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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #485
CE Offered: BACB
Historical Perspectives of Applied Animal Behavior Analysis: Past, Present, and Future
Monday, May 27, 2024
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 102 AB
Area: AAB/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Christina A. Alligood (University of Kansas)
CE Instructor: Lindsay Mehrkam, Ph.D.
Abstract: Behavior analysis has a rich history of studying animals in order to better understand environment-behavior relations. Over the past 50 years, there has been a more recent and rapidly growing application of these principles to socially significant human and animal settings. This symposium will consist of a collection of talks that will offer a historical overview and perspectives of applied animal behavior analysis. First, we will explore the evolution of shaping technology and discuss how animal trainers have applied shaping games in various ways that extend the conceptual foundations of behavior analysis. Next, we will explore how historical events (in particular, the 1992 Annual Convention for the Association of Behavior Analysis) brought behavior analysts and applied animal behaviorists together for collaboration and creation of new communities. Third, we will examine how these philosophical, conceptual, and historical considerations have contributed to the defining characteristics of a science of socially significant behavior in animals that we know today and what lies ahead for the future of the field of applied animal behavior analysis.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): animal behavior, animal training, clicker training, shaping
Target Audience: The target audience will include individuals who are interested in learning about the history of behavior analysis and/or the history of behavior analysis with animals. This may include behavior analysts who are interested in extending their research, teaching, or practice to an applied animal setting and/or with animal learners. This may also include animal trainers and animal behaviorists who are interested in adopting and/or incorporating behavior analytic approaches into their work.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the history of the shaping game and discuss how animal trainers have used these games to teach shaping skills and illustrate behavior analytic concepts, (2) Identify the historical events within the Association of Behavior Analysis that inspired behavior analysts to start doing AAB research, and (3) Apply the eight dimensions of applied behavior analysis to animal settings and future areas of growth for the field
Shaping the Shaper: A Brief History of Shaping Games
Abstract: In a 1951 magazine article, Skinner explained how an average individual with an average pet could quickly shape simple behaviors, such as teaching a dog to touch a cupboard handle. However, professional animal trainers have long realized that teaching people to shape requires more than just telling a person to reinforce successive approximations. Shaping skills require practice. Early behavior analysis students often had the opportunity to learn these skills by working with rats or pigeons (Catania, 2020; Keller & Schoefeld, 1949). However, animal trainers had to be more creative, as they didn’t have access to university laboratories. Instead, they developed human shaping games (Bailey & Bailey, 1993; Laurence, 2004, Pryor, 1984). These games evolved early in the history of behavior analysis, with the Brelands most likely developing the first formalized version of the shaping game in the 1950s (Bailey & Bailey, 1993). In this presentation, we will trace the history of the shaping game and discuss how animal trainers have used these games to teach shaping skills and illustrate behavior analytic concepts. In addition, we’ll examine different versions of the shaping game and how these variations affect the learning experience and how closely the game parallels an operant chamber.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Meets Applied Animal Behavior (AAB): The 1992 Association for Behavior Analysis Convention and Its Impact on Both Behavior Analysts and Animal Trainers

JESUS ROSALES-RUIZ (University of North Texas)

The practical application of behavior analysis to animal behavior and training is almost as old as behavior analysis itself. Shortly after the Second World War, two of B.F. Skinner’s former graduate students, Keller Breland and Marian Breland Bailey launched their own business, training animals for public performances, including livestock feed store advertisements, TV commercials, amusement parks, and more. However, the Brelands were ahead of their time, and it would take several decades before the use of positive reinforcement, shaping, and other behavior analytic concepts really started to take hold in applied animal training. One pivotal event for animal trainers and behavior analysts was the Association for Behavior Analysis Convention in 1992 in San Francisco. ABA president, Dr. Edward K. Morris, invited Karen Pryor to give the President’s Invited Scholar’s Address. In addition, the convention featured two symposia with prominent animal trainers. This presentation will discuss what happened at the 1992 convention and how these events fit within the historical context of ABA. This convention was a pivotal moment for both animal trainers and behavior analysts, creating new connections between the two communities, inspiring behavior analysts to start doing AAB research, and perhaps even giving rise to the birth of the term “clicker training.”

Current Dimensions and Future Directions of Applied Animal Behavior Analysis: Philosophical, Ethical & Historical Perspectives
LINDSAY MEHRKAM (Monmouth University)
Abstract: Thirty years ago, the Applied Animal Behavior (AAB) SIG was founded with the mission to promote applied animal behavior analytic research, set high standards in methods and techniques of animal training, support those in the applied animal behavior field, and promote the well-being of animals in applied settings wherever they are found. This talk will review the history of how behavior analytic approaches have been successfully extended to a variety of applied animal settings. In addition, we will see how this work has informed an existing framework for current dimensions that define the field of applied animal behavior analysis, inspired by those proposed by Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) for the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). By adopting philosophical approaches to science and understanding the progression of ethical and welfare-related requirements of animals in research, teaching, and practice, we will also ensure the success and continued growth and and professionalisation of a science of socially significant animal behavior.



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