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 Paper Session #297A
CE Offered: BACB — 
Toward a Science of Applied Animal Behavior Analysis: Experimental, Ethological, and Ethical Considerations
Monday, May 29, 2023
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Nathaniel Hall (Texas Tech University)
CE Instructor: Lindsay Renee Mehrkam, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: LINDSAY RENEE MEHRKAM (Monmouth University)
Abstract: Behavior analysis has a rich history of using animals to study learning and environment-behavior relations. Applying this knowledge to improve the welfare of animals used in teaching and research, however, is a relatively recent and exciting area of exploration for behavior analysts. This talk will review the history of how behavior analytic approaches have been successfully extended to applied animal settings and describe the framework for current and future directions for the field of applied animal behavior analysis. Using the concepts and principles experimental analysis in behavior as a starting point, we will move beyond the operant chamber to see how ethology can give insight as to how to maximize the generality of applied behavior analysis procedures across species, settings, and stimuli. This will include highlighting successful examples of single-subject designs for evaluating enrichment practices in zoo animals, evaluating preferences and reinforcer efficacy for food, toys, and social stimuli for a wide range of species, and the creation and evaluation of shaping plans and behavior contracts for cooperative care programs to help prepare for veterinary exams through our university-based animal behavior research clinic for community dogs and cats. We will even see how teaching goldfish to play soccer can be a humane way to use live animals to teach learning principles to students while also benefiting student learning and well-being outcomes as well. Finally, we will discuss ways in which adopting a behavior analytic approach can help animal researchers meet important animal welfare requirements, aid professionals in improving the integrity of their training and enrichment programs, and emphasize the ethical considerations to be aware of when delivering behavioral services to animals and their caregivers to promote positive human-animal interactions.
Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Academics, practitioners, animal trainers, dog owners, zookeepers, animal researchers

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe how single-subject designs can be applied to simultaneously teach classical and operant learning principles and promote animal welfare (2) Apply the seven dimensions of applied behavior analysis to animal settings (3) Recognize and address ethical considerations and situations when working in applied animal behavior settings in research and in practice.
LINDSAY RENEE MEHRKAM (Monmouth University)
Lindsay R. Mehrkam, Ph.D. is an associate professor of psychology and Principal Investigator of the Human & Animal Wellness Collaboratory (HAWC) at Monmouth University. As an animal welfare scientist and doctoral-level board-certified behavior analyst, her research focuses on the benefits of human-animal interaction with the aim of improving the welfare of both animals and people in society. Specifically, Dr. Mehrkam’s research examines how environmental factors influence play, aggression, and stereotypic behavior in companion and exotic animals, how to promote behavioral choices and welfare of captive animals, and how to best conduct formal evaluations of training and enrichment practices in a variety of animal settings and species (from goldfish to Galapagos tortoises). In her role as Chair of MU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, she uses behavior analytic approaches to and promote the humane use of animals in teaching and research and conducts evaluations of animal-assisted teaching interventions. Dr. Mehrkam is currently a faculty fellow with the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which focuses on developing nationwide assessments on pet owners’ behavioral services and data visualization in collaboration with the Applied Animal Behavior Research Clinic, a community-based clinic for pet dogs, cats, and their owners. Her teaching and research programs in applied animal behavior have led to publications, national and international conference presentations, seminars, and workshops as well as internships and service learning opportunities in animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, and animal sanctuaries. She has been recognized through popular media outlets, grants, and scholarly and industry awards, including the Association for Professional Dog Trainers, Maddie’s Fund, and the Animal Behavior Society. Finally, Dr. Mehrkam serves as the president of the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s Applied Animal Behavior Special Interest Group for the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), which promotes applied animal behavior analytic research, set high standards in methods and techniques of animal training and enrichment, and promote the well-being of animals in society.



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