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 #124
Why It Takes Two to Tango: The Investigation of Variables Controlling Social Operants
Saturday, May 25, 2024
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 204 AB
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Discussant: Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Social operants, defined as including responses of more than a single organism, exist ubiquitously in the natural environment. Examples of such operants include the performance of artistic swimmers, playing music in a symphony, predators hunting prey in a pack, etc. Four experiments will be discussed in the present symposium investigating different parameters contributing to the maintenance of social operants. The first presentation will discuss a series of experiments that investigated how the distribution of reinforcers across pairs of rats maintained responding. The second presentation will discuss the effect of delay of reinforcement on coordination maintenance. The third experiment will discuss the necessary condition for maintaining the responses of pigeons when reinforcement is dependent on the responses of the co-actor. Lastly, the fourth presentation will discuss the effect of mutual reinforcement contingency on controlling the temporal parameters of coordinated responses. The present symposium attempts to introduce steps taken toward the experimental analysis of operant social behavior and discuss possible future directions to interested audiences.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Mutual Reinforcement, Social Behavior

Mutual Reinforcement Maintains Response Rates When It includes Contingencies of Alternate, Response-Dependent, and Immediate Reinforcement

HIROTO OKOUCHI (Osaka Kyoiku University)

A contingency under which a response by an individual yields a reinforcer delivered to another individual, and vice versa, sometimes has been called mutual reinforcement. Previous experiments show that the mutual reinforcement did not increase or maintain response rates although it did postpone extinction of the response. The present experiment examined whether the mutual reinforcement with some additional contingencies maintains response rates. A peck of the key by one pigeon (Actor A) set up food delivery to another pigeon (Actor B). Thereafter, if it was the turn that Actor B received food, and if Actor B pecked the key, food was delivered to Actor B immediately. The turn alternated between actors of a dyad in every food delivery. This mutual reinforcement with alternate, response-dependent, and immediate reinforcement (MR-ADI) condition followed a condition of a fixed-ratio (FR) 1 schedule. Response rates in the MR-ADI condition stabilized at a certain level, and were higher than those in a condition in which the contingency of the standard mutual reinforcement was in effect, which were introduced and withdrawn, as a ABAB fashion. The results demonstrate that the mutual reinforcement maintained response rates when it included contingencies of alternate, response-dependent, and immediate reinforcement.


Rats Cooperate More Often When Responding of the Paired Members Are Simultaneously Reinforced

LUCAS COUTO DE CARVALHO (Universidade Estadual Paulista), Rafael da Silva (Universidade Federal de São Carlos), Kalliu Carvalho Couto (Oslo Metropolitan University), Lucas Codina Souza (Universidade Federal de Goiás), Deisy das Graças De Souza (Universidade Federal de São Carlos), Cristiano Coelho (Pontifícia Universidade Catolica de Goias)

The central question of this experiment was whether coordinated responding can be maintained when the reinforcers that are dependent on coordination are alternately presented to one of two cooperating rats across cooperative episodes. For this, tandem schedules with two components of Fixed Interval or Variable Interval schedules were used. In these schedules, the consequences of coordination were alternately provided between the two rats. Individual and mutual reinforcement contingencies were used as experimental controls. Coordinated episodes were defined as a unit involving two responses, one of each cooperating member, occurring within an interval of 0.2 s of one another. Although the same schedules were used in all three conditions, the individual reinforcement contingency (in which one’s reinforcer did not depend on its patterning rat) resulted in a higher reinforcement rate. The alternating reinforcement condition maintained coordinated responding, but the rates and proportions of these responses were lower than those observed under conditions in which reinforcement was delivered to the pair members at the same time. This study showed that simultaneity in the delivery of reinforcers to members of the cooperative episode can be a critical variable in the operant selection of coordinated responding in pair of rats.

Social Coordination Maintained by Progressive Delay of Coordination-Dependent Reinforcement
FIRDAVS KHAYDAROV (West Virginia University), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: The purpose of the present investigation was to examine coordination maintained by progressive delay of coordination-dependent reinforcement. A multiple schedule in which two components alternated daily was used. In the Delay Component, a tandem VI 20-s PT (delay period) 0.10 or .25 was used. After the elapse of the VI IRI, the first coordinated response, dyad members responding within 500 ms of one another, initiated the delay period. At the end of the delay period, the reinforcer was presented simultaneously to both members of the dyad. Sessions terminated when no coordinated response occurred for 5 min. In the Yoked-Interval Component, a yoked-interval schedule was generated from the distribution of IRIs obtained from the preceding session of the Delay Component. Once the yoked-interval IRI lapsed, the first coordinated response was reinforced immediately. Sessions in this component terminated when a dyad was exposed to all the yoked IRIs. The coordination ratio was higher in the Yoked-Interval compared to the Delay Component. Mean coordination rates across consecutive IRIs were relatively high initially and, subsequently, declined across the session in both components. Coordination rates in the Yoked-Interval Component, however, generally were higher across IRIs compared to coordination rates obtained under the Delay Component.
The Effect of Mutual Reinforcement on the Temporal Requirements of Coordinated Responses in Pigeons
KENTO YASUKAWA (West Virginia Univeristy ), Kennon Andy Lattal (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Research of social operants such as cooperation, collaboration, and other activities that require responses of more than a single organism to produce reinforcement has recently gained interest in behavior analysis. Traditionally, coordination has been defined as the responses of two organisms that occur within 500 ms of each other and are maintained by mutual reinforcement (i.e., the simultaneous presentation of reinforcers to both organisms). The present experiment aimed to extend this definition by manipulating the temporal parameters of coordination. Three pairs of pigeons were exposed to a contingency of mutual reinforcement in which cooperative responses were reinforced according to a variable-interval 30-s schedule of reinforcement. One condition reinforced coordinated responses that occurred within 500 ms of each member while a second condition reinforced coordinated responses that were separated for more than 500 ms from each other. That is, one condition reinforced responses that occurred within a specified time (< 500 ms) window while the other condition reinforced responses that were outside said window (> 500 ms). Ratios of coordination demonstrated that mutual reinforcement manipulated coordination of different temporal requirement. This experiment demonstrated that the temporal separation of responses across two organisms can be controlled by schedules of mutual reinforcement.



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