Talks at the Association for Behavioral Analysis Convention

The following lectures will take place at the nearby 34th annual Association for Behavioral Analysis Convention at the Hilton Chicago. The Association for Behavior Analysis welcomes all those interested in the philosophy, science, education, practice, and teaching of behavior analysis. The following programs might be of interest to APS attendees. Registered APS attendees may attend any events at the ABAI 34th Annual Convention free of charge, they only need to request an ABAI name badge at the registration counter at the ABAI Convention. For more information, see the ABAI convention program online at

Thursday May 24th, 2008, 5:00 PM - 5:50 PM
Grand Ballroom
Presidential Scholar's Address: Marriage, Divorce and the Family
GARY S. BECKER (University of Chicago)

Abstract: Professor Becker's research program is founded on the idea that the behavior of an individual adheres to the same fundamental principles in a number of different areas. The same explanatory model should thus be applicable in analyzing highly diverse aspects of human behavior. His explanatory model is based on what he calls an economic approach, which he has applied to one area after another. This approach is characterized by the fact that individual agents-regardless of whether they are households, firms or other organizations-are assumed to behave rationally, i.e., purposefully, and that their behavior can be described as if they maximized a specific objective function, such as utility or wealth. Professor Becker has applied the principle of rational, optimizing behavior to areas where researchers formerly assumed that behavior is habitual and often downright irrational. His first book in 1957 explored The Economics of Discrimination. For his presentation at this year's convention, Professor Becker will use economic analysis to explain marriage and divorce rates in the United States. Among the issues considered are the rise in divorce rates and the decline in marriage rates since the 1960's.

Thursday, May 24th, 2008, 1:00 PM - 1:50 PM
Massage Therapy Research
TIFFANY FIELD (Touch Research Institute-University of Miami-Medical School)

Abstract: Massage Therapy is increasingly being used as a complementary/alternative therapy not only because many people with psychological, behavioral, and physical problems are touch-deprived but also because of its therapeutic effects. Recent research suggests that massage therapy: 1) facilitates growth and development; 2) reduces depressive behavior and anxiety patterns and related stress hormones; 3) enhances sleep; 4) reduces pain; 5) reduces autoimmune disorders; and 6) enhances immune function. These effects have been noted in samples, for example, of preterm neonates, depressed children and adults, chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and migraine headaches, autoimmune problems including asthma and diabetes and immune disorders including HIV and cancer. A potential underlying mechanism is enhanced parasympathetic activity (increased vagal tone) following massage therapy, decreased stress hormones (cortisol) and increased serotonin (the body's natural pain killer and antidepressant), in turn, leading to increased natural killer cell activity (front line of the immune system) warding off viral and cancer cells. In addition, cognitive performance is enhanced by massage therapy which may relate to changes noted in EEG patterns that are indicative of heightened alert behavior patterns. These data highlights the therapeutic effects and potential underlying mechanisms for this complementary/alternative therapy.

Thursday, May 24th, 2008, 2:00 PM - 2:50 PM
Grand Ballroom
Tutorial: Behavioral Economics
GREGORY J. MADDEN (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Economists and behavioral scientists share an interest in behavior maintained by goods/reinforcers. What have economists discovered that behavioral scientists have yet to study (and vice-versa)? A broad overview will be provided with emphasis placed on the applied utility of behavioral-economic findings.

Friday, May 25th, 2008, 9:00 AM - 9:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Self-Control and Social Cooperation
HOWARD RACHLIN (Stony Brook University)
Abstract: Failures of self-control and social cooperation may both be described in terms of hyperbolic discounting: failures of self-control as due to discounting by delay of reinforcement -- failures of social cooperation as due to discounting by social distance. Both self-control and social cooperation may be seen as choice of distributed rewards over individual rewards: self-control as choice of rewards distributed in time -- social cooperation as choice of rewards distributed over social space. Self-control fails when the value of a large reward distributed over time (such as good health) is discounted below that of a small immediate reward (such as having an alcoholic drink). Social cooperation fails when the value of a large reward distributed in social space (such as availability of public television) is discounted below that of a small reward to oneself (keeping money rather than donating it).Patterns of behavior that maximize reward distributed over wide temporal or social distances may be selected by reinforcement and evolve over the lifetimes of individuals by a process akin to group selection in biological evolution.

Friday, May 25th, 2008, 1:30 PM - 2:20 PM
Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
PETER J. RICHERSON (University of California, Davis)
Abstract: Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth using an incredible variety of tools and subsistence techniques. Our societies, heavily regulated by culturally transmitted institutions, are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In this talk, Richerson will argue that the key to understanding human behavior is a theory of cultural evolution and gene-culture coevolution that is built on Darwinian principles. Our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Culture has played a leading rather than lagging role in human evolution. Culture creates novel environments than then act as forces of natural selection on genes. Most strikingly, our cooperative societies have led to something like the domestication of our genes.

Friday, May 25th, 2008, 1:30 PM - 2:20 PM
Grand Ballroom
Finding the Consistency of Social Behavior in its Stable Variability
WALTER MISCHEL (Columbia University)

Abstract: To build a science of the person, the most basic question is: How can one identify and understand the psychological invariance-the basic coherence and organization-- that distinctively characterizes an individual and that underlies the variations in the thoughts, feelings, and actions that occur across contexts and over time? This question proved particularly difficult because discrepancies soon emerged between the expressions of consistency that were expected and those that were found. The resulting classic "personality paradox" became: How can we reconcile our intuitions---and theories---about the invariance and stability of "personality" with the equally compelling empirical evidence for the variability of the person's behavior across diverse situations? Which is right: the intuitions or the findings? I discuss some advances to answer this question since it was posed decades ago. These findings have allowed a resolution of the paradox, and provide the outlines for a conception of the underlying structure and dynamics of behavior, and its links to situations, that seems to better account for the data on consistencies and variability in the expressions of individual differences. This conception is applied to the analysis of self-control, focusing on the ability to delay gratification, and its determinants, development, and implications over the life course.

Friday, May 25th, 2008, 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Evidence-Based Interventions for the Prevention of Destructive Behavior within School Settings
HILL WALKER (University of Oregon)

Abstract: In the past decade, schools have come under increasing pressures to adopt evidence-based practices due primarily to federal legislation (e.g. the NCLB Act), greater demands for accountability and impact stemming from federal investments in research, and public concerns about the safety and security of students in school settings. It is now common to see lists of evidence-based programs, considered to be either promising or proven, compiled by such entities as the What Works Clearing House, Practice Guides sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, and Programs to Prevent School Violence developed by the American Psychological Association and the National School Safety Office. This presentation will focus on the emergence of evidence-based practices in education and discuss what they are, where we have been with respect to their use, where are we currently and where we need to go in order to adopt and use them effectively. Specific topics that will be addressed are as follows: 1) definitions of evidence based practices and the efficacy versus effectiveness distinction, 2) key characteristics of evidence based approaches, 3) criteria used to validate and classify intervention and practice approaches, 4) single case versus randomized control trials in determining efficacy-effectiveness, 5) examples of evidence-based interventions, and 6) resources and access information.

Saturday, May 26th, 2008, 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Blaming the Brain
ELLIOT VALENSTEIN (University of Michigan)

Abstract: It has been said that explaining the mental illness has changed from blaming the mother to blaming the brain. The latter refers to the wide acceptance of the theory that abnormal brain chemistry can explain mental illness. The talk will include a look at the biochemical theories of mental illness by reviewing some of the historical roots, examine the logic and empirical evidence used to support these theories, and discuss why these theories are so popular.

Saturday, May 26th, 2008, 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM
The Choice to Take a Drug of Abuse: Contributions of Research with Non-Humans
WILLIAM L. WOOLVERTON (University of Mississippi Medical Center)
Abstract: Much of behavior, including self-administration of abused drugs, may be conceptualized as involving a choice among available alternatives. Laboratory research involving non-humans has substantially contributed to our understanding of the behavioral determinants of drug choice. It has been demonstrated that the relative magnitude of drug and non-drug reinforcers, as well as relative cost, frequency and probability of reinforcement can all influence the choice to take a drug. Recent research has suggested that the choice to self-administer a drug may be strongly influenced by the rate at which the value of delayed reinforcers is discounted. Research with non-humans has much to contribute to our understanding of this conceptualization. In addition to helping us understand environmental determinants of drug abuse, basic research with non-humans can help suggest behavioral treatment strategies that may be useful alone or in conjunction with pharmacological treatment.

Saturday, May 26th, 2008, 9:00 AM - 9:50 AM
Grand Ballroom
Object Recognition by Dolphins

Abstract: Characterizing the information that dolphins receive and how they use that information in object recognition present special challenges. The dolphin biosonar system is so different from our own perceptual system that we are not overly bound by own experiences and expectations. This difference allows us to examine fundamental questions about the nature of perception. Vision is for most humans, such a primary sense, that it compels perceptual scientists to view other senses in relation to vision. However, the information that a dolphin gets through its biosonar is nearly as complex as the information we receive through vision-object structure and material composition-but it comes through a different sensory modality. This talk will consider the similarities and differences between human and dolphin perception and what we can learn from these relations about perception in general.

Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers
301 East North Water St.
May 22 - May 25, 2008

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