Development of Communication in Infants: Implications for Stimulus Relations Research

Abstract

Early forms of stimulus–response relations are learned by infants to communicate with caregivers. The infant communication abilities begin with the learning of eye gazing, joint attention, social referencing, and naming, among others. Learning to engage in these early communication skills facilitates the development of more advanced phenomena seen in equivalence class formations and derived relational responding research. This article discusses evidence of early communication skills that are often required for the emergence of other, more complex forms of stimulus–stimulus relations. We emphasize the importance of establishing these types of operants early in infancy and their implications for developmental research on stimulus relations.


Mon, 16 Apr 2018, 5:00 pm


B.F. Skinner and the Metaphysics of Darwinism

Abstract

B. F. Skinner viewed behaviorism not as the science of behavior, but a philosophy of that science. Such philosophizing is a legitimate part of a scientist’s investigative behavior. He sought to eliminate confusion and error by getting rid of objectionable posits such as homunculi, vital forces, intentionalities, purposes and essences, sticking to overt behavior and spurning “mentalism.” Skinner believed that there are hard analogies between learning and natural selection, such that what is appropriate in the study of one may be appropriate in the study of the other. Dispensing with teleology is but one example. Where there is selection by consequences, variation has to be taken seriously. Essentialism or typology screens out variation and leads to stereotypes. It may be viewed as treating individuals (in a broad, philosophical sense) as if they were classes. Individuals are concrete, particular things, including species and many other groups, whereas classes are abstract. Individuals can engage in processes, such as behavior. But they do not have definitions (or essences), and there are no laws of nature for them. Trying to find a definition, or an essence, for the human species is trying to find a definition for an indefinable instead of a description for a describable. Idealism has introduced a kind of mentalism into behavioral discourse that behavior analysts should scrupulously avoid. There are no laws for individuals, only for kinds of individuals, and care needs to be taken to avoid confusing laws of nature with contingent, historical fact. Skinner was a (perhaps somewhat inconsistent) realist who presupposed the uniformity of nature in his investigations. Investigative behavior may be more lawful than even he maintained.


Sun, 15 Apr 2018, 5:00 pm



The Verbal Behavior Stimulus Control Ratio Equation: a Quantification of Language

Abstract

Language is a much sought-after yet elusive subject matter for scientific investigation. Entire fields of study have evolved to address the complexities of language, with most using a structural analysis as the framework for examination. Skinner (Verbal Behavior, 1957) proposed that language fell within the scope of a science of behavior and was therefore open to functional analysis and interpretation. Over the past 60 years, much has been done to further the scientific explanation, prediction, and control of verbal behavior as a function of environmental variables. However, we still need to more accurately describe the subject matter of investigation. The stimulus control ratio equation (SCoRE) is a metric to summarize a behavioral repertoire by comparing the relative frequency of its component parts. The verbal behavior SCoRE compares the observed proportions of responding against the null hypothesis to yield a statistic to describe the present level of functional performance. Such information may be useful for measuring change over time and comparing treatment effects within individuals and across groups. This article provides a conceptualization of the interdependence of the verbal operants identified by Skinner (1957), a model for analyzing the entirety of the verbal repertoire, and implications for research and practice.


Sun, 25 Mar 2018, 5:00 pm


A Neuro-Operant Analysis of Mnemonic Recognition

Abstract

Historically, the fields of operant selection and recognition memory have not interacted substantially with one another. However, both deal with how behavioral repertoires change over time as a function of environmental stimulation. In this article, we propose neuro-operant interpretations of behavioral phenomena occurring in recognition memory procedures based on (a) the ability to discriminate changes in the strength of responses caused by environmental stimulation and (b) the occasioning of supplementary responses by current stimulation. A neuro-operant interpretation of mnemonic behavior may further the understanding of the phenomena in place and simplify the current taxonomy of learning and memory.


Wed, 21 Mar 2018, 5:00 pm


Toward a Unifying Account of Impulsivity and the Development of Self-Control

Abstract

Impulsivity has traditionally been thought to involve various behavioral traits that can be measured using different laboratory protocols. Whereas some authors regard different measures of impulsivity as reflecting fundamentally distinct and unrelated behavioral tendencies (fragmentation approach), others regard those different indexes as analogue forms of the same behavioral tendency, only superficially different (unification approach). Unifying accounts range from mere intuitions to more sophisticated theoretical systems. Some of the more complete attempts at unifying are intriguing but have validity weaknesses. We propose a new unifying attempt based on theoretical points posed by other authors and supplemented by theory and research on associative learning. We then apply these assumptions to characterize the paradigms used to study impulsivity in laboratory settings and evaluate their scope as an attempt at unification. We argue that our approach possesses a good balance of parsimony and empirical and theoretical grounding, as well as a more encompassing scope, and is more suitable for experimental testing than previous theoretical frameworks. In addition, the proposed approach is capable of generating a new definition of impulsivity and outlines a hypothesis of how self-control can be developed. Finally, we examine the fragmentation approach from a different perspective, emphasizing the importance of finding similarities among seemingly different phenomena.


Wed, 14 Feb 2018, 4:00 pm


Related to Anxiety: Arbitrarily Applicable Relational Responding and Experimental Psychopathology Research on Fear and Avoidance

Abstract

Humans have an unparalleled ability to engage in arbitrarily applicable relational responding (AARR). One of the consequences of this ability to spontaneously combine and relate events from the past, present, and future may, in fact, be a propensity to suffer. For instance, maladaptive fear and avoidance of remote or derived threats may actually perpetuate anxiety. In this narrative review, we consider contemporary AARR research on fear and avoidance as it relates to anxiety. We first describe laboratory-based research on the emergent spread of fear- and avoidance-eliciting functions in humans. Next, we consider the validity of AARR research on fear and avoidance and address the therapeutic implications of the work. Finally, we outline challenges and opportunities for a greater synthesis between behavior analysis research on AARR and experimental psychopathology.


Tue, 26 Dec 2017, 4:00 pm


Meaningful Stimuli and the Enhancement of Equivalence Class Formation

Abstract

Stimulus meaningfulness has been defined by its hedonic valence, denotative (definitional) and connotative (evaluative) properties, and its influence on forming categories called equivalence classes. Positive or negative hedonic value of a meaningful stimulus transfers to the other members of an equivalence class that contains such a stimulus, and also influences likelihood of class formation. The denotative and connotative properties of meaningful stimuli are instantiated by the responses they produced (simple discriminative functions) and by the selection of other related words (conditional discriminative functions). If a meaningless cue acquires one such stimulus control function, and is included in a set of otherwise meaningless stimuli, its inclusion enhances the formation of an equivalence class. These results suggest ways to enhance equivalence class formation in applied settings. When degree of enhancement matches that produced by the inclusion of a meaningful stimulus in a class, class enhancement can be accounted for by the stimulus control functions it serves, as well as its hedonic, denotative, and connotative properties. We also linked equivalence class formation and meaningfulness to semantic networks, relational frame theory, verbal behavior, and naming.


Tue, 26 Dec 2017, 4:00 pm


Derived Stimulus Relations and Their Role in a Behavior-Analytic Account of Human Language and Cognition

Abstract

This article describes how the study of derived stimulus relations has provided the basis for a behavior–analytic approach to the study of human language and cognition in purely functional–analytic terms, with a focus on basic rather than applied research. The article begins with a brief history of the early behavior–analytic approach to human language and cognition, focusing on Skinner’s (1957) text Verbal Behavior, his subsequent introduction of the concept of instructional control (Skinner, 1966), and Sidman’s (1994) seminal research on stimulus equivalence relations. The article then considers how the concept of derived stimulus relations, as conceptualized within relational frame theory (Hayes et al., 2001), allowed researchers to refine and extend the functional approach to language and cognition in multiple ways. Finally, the article considers some recent conceptual and empirical developments that highlight how the concept of derived stimulus relations continues to play a key role in the behavior–analytic study of human language and cognition, particularly implicit cognition. In general, the article aims to provide a particular perspective on how the study of derived stimulus relations has facilitated and enhanced the behavior analysis of human language and cognition, particularly over the past 25–30 years.


Mon, 13 Nov 2017, 4:00 pm


The Emergence of Stimulus Relations: Human and Computer Learning

Abstract

Traditionally, investigations in the area of stimulus equivalence have employed humans as experimental participants. Recently, however, artificial neural network models (often referred to as connectionist models [CMs]) have been developed to simulate performances seen among human participants when training various types of stimulus relations. Two types of neural network models have shown particular promise in recent years. RELNET has demonstrated its capacity to approximate human acquisition of stimulus relations using simulated matching-to-sample (MTS) procedures (e.g., Lyddy & Barnes-Holmes Journal of Speech and Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis, 2, 14–24, 2007). Other newly developed connectionist algorithms train stimulus relations by way of compound stimuli (e.g., Tovar & Chavez The Psychological Record, 62, 747–762, 2012; Vernucio & Debert The Psychological Record, 66, 439–449, 2016). What makes all of these CMs interesting to many behavioral researchers is their apparent ability to simulate the acquisition of diversified stimulus relations as an analogue to human learning; that is, neural networks learn over a series of training epochs such that these models become capable of deriving novel or untrained stimulus relations. With the goal of explaining these quickly evolving approaches to practical and experimental endeavors in behavior analysis, we offer an overview of existing CMs as they apply to behavior–analytic theory and practice. We provide a brief overview of derived stimulus relations as applied to human academic remediation, and we argue that human and simulated human investigations have symbiotic experimental potential. Additionally, we provide a working example of a neural network referred to as emergent virtual analytics (EVA). This model demonstrates a process by which artificial neural networks can be employed by behavior–analytic researchers to understand, simulate, and predict derived stimulus relations made by human participants.


Sun, 12 Nov 2017, 4:00 pm







Requiem for the Dead Man Test?

Abstract

A popular measurement heuristic called the “Dead Man Test” predicts that behavior will be absent in vitality-challenged individuals. Unfortunately, the core idea behind the Test lacks empirical support, is hopelessly vague on several counts, and may be at odds with key aspects of behavior theory. This raises serious concerns about whether the Test should continue to be employed as a guide to behavioral measurement.


Tue, 31 Oct 2017, 5:00 pm


Swan Song

Tue, 31 Oct 2017, 5:00 pm