a good predictor of optimal allocation and this has potential implications for experimental choice research in humans



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