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 #351
Advances in the Analysis Social Behavior: Induction, Behavioral Ecology, and Cultural Analysis
Monday, May 29, 2023
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: April M. Becker (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Skinner (1957), argued that social behavior "has so many distinguishing dynamic and topological properties that a special treatment is justified and, indeed, demanded" (p. 2). Despite such claims, only recently has a reconsideration of the importance and relevance of the study of social behavior has been observed within the experimental analysis of behavior. This renewed emphasis, has the potential to connect behavior analytic research with that done in many other disciplines, from behavior ecology to anthropology and economics, in a way that is mutually enriching. This symposium will review conceptual and methodological advances in the study of social behavior illustrating the theoretical and practical benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach to social phenomena.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral ecology, primary reinforcement, social behavior, social learning
Beyond Social Reinforcement: Conceptual, Theoretical, and Applied Implications of an Induction Approach to the Analysis of Socially-Delivered Consequences
ANDRES H. GARCIA-PENAGOS (California State University, Chico)
Abstract: Until relatively recently, the study of so-called “social reinforcers,” including such socially delivered consequences as “physical contact, proximity, attention, and praise” (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2020, p. 267) was limited to their use and efficacy in applied contexts. Recent research in the experimental analysis of behavior (e.g., Hackenberg et al., 2021), however, has lead to a renewed interest on the dynamics and importance of social consequences such as the opportunity for social interactions, beyond the outdated debate on whether social consequences should be understood as “primary” or “secondary” reinforcers. Baum (e.g. 2012; 2020) has recently advanced the view that both antecedent and consequent environmental control can be more parsimoniously addressed in terms of Induction (Segal, 1972), rather than under the traditional "strengthening" approach characteristic of the notion of reinforcement. In line with such traditional view, the typical notions of "social reinforcers" have inherited some of its conceptual problems, including among others an implicit hedonistic understanding. This paper will discuss the conceptual implications of Baum's redefinition of reinforcement for the analysis of social antecedents and consequences, and will link it to recent advances in the areas of enactivism and ecological psychology.

Researchers in Animal Social Behavior Insist They Account for Learning Theory, but Do They? A Call for Behavior Analysts to Enter the Discussion

CHRISTINA NORD (University of California, Davis)

Animal behavior, like all behavior, is always in concert with the environment in which the behavior is embedded. Often, the environment contains other individuals. Even animals that are principally solitary have to interact with others on occasion in order to find a mate and successfully reproduce. As such, animal behavior research is rich with observations and subsequent questions surrounding social behavior. I first overview how social behavior is approached in behavior ecology research, and, in particular, the field of social learning. I will illustrate that behavior analytic approaches, and behaviorism, in general is not unknown to social behavior research, but is, unsurprisingly, often misused and misrepresented in these fields. I contend that behavior analysis should do more to focus on areas more often addressed in fields interested in social behavior because ontogeny us often subject of these areas. Finally, I overview a number of interesting longstanding questions in social behavior research for which behavior analysts could offer meaningful insight.

Seeking Natural Units in a Metacontingency
CARLOS LOPEZ (University of North Texas)
Abstract: A prominent concept used within behavior analysis in the area of social interactions is the “metacontingency.” The metacontingency is a contingent consequence that occurs as a result of interlocked behavior of many organisms. There is debate over the idea that a consequence may lead to the development of multi-organismic analytical unit of behavior. Studies suggest this unit consists of the recurring interlocking behavioral contingencies (IBCs) that produce an aggregate product (AP) which together, the culturant, is selected by an environmental stimulus or event (CC). While substantial experimental work shows the culturant is susceptible to selection by environmental manipulations, the question of a truly natural cultural unit has remained divisive. We investigated whether natural lines of fracture on the cultural level may arise via metacontingency arrangements. We sought to replicate the approach that was applied to the search for natural lines of fracture in individual behavior. Our study used a 2-player game similar to connect four focusing on two participants’ interactions. This presentation will cover the results of the study and discuss its implications. The results suggest certain classes of IBCs may function as natural units within the metacontingency, however more interrogation is needed to confirm our understanding of the culturant.



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