Aug 16, 2022  
2019-2020 Van Loan Catalog 
2019-2020 Van Loan Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ABA 754 - Behavioral Research on Complex Skill Acquisition

Behavior analysis was envisioned as a comprehensive science of all behavior, simple and complex, from the time it was conceived by B.F. Skinner in the early part of the 20th century. Philosophically and theoretically, this position has maintained. However, the vast majority of published empirical research in behavior analysis has been conducted with relatively simple behaviors. The sad result is that other branches of psychology go relatively unchallenged in their claim own the study of complex human behaviors, performances which are often referred to as “cognitive” by the rest of the psychological community. In order for behavior analysis to fully develop into the comprehensive science of psychology it was always intended to be, a great deal more research in complex human behavior is needed. Fortunately, the field of behavior analysis has been enjoying a surge of research activity into complex human behavior in the last two decades. Most of this body of research has been done under the banners of stimulus equivalence, relational frame theory, and naming. Research in these areas has strived to establish and evaluate behaviors that show the property of generativity or “emergence,” that is, complex performances emerge that have not been directly trained and which cannot be explained merely with stimulus eneralization. The purpose of this course is to survey recent research that has attempted to apply findings from the derived relational responding literature to establishing complex skills in individuals who do not yet display them. This course is a doctoral level seminar on peer reviewed research on behavior analytic procedures for teaching complex skills to children with and without autism and other developmental disorders. The skills taught in the studies we will read for this course are at a level of complexity that is higher than what has traditionally been done in applied behavior analytic research, involving primarily one operant under the control of one discriminative stimulus or establishing operation. The skills addressed in this course are, for the most part, complex generalized relational operants. The majority of research we will read comes from the stimulus equivalence, relational frame theory, and naming traditions. For the first two decades of research in this area, work primarily focused on demonstrating the existence of complex generalized operants in people who already possessed them in their repertoire, not the establishment of such operants in people who did not already demonstrate them. The research we will read for this course, however, has primarily been conducted in the last decade and focuses on establishing complex behavior in individuals who do not already display the repertoires. This work is relevant because it helps lay the groundwork for teaching these skills to individuals who might otherwise not develop them. But research in complex behavior is also important for the field of behavior analysis because it pushes the scope of the field into areas of psychology that have traditionally been claimed by cognitive psychology and for which behavior analysts have had little to contribute. Some of the skills covered by research in this course include working memory, perspective taking, problem-solving, self-monitoring, rule-governed behavior, imagining behavior, understanding humor and nonliteral language, and more.

Credits: 3