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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Invited Tutorial #168
CE Offered: BACB
SQAB Tutorial:Three Laws of Behavior: Allocation, Induction, and Covariance
Saturday, May 27, 2023
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 4
Area: SCI; Domain: Theory
BACB CE Offered. CE Instructor: William M. Baum, Ph.D.
Chair: Leonard Green (Washington University in St. Louis)
Presenting Authors: : WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)

Like any science, a science of behavior seeks to measure its phenomena and explain them. Measurement entails ontological commitments, and from an ontological viewpoint, behavior is process, measured by the time it takes up. Since time is limited, activities must compete with one another for time. The Law of Allocation states that the relative time taken up by an activity equals the activity’s relative competitive weight. Explaining behavioral allocation means finding the determiners of competitive weight. The two basic determiners are induction and covariance. The Law of Induction states that behavior depends on environmental events that affect reproductive success—phylogenetically important events (PIEs). PIEs induce both adjunctive behavior and operant behavior: adjunctive behavior because of phylogenetic contingencies; operant behavior because of ontogenetic contingencies. The law of covariance applies to ontogenetic contingencies. A PIE induces an operant activity when the rate of that PIE covaries with the rate of the operant activity. Otherwise neutral events also induce operant activities and adjunctive activities when such events covary with PIEs. Such inducers have commonly been called discriminative stimuli and conditional stimuli. Induction far exceeds reinforcement in explanatory power. The three laws of allocation, induction, and covariance explain most known behavioral phenomena.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts of all stripes

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) State the Law of Allocation in words; (2) Define a phylogenetically important event (PIE); and (3) Define behavior-PIE (B-PIE) covariance.
WILLIAM M. BAUM (University of California, Davis)
Dr. Baum received his BA in psychology from Harvard College in 1961. Originally a biology major, he switched to psychology after taking courses from B. F. Skinner and R. J. Herrnstein in his freshman and sophomore years. He attended Harvard University for graduate study in 1962, where he was supervised by Herrnstein and received his Ph.D. in 1966. He spent the year 1965–66 at Cambridge University, studying ethology at the Sub-Department of Animal Behavior. From 1966 to 1975, he held appointments as post-doctoral fellow, research associate, and assistant professor at Harvard University. He spent two years at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory for Brain, Evolution, and Behavior and then accepted an appointment in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1977. He retired from there in 1999. He currently has an appointment as associate researcher at the University of California, Davis and lives in Walnut Creek. His research concerns choice, molar behavior/environment relations, foraging, cultural evolution, and behaviorism. He is the author of two books, Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution (3rd ed.) and Science and Philosophy of Behavior: Selected Papers. • William M Baum, University of California, Davis, and University of New Hampshire • Three Laws of Behavior: Allocation, Induction, and Covariance



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