Last Updated: Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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Today in the History of Psychology


After years of starts and stops, we're on the cusp of generating teaching materials that use computer-assisted interactivity to aid study and learning, and don't just present reading material in electronic form. In the early 1960s, B.F. Skinner was touting "teaching machines" that gave him better feedback on what his students did and did not understand, so he could revise the flow and present the material more effectively. While students, of course, learn from the teacher, much of the mental work involved in learning comes from thinking about teaching materials and interacting with other students. more»

Could a multi-million dollar prize spur the next big innovation in sustainable climate technology? Jonathan H. Adler, professor and director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, suggests that prize-based incentives could do just that. “Technology-induced prizes have a long and storied history,” writes Adler in his article, “Eye on a Climate Prize Rewarding Energy Innovation to Achieve Climate Stabilization,” recently published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review. more»

The signs leverage what’s called a feedback loop, a profoundly effective tool for changing behavior. The basic premise is simple. Provide people with information about their actions in real time (or something close to it), then give them an opportunity to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors. Action, information, reaction. It’s the operating principle behind a home thermostat, which fires the furnace to maintain a specific temperature, or the consumption display in a Toyota Prius, which tends to turn drivers into so-called hypermilers trying to wring every last mile from the gas tank. But the simplicity of feedback loops is deceptive. They are in fact powerful tools that can help people change bad behavior patterns, even those that seem intractable. Just as important, they can be used to encourage good habits, turning progress itself into a reward. In other words, feedback loops change human behavior. more»

Here’s what really got me, though: on the dashboard, alongside the gauge that measures the battery life, the Volt has another gauge that calculates the vehicle’s miles per gallon. During the two-hour drive to Southampton, I used two gallons of gas, a quarter of the tank. Thus, when I drove into the driveway, it read 50 miles per gallon. The next day, after the overnight charge, I didn’t use any gas. After driving around 30 miles in the morning, I recharged it for a few hours while I puttered around the house...Before I knew it, my miles per gallon for that tankful of gas had hit 80. By the next day it had topped 100. I soon found myself obsessed with increasing my miles per gallon... more»

Since these early experiments, Moran’s group has found ways to space the electrodes on a grid to optimize the signals from the neurons for more precise movement. Together with Justin Williams at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Moran built a small electrode array to fit over the brain’s sensori motor cortex, a region concerned both with movement and the perception of outside stimuli. Jasper, one of three monkeys in Moran’s lab, is now using the new array to play video games and reach for and grasp virtual objects on a computer screen, all without moving a muscle. This summer, the researchers will get their first look at how the device performs in human patients who need it. more»

Guskiewicz and others experts said that “behavior modification” such as discouraging players from “leading with the head” when tackling in football could do as much as improved helmet design to avert concussions. “I think that behavior modification is perhaps more important in addressing the problem,” said Guskiewicz, who credited the NFL’s anti-spearing rules as much as safer helmets for reducing football fatalities on all levels from 30 to 35 per year in the mid- to late-1960s to an average of eight from 2008 to 2010. more»

The behavior known as "conditioned response" -- made famous by Nobel Laureate Ivan Pavlov -- is easy to understand. Ring a bell every time you feed a dog, and eventually that dog will salivate at the sound of the bell even when food is absent. If grandma baked you apple pie each time you visited, that same smell from a bakery years later would likely evoke a strong memory of grandma's home. Likewise, most stock market participants have by now developed a conditioned response to market downturns. The market's overall uptrend from the early 1980s to 2000 conditioned investors to see price pullbacks as "healthy corrections." This learned response became so entrenched that even the devastating declines of 2000 and 2007 did not significantly alter that perception. [This is, of course, more operant conditioning than it is Pavlovian. - Ed.] more»

At the beginning, Palin was given plenty of reasons for grievance. After her selection as John McCain’s running mate, some in the press focused unkind attention on her family and faith. From a human perspective, her defensive reaction was understandable. In a memorable convention speech, Palin returned a volley of fist-shaking populism. On the campaign trail, huge Republican crowds — far larger than McCain generally drew — rewarded Palin’s feistiness. It was the heartland (and tundra) against the coasts; real Americans versus elites. After the vote, a series of radio and cable appearances further simplified and purified Palin’s persona. Positive reinforcement had done its work. The candidate became a caricature. The caricature, a celebrity. more»

Americans’ growing love affair with wireless devices can be seen in numbers from a recent Nielsen Company survey of households that own at least one mobile connected device (smartphones, tablets, e-readers, netbooks, portable media players, and so on). Smartphone owners have about four other “mobile connected devices’’ in their households, Nielsen found, and tablet and e-reader owners have about five...He likens checking e-mail, texting, or reading news online, to playing a slot machine. “One out of every 100 times you are going to see something you like or find interesting or important, and because you cannot predict when that one photo or e-mail or news story is going to come through, that’s a variable reinforcement schedule and it’s the most resistant to extinction.’’ more»

In the past, many researchers have believed that testing is good for memory, but only for the exact thing you are trying to remember: so-called “target memory.” If you’re asked to recall the Lithuanian equivalent of an English word, say, you will get good at remembering the Lithuanian, but you won’t necessarily remember the English. Vaughn wondered whether practice testing might boost other types of memory too. It does...Vaughn stresses that it isn’t just testing, but successful testing—getting the answer right—that makes the difference in memory performance later on. He also admits the study leaves much to be discovered. “We know that repeated retrieval is good for memory. Testing is a modifier of memory. But we still don’t know how that works. We don’t understand the mechanism.” [Hmm, might I suggest operant conditioning? - Ed.] more»

“The addictive qualities of gambling can be understood from both a behavioral and neurological perspective. Gambling is a form of 'operant conditioning learning' in which a voluntary action becomes linked with a specific outcome. The random reinforcement provided by gambling is actually the strongest form of conditioning, well ahead of a consistent reward. When a payoff is not expected every time the conditioned behavior is much more resistant to erasure than when a payoff is always expected. Losses or no-returns are still consistent with the action-reward relationship." more»

For parents of disabled children all over the world, FC appeared to be a miracle when it burst onto the scene more than three decades ago..."As facilitators, they believe they become absolutely intricately intertwined in their subjects' lives, and then they become convinced they are saving them from some horrific experience," said James Thompson Todd, a psychology professor and autism expert at Eastern Michigan University who has studied the phenomenon. Facilitated sexual assault allegations died down in the mid-1990s as FC fell into disrepute. Today, FC still has a tiny group of supporters. more»

There are three important issues that apply to all research supposedly showing evidence of sex differences in biological predispositions. First, researchers often have an impoverished view of the social influences of which they must take account before coming to the conclusion that sex differences in “hardwiring” or “biological predispositions” explain behavioral differences. A second important issue is that methods really matter, yet researchers are often not careful enough about them. As a result, what from a distance seems like a solid scientific structure can be seen close up to be resting on a web of unsubstantiated assumptions. Third, when it comes to interpreting sex differences in the brain, there are numerous reasons for caution... more»

Dog owners often attest to their canine companion's seeming ability to read their minds. How do dogs they learn to beg for food or behave badly primarily when we're not looking? According to Monique Udell and her team, from the University of Florida in the US, the way that dogs come to respond to the level of people's attentiveness tells us something about the ways dogs think and learn about human behavior. Their research, published online in Springer's journal Learning & Behavior, suggests it is down to a combination of specific cues, context and previous experience. more»

Professor Pepperberg is one of several people doing similar work with other species of animals. Her African grey parrot Alex knew about 400 words, which he used to convey his desires and feelings...More specifically he had the language abilities of a two-year-old child and the problem-solving abilities of a five-year-old child. The most fascinating observation was that Alex would “practice” how to pronounce words without the incentive of receiving rewards and would scold other parrots for mispronouncing words or give them the wrong answer. This suggests that he was able to self-correct and teach. more»

The first description of superstitious behavior in animals came from psychologist B.F. Skinner in 1948. He put half-starved pigeons in cages, offering them a few seconds of access to food trays at regular intervals. As long as the intervals were short, the birds began offering up behaviors—like spinning counter-clockwise, rocking from side to side or tossing their heads up as if they were lifting a bar. They would do these behaviors "as if there were a causal relation between [its] behavior and the presentation of food," wrote Skinner. Once the behaviors were established, they tended to persist, even as time intervals between feeding lengthened. more»

Right now, education is winning a sizeable share of Wilson's attention. He and his graduate students are working with school administrators in several locations to see whether they can improve student performance with programmes that reward good behaviour and encourage group cooperation. Treats, mostly donated by teachers, range from snacks and school supplies to odd but coveted items such as toiletries from hotels. Wilson insists that this approach is fundamentally evolutionary, pointing out that in 1981, psychologist B. F. Skinner described how reinforcement and punishment 'select' for desired behaviour. Wilson is tweaking the school environment so that it selects for prosociality, and is hoping that the student culture will evolve accordingly. more»

They make interesting references to dopamine as being more than a hedonic responder, more in fact as a signaller [sic] of whether and when reward will actually arrive, a reward learning or reward predicting mechanism...Motivation is...not a drive-reducing process that attempts to correct deficits in reward signaled by the level of dopamine release, but rather, it is a process by which incentive salience becomes attached to stimuli, such that these stimuli attract approach-related behaviors that vary in strength in proportion to the estimated magnitude in salience. more»

The research, there's not very much of it, but the research that's been done all points in the direction of the dog is much more reliable if it's been trained with reward, whether it's been trained to help a blind person around or whether it's been trained to attack terrorists. The dog that goes into that because it's fearful of its handler is less effective, and particularly less predictable, than the dog that's been trained that biting somebody's arm is fun, which is how they do it. So, I've obviously not been privy to every single bit of training that the military have ever done, but most of what I've seen has been very much focused on positive reinforcement, and seems to be very effective. more»

While it would be possible to sedate the animals and then do any necessary medical work, it isn’t very practical, safe or stress-free. Instead, we work with our hoofstock and they participate in their own medical husbandry voluntarily. The learning process is mentally stimulating and the payoff for both us and the animals is enormous...Simple desensitization to touch allows for physical exams of the body, the treatment of small wounds, and helps with diagnostics when lameness occurs...Their yearly physicals can be performed without restraint because the giraffe have been trained to allow their eyes, ears and mouths to be examined, their chests and digestive tract listened to with the stethoscope, and even to have ultrasounds performed on their abdomens. more»

The compulsive beck and call of the rumble of a phone, a text message or an invite to an event makes us feel like we're part of something. Unfortunately, these rewards are as difficult to predict as the weather, and it's this that keeps us obsessively checking in. (Psychologist BF Skinner described this "variable-interval schedule" in his 1950s behavioural model of classical [sic] conditioning.)...Susan Maushart, author of The Winter of Our Disconnect, says, "We like to think that they are tools and we are the masters. If only life were that simple!" more»

A recent survey by psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein found that 25% of our happiness hinges on how well we're able to manage stress. The next logical question is, of course, how best can we reduce our stress?...Epstein points to his former professor, the late Harvard behaviorist B.F. Skinner, as a master organizer. (Skinner is best known for his highly influential research on the effects of reinforcement on behavior.) "Skinner was amazing at managing stress. He was quite a planner. Not only did he plan his day every day, but he had a 10-year planner," says Epstein. more»

Is there some way for fans to help their teams win? As it turns out, audiences can influence behavior in surprising ways...Instructors typically assume that they are teaching their audience. But as my old mentor Allen Neuringer found out one year, the audience can sometimes turn the tables and train the lecturer...Allen’s students had a profound effect on his behavior by subtly adjusting the way they paid attention. Sports fans have the advantage in that they are far less subtle. They scream their hearts out. But maybe they, too, can train the people they are watching. more»

“Four Loko didn’t have the extraordinary intoxicating effect because of caffeine, but rather because of the phenomenon of situational specificity of tolerance”, says Shepard Siegel of McMaster University, who wrote the article to highlight the importance of unusual cues related to alcohol tolerance...It has been known, at least since the time of Ivan Pavlov, that our bodies prepare for food when it is time to eat, or when we smell the food cooking, or when other stimuli signal that we will soon be presented with a meal. More recently, it has also been determined that we similarly prepare for a drug. more»

The prevailing discussion surrounding the smart grid is rightly focused on customer engagement. Sadly, that discussion has turned into an argument of gadgets versus behavioral modification tools — in-home displays and programmable thermostats versus community comparisons and social media. [Are these really mutually exclusive categories?--Ed.] This argument creates a false dichotomy and runs the risk of keeping whole segments of people from engaging with their energy consumption habits. more»

What we were interested in was the issue of whether or not one could erase long-term memories...We studied a very simple form of learning called sensitization. It’s not a type of learning where you form associations among stimuli. A classic example of associative learning is Pavlovian conditioning, where, for instance, a dog learns to associate a ringing bell with food. The experiment that we did focused on a non-associative form of learning where the subject received an arousing stimulus and, as a result, became sensitive to a wide number of sensory stimuli. We essentially created a heightened state of alertness. more»

Reward Good Behavior: A child who knows the rules, follows them and respects the limits of the "leash" that you have put on them should be rewarded with greater privileges—driving, later curfews, extra time on the computer, a special activity, etc. Entire schools of dog training are based on various methods of positive reinforcement…and it's just as effective with your child. It was only a generation ago that many parents relied on corporal punishment to ensure respect. I think we can all agree that a firm, but loving touch is a much more rewarding and appropriate approach for every family member…kid or canine! more»

Whoever said talk is cheap never met Sue Savage-Rumbaugh or hoped to one day carry on a conversation with endangered great apes...Her unconventional approach to linguistic and behavioral research, including living with a troop of seven chimp-like bonobos and rearing one of their infants, has also attracted critics and doubters. [The first link is to a news story on Savage-Rumbaugh, the second link is to an excellent review of ape-language research from a behavioral perspective by Mike Hixson and published in The Analysis of Verbal Behavior.—Ed.] more» more»

The underlying philosophy behind sparklines—and, really, all of Tufte’s work—is that data, when presented elegantly and with respect, is not confounding but clarifying: Edward Tufte occupies a revered and solitary place in the world of graphic design. Over the last three decades, he has become a kind of oracle in the growing field of data visualization—the practice of taking the sprawling, messy universe of information that makes up the quantitative backbone of everyday life and turning it into an understandable story. His four books on the subject have sold almost two million copies, and in his crusade against euphemism and gloss, he casts a shadow over the world of graphs and charts similar to the specter of George Orwell over essay and argument. more»

Diller's 1996 book, "Running on Ritalin," suggested that ADHD was being over-diagnosed, and that Ritalin, and the many formulations of amphetamine-like drugs that would follow, was being prescribed in many cases to children who would respond well to family therapy and tailored programs and routines at home and at school. more»

The half-inch long, black wasps can be trained over their 3-week life span to detect the pheromones of a bedbug in downright Pavlovian fashion. Lewis introduces the bedbugs’ odor to the hungry wasps. Then the wasps receive sugar water as a yummy and positive reinforcement. Repeat three times and the wasps associate bedbugs with candy. more»

The problem, autism experts say, is that mainstream medicine has been very slow to identify the causes of autism and to identify effective medical or behavioral therapies. Among those now regarded as supported by randomized, controlled scientific studies are the Applied Behavior Analysis and Early Achievements Program used at Kennedy Krieger; certain speech, language and occupational therapies, and melatonin therapy. more»

The study findings of increased craving in smokers from before to after second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure and a correlation between occupancy of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and craving alleviation with smoking suggest that a moderate SHS exposure delivers a priming dose of nicotine, which increases craving, and that greater the occupancy of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors from SHS exposure leads to greater craving alleviation when smokers subsequently smoke to satiety. This interpretation is consistent with prior research in laboratory animals demonstrating that a low dose of nicotine is sufficient to reinstate nicotine-seeking behavior in animals in which nicotine seeking has been extinguished. This mechanism may explain why adult smokers exposed to multiple sources of SHS have difficulty initiating and maintaining abstinence compared with smokers without such exposure. more»

Can social bonding in prairie voles help identify drug compliments for autism treatments? Researchers at the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience (CTSN) at Emory University are focusing on prairie voles as a new model to screen the effectiveness of drugs to treat autism. They are starting with D-cycloserine, a drug Emory researchers have shown enhances behavioral therapy for phobias and also promotes pair bonding among prairie voles. more»

All are anticipating this summer's debut of Knewton, a new computerized-learning program that features immediate feedback and adaptation to students' learning curves. The concept can be traced back a half-century or so to a "teaching machine" invented by the psychologist B.F. Skinner, then a professor at Harvard University. Based on principles of learning he developed working with pigeons, Skinner came up with a boxlike mechanical device that fed questions to students, rewarding correct answers with fresh academic material; wrong answers simply got them a repeat of the old question. "The student quickly learns to be right," Skinner said. more»

People are hard-wired to enjoy positive reinforcement. And, well, play is fun...Gaming reinforces players through positive feelings generated by achievements, which are perceived through points, badges, discounts, or any award—tangible or not. Game mechanics are, simply, ways of generating those positive feelings. "Foursquare was a really great early example of this happening," McGonigal says. "Foursquare started this whole trend of making achievements and giving people badges for doing stuff." Giving customers something positive encourages additional interaction with your brand, service, or product. For this very purpose, LinkedIn added a progress bar that documents user-profile completion. more»

A fundamental strength to the behavioral system is that the theory and the therapy evolved empirically. In this regard the behavioral model parallels development of the germ theory in medicine and the discovery of effective treatments originating in the germ theory. Just as basic research in anatomy and physiology led to an understanding of the mechanisms responsible for many physical illnesses and how to treat them, basic research on the process of learning has produced a coherent description of the mechanisms governing mental disorder and this understanding has guided the design of therapeutic interventions. more»

In a recent article, Dr. Bem conducted nine studies with over a thousand participants in an attempt to demonstrate that future events retroactively affect people’s responses. Here we discuss several limitations of Bem’s experiments on psi; in particular, we show that the data analy- sis was partly exploratory, and that one-sided p-values may overstate the statistical evidence against the null hypothesis...We conclude that Bem’s p-values do not indicate evidence in favor of precognition; instead, they indicate that experimental psychologists need to change the way they conduct their experiments and analyze their data. more» more»

Let's face it. Most of us procrastinate. Even when we want something (or know it's the right thing to do), the temptation is always to wait for next Tuesday. Or never. What inspires us to get off our chairs? Researchers who study human behavior are producing some interesting answers for managers and policy makers alike — involving bribes and deadlines — that could boost public health and make smart companies some serious money. more»

Where do languages come from? That is a question as old as human beings’ ability to pose it. But it has two sorts of answer. The first is evolutionary: When and where human banter was first heard. The second is ontological: How an individual human acquires the power of speech and understanding. Last week, by a neat coincidence, saw the publication of papers addressing both of these conundrums. more»

The type of learning that alcohol and other addictive drugs may promote is best described as "subconscious" reward-based conditioning, much like the classic example of Pavlov's dog. Just as the dog learns to associate the sound of a bell with food (a reward), a person may similarly associate a particular street corner in his hometown with cocaine use. After much repetition the dog salivates at the sound of a bell, and a cocaine addict craves a hit when he returns to the old hangout. The new insight from Morikawa's work is that alcoholics may be more vulnerable to reward-based conditioning—meaning they would learn new cravings sooner. more»

An urban myth popular in US universities concerns a group of psychology students who decide to play a trick on their lecturer. They conspire among themselves to nod, smile and express passionate interest whenever he's standing at one side of the podium, or whenever he raises his arms to gesture; the rest of the time, they look distracted and bored. By the end of term, he's spending every lecture teetering precariously at the podium's edge, his arms floating foolishly far above his head. He has fallen victim to good, old-fashioned "operant conditioning" – the rewards-based system of behaviour change pioneered in rats by BF Skinner. more»

Cognitively oriented psychologists often define behavioral effects in terms of mental constructs (e.g., classical conditioning as a change in behavior that is due to the formation of associations in memory) and thus effectively treat those effects as proxies for mental constructs. This practice can, however, hamper scientific progress. I argue that if psychologists would consistently define behavioral effects only in terms of the causal impact of elements in the environment (e.g., classical conditioning as a change in behavior that is due to the pairing of stimuli), they would adopt a functional approach that not only reveals the environmental causes of behavior but also optimizes cognitive research. more» more»

The Crash and Burn of an Autism Guru: Andrew Wakefield has become one of the most reviled doctors of his generation, blamed directly and indirectly, depending on the accuser, for irresponsibly starting a panic with tragic repercussions: vaccination rates so low that childhood diseases once all but eradicated here — whooping cough and measles, among them — have re-emerged, endangering young lives. more»

What would it mean for a replicator to exist without chemistry? “I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet,” Dawkins proclaimed near the end of his first book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. “It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.” That “soup” is human culture; the vector of transmission is language, and the spawning ground is the brain. For this bodiless replicator itself, Dawkins proposed a name. He called it the meme, and it became his most memorable invention... more»

Lorel's advanced age made close monitoring a priority, so the zoo worked since November with Tracy Moegenburg, a sonographer with the Mayo Clinic and founder of Animal Images, which specializes in ultrasound for animals...Next to Moegenburg stood Nancy Kitchen, another bonobo trainer, operating the laptop-sized ultrasound machine. Fenn stood nearby monitoring the process and reinforcing Lorel with an occasional, "Good girl, momma." Kitchen and Barnes used positive reinforcement training strategies to teach Lorel to present her belly and stay in position during the 20- to 30-minute sessions. more»

Just because the dogs can be influenced, doesn't mean they can't do their jobs: What this research does not do is say that sniffer dogs can't find contraband. That is, however, the implication of the Bad Science piece, which suggests sniffer dogs are another example of pseudoscience. The authors of the original study made no such many scientists, the author of Bad Science is trained and rewarded to tear down - critique - scientific research. And, like Clever Hans, Pavlov's dogs, and all the rest of us, he tends to enact behaviors more frequently that have been rewarded in the past. Physics has gravity. Psychology has reinforcement. Both laws tend to work very reliably. more»

In 1688, an Irish polymath named William Molyneux wrote the English philosopher John Locke a letter in which he posed a vexing question: Could a blind person, upon suddenly gaining the ability to see, recognize an object by sight that he'd previously known by feel? The answer has potentially important implications for philosophers and neuroscientists alike. Now, researchers working with a medical charity that provides surgery to restore vision in blind children say they've found the answer to Molyneux's question. It's "no" but with a twist. more»

We tend to repeat activities which lead to satisfaction of our needs or reward us in other ways. We adopt activities which contribute to individual success and the success of our societies. When we experience physical or emotional discomfort, when we fail, we tend to avoid activities and behavior which led to those failures. We are shaped equally by successes and failures. Both are experiences critical to our survival. Our nation’s founders understood this long before Freud’s analyses and B. F. Skinner’s rat studies were known. more»

The power of games is certainly there when it comes to being a persuasive medium. Modern game design theory is built upon the work of psychologists such as B.F. Skinner and educators such as Maria Montessori. Authors Byron Reeves and J. Leighton Read even argue for using games to increase workplace teamwork and productivity...Can games be utilized to train the next generation of productive members of society? more»

Much like babies learn to Baby Sign, toddlers learn simple language, or Koko learned Gorilla Sign, dogs can learn K9Sign. I incorporate learning theory and protocols (many in applied behavior analysis used with children with speech-delays), operant conditioning principles, and lots of positive reinforcement, molding, modeling, and imitation. more»

Human languages are far more complex than any animal communication system we're aware of, and yet young children can easily learn to master more than one language in an astonishingly short period of time. This has led a number of linguists, most notably Noam Chomsky, to suggest that there might be language universals, common features of all languages that the human brain is attuned to...Now, a team of cognitive scientists has teamed up with an evolutionary biologist to perform a phylogenetic analysis of language families, and the results suggest that when it comes to the way languages order key sentence components, there are no rules. more»

Depending on how you phrase the question, you're either asking whether heroin addiction is no more serious than a love of junk food, or you're questioning whether junk food junkies may have a serious disorder that needs intervention. Now a new study suggests that there may be no clear, bright line between addictive and normal responses—and adds to the evidence that all "addictions" act on the same motivational system in the brain. more»

While there is no cure for autism, there is no shortage of purported treatments to manage the range of symptoms associated with the wide spectrum of the disorder...But three study reviews published Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics found that early intensive behavioral interventions are more effective for autism symptoms than medical interventions. more»

In her study, Bédard conducted three experiments on three groups of rats: a control group, a group receiving haloperidol (a common antipsychotic drug) continuously, and a group receiving haloperidol intermittently. The first experiment evaluated the pursuit of a conditioned reward. The animals were used to seeing a light and hearing a sound whenever a reward was delivered, in this case a few drops of water. Once this Pavlovian association was learned the water was cut but the light and sound could still be activated with a pedal. A second pedal played a similar role but was inoperative. The rats then explored the role of both these pedals before receiving a dose of amphetamine. more»

Tourette's typically first appears in early childhood and worsens in preteen years, but it tends to ease by late adolescence, said psychology professor Douglas Woods, director of the Tic Disorder Specialty Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It peaks "when young people are most vulnerable to the challenges of early adolescence," Woods said. more»

More than just a zoo, Orsa Grönklitt is an education center where hundreds of thousands of people per year come from all over Europe. The park will also highlight Kodiak-based research about how people and bears have learned to co-exist here. While the enclosure for the Kodiak bears is constructed at the bear park and permits obtained for the bears to travel to Sweden, the two cubs are being trained at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage to be more comfortable with people. The training involves operant conditioning and positive reinforcement in a setting where conservation biologist Jordan Schaul gets to interact with the Kodiak cubs directly and not through a barrier. more»

In 1993, PBS’s documentary series “Frontline” did a show on facilitated communication, a process where an assistant, or facilitator, helps someone who cannot speak clearly express himself via keyboard...The Syracuse University professor of special education who introduced facilitated communication to the U.S., Douglas Biklen, is the producer of the new documentary, “Wretches & Jabberers"...Unlike most documentaries, this film is getting a big opening across the country at AMC theaters through an arrangement between AMC and the Autism Society. more»

One approach to achieving the desired behaviors from your employees is to build a culture of reinforcement using regular recognition of the desired behaviors ...Positive reinforcement must be ingrained in a leader’s daily activities. You don’t have to wait for the one great idea to recognize an employee’s contributions. Look for the little things that your people do every day and take the opportunity to immediately congratulate them on a job well done, or in a team setting for the completion of a small, but important project. The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the action as possible. more»

Servicemen and women returning from Iraq or Afghanistan often say smells that remind them of war or the countries where they fought can trigger memories or flashbacks of combat trauma – just as the sound of fireworks produced the same symptoms in Vietnam War veterans, said Beidel, a clinical psychologist who will lead the research in Orlando. Over five weeks, the individual behavior therapy sessions using virtual reality will gradually expose participants to the sights, sounds and smells of trauma that they experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq. more»

A brain-machine interface might someday help a patient whose limbs have been paralyzed by a spine injury. Tiny arrays of microwires implanted in multiple motor cortex areas of the brain would be wired to a neurochip in the skull. As the person imagined her paralyzed arm moving in a particular way, such as reaching out for food on a table, the chip would convert the thoughts into a train of radio-frequency signals and send them wirelessly to a small battery-operated "backpack" computer hanging from the chair. [The first link is to Miguel Nicolelis' recent Daily Show interview, the second link is to a 2002 Scientific American article describing the development of this line of research. - Ed.] more» more»

Feelings of hunger, or food associated images, do not produce "mouthwatering" sensations, or increase saliva flow, in the same way that the smell or taste of food does, according to new research. The study, published in Journal of Texture Studies, tested the salivary response of human volunteers to a number of stimuli that have been reported to produce ‘mouthwatering’ sensations, such as food associated imagery, or feelings of hunger. more»

Greening the workforce: Business psychologists Jonathan Taylor and Laura Bache share their tried and tested techniques to influence staff behaviour and save energy...So how can companies incentivise green behaviour? People are influenced by the here-and-now. You need to use positive reinforcement to link their green behaviour to an immediate positive outcome. Traditionally, green initiatives have relied on making people feel guilty if they don't act. But guilt only encourages people to do the minimum needed to avoid those negative feelings. It's much more powerful to incentivise green behaviour, as staff will be motivated to repeat the behaviour. more»

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help. more»

The Brain is Not an Explanation: A growing number of scientists, including many who study the brain, are calling for more caution from scientists, both in reporting and interpreting fMRI data. Among them is University of Illinois neuroscientist Diane Beck, who in a recent article in Perspectives on Psychological Science discussed both the appeal and the pitfalls of popular stories about the brain and behavior. more»

Can simulated interactions in which adults with autism converse with a virtual partner help them develop better social interaction skills? Yes, according to a study (PDF)published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. more»

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and collaborators have demonstrated the efficacy of a "wearable," portable PET scanner they've developed for rats. The device will give neuroscientists a new tool for simultaneously studying brain function and behavior in fully awake, moving animals. more»

Many years ago a line in a professional journal struck me as possessing considerable mileage, a comment from Ivan Pavlov: A scientist must accustom himself to the gradual accumulation of knowledge...Pavlov suggests a manner of learning every student needs: encounter, learn, remember, build on, and apply. This process, again, differs from the typical school sequence: encounter, learn, forget, start over. more»

What happened to being "quiet as a mouse"? Researchers have recently shown that, rather than being the silent creatures of popular belief, mice emit ultrasonic calls in a variety of social contexts, and these calls have song-like characteristics. So if mice sing, where do they get their music? Are they born with the songs fully formed in their heads, or do they learn them from their peers? more»

Foer points out [that] we no longer need to remember telephone numbers. Our mobile phones do that for us. We don't recall addresses either. We send emails from computers that store electronic addresses. Nor do we bother to remember multiplication tables. Pocket calculators do the job of multiplying quite nicely...As a result, we no longer remember long poems or folk stories by heart, feats of memory that were once the cornerstones of most people's lives. Indeed, society has changed so much that we no longer know what techniques we should employ to remember such lengthy works. We are, quite simply, forgetting how to remember. more»

Little did I know that studying how my son learned to speak would come to this: a TED Talk gone viral, partially thanks to Ashton Kutcher and his 6 million Twitter followers -- and a technology platform that may change the way we understand social, political and commercial communications. Six years ago, my wife and I, speech and cognitive scientists respectively, wanted to understand how a child learned language comprehensively and naturally, since most theories on language acquisition were grounded in surprisingly incomplete observational data. more»

Quit smoking using an iPhone, iPad, or iPod? The principle of this approach uses the knowledge of Skinner’s operant conditioning. [Interesting, but a quick read of the study reveals some major problems with the research design. I wouldn't be too confident in the effects of this application. Read it for yourself and see: the second link brings you to the PDF of the article.- Ed.] more» more»

The school's founder, Matthew Israel, is every bit as unconventional as the environment he has created. A short, quietly-spoken man with a mop of tightly-curled hair, he first came across the study of punishment and reward as an undergraduate psychology student at Harvard in the 1950s. He signed up for a course by the famous behaviourist BF Skinner, who taught his pupils that, just as pigeons or rats could be trained to change their habits in laboratory experiments, so could human beings. [This one is controversial, folks. Feel free to leave comments on the Facebook site. - Ed.] more»

Not so many years ago, I was told by a professor of mine that you didn't have much control over your intelligence. It was genetic—determined at birth. He explained that efforts made to raise the intelligence of children (through programs like Head Start, for example) had limited success while they were in practice, and furthermore, once the "training" stopped, they went right back to their previously low cognitive levels. Indeed, the data did show that [pdf], and he (along with many other intelligence researchers) concluded that intelligence could not be improved—at least not to create a lasting change. Well, I disagreed. You see, before that point in my studies, I had begun working as a Behavior Therapist, training young children on the autism spectrum. more»

Cognitive scientist Deb Roy blew the curve for Flip cam-packing proud pops. Since he and his wife brought their son home from the hospital, Roy has captured his every movement and word with a series of fisheye-lens cameras installed in every room. The purpose was to understand how we learn language...A combination of new software and human transcription called Blitzscribe allowed them to parse 200 terabytes of data to capture the emergence and refinement of specific words in Roy’s son’s vocabulary. In one 40-second clip, you can hear how “gaga” turned into “water” over the course of six months. In a video clip, below, you can hear and watch the evolution of "ball." [The second link brings you to the TED Talk video - Ed.] more» more»

The virtual community rallied round through three painful years of surgeries, seizures and life-threatening infections. Until March this year, when one of them discovered Mandy wasn't sick at all...Mandy had made up the whole story. Mandy is one of a growing number of people who pretend to suffer illness and trauma to get sympathy from online support groups...From cancer forums to anorexia websites, LiveJournal to Mumsnet, trusting communities are falling victim to a new kind of online fraud, one in which people are scammed out of their time and emotion instead of their money. The fakers have nothing to gain from their lies – except attention. [Reads to me like a story of EOs and socially-mediated reinforcement. - Ed.] more»

Humans experience pleasure from a variety of stimuli, including food, money, and psychoactive drugs. Such pleasures are largely made possible by a brain chemical called dopamine, which activates what is known as the mesolimbic system...Recent brain imaging studies indicate that dopamine-rich areas of the brain become activated when people listen to music or during learning when food and money are presented as rewards. more»

The most famous test for artificial intelligence is that devised by Alan Turing, a British computing pioneer. To pass the Turing test, and thus be considered intelligent, a program must fool a human being into believing that it is another human being...José Hernández-Orallo of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, in Spain, and David Dowe of Monash University, in Australia, think they can do better than this...The actual tests would employ the well-honed methods of operant conditioning, developed initially on pigeons, in which the test subject has first to work out what is going on by trial and error. more»

Like humans, songbirds learn to sing by first listening to adult birds and then mimicking those sounds through a process of trial-and-error. Their initial vocalizations are akin to the babbling of babies..."We know that variation by trial and error is an important part of the learning process," said Doupe. "But discovering precisely how social cues influence motor production during song learning in birds could shed light on the brain mechanisms that underlie similar processes in humans learning how to speak... more»

In their study, the UCSF neuroscientists explored the way in which the songbirds learn to perfect and maintain their song, a model of how one learns -- and might relearn -- fine motor skills when provided only simple reinforcement signals of success or failure. more»

Shea’s paper is a bold move away from the narrative of human uniqueness, as well as away from the “Stone Age mind” approach of evolutionary psychology, which also relies on this contrast between the Paleolithic and modern behavior. His emphasis on behavioral variability, rather than evolved modules to do specific things and hopeful neural mutations that somehow led to the jump to modern behavior, significantly challenges the dominant evolutionary thinking about the links between past and present. more» more» more»

How often have you seen a teeth-whitening ad that shows the person with bright, white teeth as more attractive — sexier even? Or viewed an ad for a green cleaning product that made you fearful that using a chemical product would harm your kids? Or just think of any product — diet food, skin care, insurance company, car, medication — that features celebrity testimonials or the words of other consumers who’ve achieved “incredible results.” For these common advertising ploys, you can thank John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism here in America. more»

Trut reaches in and scoops him up, then hands him over to me. Cradled in my arms, gently jawing my hand in his mouth, he's as docile as any lapdog. Except that Mavrik, as it happens, is not a dog at all. He's a fox. Hidden away on this overgrown property, flanked by birch forests and barred by a rusty metal gate, he and several hundred of his relatives are the only population of domesticated silver foxes in the world...And by "domesticated" I don't mean captured and tamed, or raised by humans and conditioned by food to tolerate the occasional petting. more»

What if smart meters, real-time monitors and rebates aren't enough to change the way people consume electricity? What if running the washer and dryer during peak hours turns out to be a habit as difficult to kick as, say, smoking? Some utility companies think that might be the case. In a pilot program designed by a Colorado energy-services company, Cape Light Compact of Barnstable, Mass., is trying to encourage energy conservation among a test group of its customers by using behavior-modification techniques, some of which resemble those that help people quit smoking. more»

Bart Weetjens wanted to do something to benefit the world, and using his ‘HeroRATs’ he is doing just that. The technology of rat training is based on the science of behavior analysis. As practitioners here at ADI, we know its power to change the world. This science has many applications to better humanity, not just at work but across social, economic, and political conditions around the world. We hope you will find this background story of interest. Watch Bart on TED and listen to his inspired words for changing the way communities can use this technology to save life and create economic conditions for success. more»

Move over, bloodhounds, there’s a new odor detector in town...“We devised a way of detecting the change in behavior of the wasps that would tell us when they detected an odor,” he says. “Pavlov’s dog, when you rang the bell, would always salivate. Well, wasps don’t salivate, but we found some specific behaviors they did do.” When wasps have been trained to associate a particular odor with a reward — a good, long drink of sugar water — they get excited when they smell it. “They really move around,” Mr. Lewis says. “Like pigs to a trough.” more»

Are some learning programs effective only for certain kinds of students, and if so, how will the right programs be distributed to the right students? How will we know the conditions in which the technology-based learning is successful? How will we measure this? These are the kinds of questions that e-learning specialists and educational researchers have been asking for two decades at least (and it's more like five decades if we go all the way back to B. F. Skinner's "Teaching Machine"). Let's not bypass everything they've already figured out because we want to throw some money at the education problem. more»

Every computer game is designed around the same central element: the player. While the hardware and software for games may change, the psychology underlying how players learn and react to the game is a constant...The techniques that I'll discuss in this article generally fall under the heading of behavioral psychology...One hallmark of behavioral research is that most of the major experimental discoveries are species-independent and can be found in anything from birds to fish to humans. more»

“Photographic memory is a detestable myth. Doesn’t exist. In fact, my memory is quite average. All of us here have average memories.”...“What you have to understand is that even average memories are remarkably powerful if used properly,” Cooke said. He explained to me that mnemonic competitors saw themselves as “participants in an amateur research program” whose aim is to rescue a long-lost tradition of memory training. more»

In high school, he became fascinated with Skinner, who thought the behavior of humans was entirely malleable, shaped by social influences. Later, he rejects Skinner’s view of humanity and embraces evolutionary psychology, which is far more deterministic. more»

When the health law was signed last March, nutrition experts applauded the new requirement that most chain restaurants print calorie information about the foods they serve on the menu. But it's going to take a whole lot more than simply posting calories to get people to change their eating habits at fast-food restaurants, concludes a study just published in the International Journal of Obesity more»

Indeed, animal behaviourists, psychologists and many horsemen (and horsewomen) disagree with whip use: they argue that using a whip (which causes at least some pain to the horse) flies in the face of classical operant or behavioural conditioning practices because the horse perceives whipping as punishment for going faster -- the very thing that the jockey seeks! more»

Rudebeck and his group trained monkeys to play a computer game in which they assessed the value of different rewards. The animals were shown two different pictures and allowed to choose between them. One picture brought a large juice reward, and the other brought a much smaller amount of juice. The animals chose the picture associated with the larger reward more than 98 percent of the time. more»

A frequent and frustrating behavior that dog owners face is their pet jumping for attention. Despite lots of corrective ways to address it, the dog continues to jump. Often, the solution to an undesirable behavior is to first have a better understanding of why the dog does it, so you can then deny the dog what it wants until you get what you want. Jumping up is attention-seeking behavior. more»

[H]anging out with nerds wasn't cool and...the kind of intellectualism they exuded didn't enthrall me. Then my sister's husband suggested I read Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner...Look, he said, people are animals. Kind of like laboratory rats, except taller. more»

Drug- and explosives-sniffing dog/handler teams' performance is affected by human handlers' beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional handler cues, a study by researchers at UC Davis has found. [Seems like more of a story about behavior than cognition, in my opinion. - Ed.] more»

Land mines kill or maim upwards of 25,000 people a year and are a major cause of suffering in the developing world, according to the United Nations...Today, people in Mozambique can safely tread on 100 acres of previously dangerous land thanks to a new demining technology pioneered by APOPO and [Alan] Poling: rats. After extensive training, APOPO’s giant African pouched rats detect mines in the field with 100 percent accuracy, according to a study by Poling and his colleagues in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (Vol. 44, No. 2). more» more

Researchers have developed key insights into its metabolic, genetic and neurological causes. But this work has not amounted to a solution to the public health crisis. Behavior focus: Using techniques that have proved effective in treating autism, stuttering and alc o hol ism may be the most val uable for either losing weight or preventing weight gain. more» more»

Chaser, a border collie who lives in Spartanburg, S.C., has the largest vocabulary of any known dog. She knows 1,022 nouns, a record that displays unexpected depths of the canine mind and may help explain how children acquire language. Chaser belongs to John W. Pilley, a psychologist who taught for 30 years at Wofford College, a liberal arts institution in Spartanburg. more»


On June 28th, 1936, Don Hake was born. Hake was a pioneer in the fields of experimental and applied behavior analysis. His studies of conditioned suppression, social facilitation, punishment, escape and avoidance conditioning, aggression, and cooperation found applications in clinical settings. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 26th, 1919, Kenneth MacCorquodale was born. As a graduate student, MacCorquodale was influenced by B. F. Skinner. MacCorquodale's research interests were in learning theory, especially the analysis of verbal behavior. He was executive editor of the respected Century Psychology Series. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 26th, 1935, Leo Kanner's book Child Psychiatry was published. This was the first English-language text on the topic. Kanner later identified the syndrome called infantile autism and gave it its name. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 26th, 1996, the First Interamerican and Iberoamerican Meeting of Behavior Analysis began in Veracruz, Mexico. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

Brain Parade was designed by See.Touch.Learn. for use with autistic or other children with special needs. The app is a highly customizable picture learning system that aims to replace traditional picture cards, a tool frequently used when following the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach to treatment for autism. more»

Brain Parade was designed by See.Touch.Learn. for use with autistic or other children with special needs. The app is a highly customizable picture learning system that aims to replace traditional picture cards, a tool frequently used when following the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach to treatment for autism. more»

On June 21st, 1966, the chimpanzee named Washoe began her training in American Sign Language at the University of Nevada at Reno. Reno is the county seat of Washoe County. R. Allen Gardner and Beatrice Gardner conducted this research. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 18th, 1929, B. F. Skinner's first journal article was received for publication. The title was "The Progressive Increase in the Geotropic Response of the Ant Aphaenogaster," published in the Journal of General Psychology. Skinner was junior author to T. Cunliffe Barnes. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On June 17th, 1919, William K. Estes was born. Estes's early work with B. F. Skinner led to increasingly precise mathematical descriptions of learning. He received the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1962 and was the American Psychological Society William James Fellow in 1990. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

BAPcast is a monthly podcast that accompanies the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice. Podcasts contain interviews with authors of articles published in Behavior Analysis in Practice or with other practitioners, researchers, and members of the field of behavior analysis. more»

On June 15th, 1873, Max F. Meyer was born. Meyer promoted a vision of psychology that resembled and preceded Watson's behaviorism but did not attract Watson's following. His experimental work was primarily in the area of acoustics. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

What is facilitated communication? Discuss the issue in a Web chat with Dr. James Todd (Eastern Michigan University) on June 15th at noon (EST) via the Detroit Free Press. more»

Rethink Autism, a new force in online education for children on the autism spectrum, has announced that its award-winning curriculum is now aligned with the Common Core State Standards, making it the first and only autism curriculum to meet what is quickly becoming the national standard in education. Developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare America's children for success in college and work. more»

On June 12th, 1917, John Garcia was born. Garcia is best known for his work on classical conditioning of taste aversions and studies of innate preparedness for learning. He won Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 1979. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

June 11th, 1962 was the first of 2 days of debate between B. F. Skinner and Carl Rogers on the topic of "Education and the Control of Human Behavior" at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

While its beginnings were humble, it didn’t take long for scientists and inventors from around the world to flock to the Research Lab to see what GE was working on. And each famous mind that visited would stop at Willis Whitney’s desk to sign the VIP guest book. The book sat at Whitney’s desk from 1914 to 1935, and the signatures are a veritable Who’s Who of inventors, physicists, chemists, physiologists, and businessmen — including 9 Nobel Laureates [such as Ivan Pavlov]. more»

[W]hat happens when the things that signify a "reward" are actually not important at all? Are they still powerful enough to capture our attention, when so many other things are competing for it? According a team of neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins, the answer is "yes," especially when those things previously have been associated with something rewarding, such as money. more»

On June 8th, 1956, Joseph V. Brady's article "Assessment of Drug Effects on Emotional Behavior" was published in Science. The article reported the selective effects of reserpine on anxiety responses and was followed by the establishment of behavioral pharmacology laboratories at virtually every major U.S. pharmaceutical company. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On June 8th, 1948, B. F. Skinner's Walden Two was published. The publisher, Macmillan, agreed to publish the book only on the condition that Skinner also write an introductory text for them. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 7th, 1902, Edwin B. Twitmyer's dissertation was approved and he was recommended to the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania for the PhD degree. His dissertation reported classical conditioning of the knee-jerk reflex 3 years before Pavlov's studies of classical conditioning were published, but little note was taken of Twitmyer's work. His PhD was granted on June 18, 1902. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 6th, 1913, Edward L. Thorndike's Educational Psychology: Vol. 1. The Original Nature of Man was published. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 4th, 1897, Edward L. Thorndike met James McKeen Cattell for the first time. After two years at Harvard University, Thorndike finished his doctoral work at Columbia under Cattell's supervision. His doctoral thesis, Animal Intelligence, described his studies of escape learning in cats and became a classic of early research in learning. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On June 4th, 1901, Gregory Razran was born. Razran did extensive work in classical conditioning and served as an intermediary between American and Soviet psychologists. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On June 2nd, 1945, B. F. Skinner began writing his manuscript for The Sun is But a Morning Star. Before publication in 1948, the title of this work was changed to Walden Two. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On May 31st, 1937, in a picture story titled "Rat Works Slot Machine for a Living," Life magazine described the performance of a rat named Pliny the Elder. Using the method of shaping, B. F. Skinner had trained Pliny to pull a chain to release a marble, pick up the marble, and drop it in a box for a food reinforcement. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Modification is now available. more»

Rehabilitation specialists at The Shepherd Center are using a device, called the Electronic Driving Coach, a computerized system that’s installed in a client’s car. Luther-Krug says each time the driver performs a specific task (like checking speed, spatial distance of the car and objects in the mirror) he/she pushes a button. That sets off a verbal response from the computer providing positive reinforcement for performing the action. If several minutes have elapsed and the driver has forgotten to perform one of the actions, the computer is programmed to prompt the driver with a verbal reminder. more»

On May 23rd, 1883, Ivan Pavlov received the MD degree at Russia's Military-Medical Academy. His doctoral experiments were on the augmentor nerves of the heart. more»

On May 23rd, 1990, The Loebner Prize was established by the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. The prize is given annually to the authors of the computer program that best emulates human behavior. more»

On May 23rd, 1905, Roelof (Ralph) Gerbrands was born. Gerbrands was employed by Edwin G. Boring in September 1929 to make experimental equipment in the Harvard University shop. Gerbrands later went into business for himself, founding a company that became a major supplier of experimental psychology equipment, best known for its operant conditioning equipment. more»

Association for Behavior Analysis, International to Host 37th Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado. more»

On May 20th, 1930, Richard J. Herrnstein was born. He was a student of B. F. Skinner's at Harvard, where he spent his career and ran the famed Harvard Pigeon Lab after Skinner's retirement. Herrnstein's primary work was in the experimental analysis of behavior, with a focus on the effect of reinforcement history on choice behavior (the Matching Law) and concept formation. His books IQ and the Meritocracy (1973) and The Bell Curve (1994, with Charles Murray) presented a controversial view of the relation between hereditary intelligence and social success. more» more»

The Food Dudes program Hopkins' research helped was originally developed in Ireland, where it has been implemented successfully in elementary schools nationwide. Combining nutrition and psychology, the program is designed to change children's eating behavior and attitudes towards fruits and vegetables. The program was brought to Edith Bowen Elementary as an experiment by Wengreen and Greg Madden, associate professor in the psychology department [at Utah State University]. more»

When we speak, our enunciation and pronunciation of words and syllables fluctuates and varies from person to person...To uncover how spoken sounds are decoded, the research team designed a video game narrated in deliberately distorted speech. The soundtrack, unintelligible in any language, was the only source of instruction for 77 adult players in the study. With just two hours of play, the participants could reliably extract world-length sound categories from continuous alien sounds and apply that learning to advance through the game. more»

Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare Action Alert: The Association for Behavior Analysis, International Science Board Task Force on Animal Research has issued a statement concerning the recently published Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (8th Edition). more»

Can Social Deficits of Autism and Schizophrenia Be Modeled in Animals? "While no animal model can be expected to replicate the full complexity of the human behavioral autistic phenotype, the OTR-/- mouse may really help to understand the co-occurrence of these symptoms as a syndrome," explained Dr. Bice Chini, author and senior researcher of CNR—Institute of Neuroscience, Milano. more»

New research from McMaster University may answer a controversial question: do the blind have a better sense of touch because the brain compensates for vision loss or because of heavy reliance on their fingertips? The study, published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests daily dependence on touch is the answer. more»

The Spring 2011 issue of The Current Repertoire, the newsletter of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, is now available. more»

The latest issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is now available. more»

The Journal of Organizational Behavior Management—the official journal of the OBM Network—is a periodical devoted specifically to scientific principles to improve organizational performance through behavioral change. For a limited time, selected articles are available online for free. more»

On May 9th, 1967, Martin Seligman and Steven Maier's article "Failure to Escape Traumatic Shock" was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The article described the "learned helplessness" paradigm. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On May 9th, 1940, Robert A. Rescorla was born. With Allen Wagner, Rescorla developed the Rescorla-Wagner theory of classical conditioning. Over his career, he has emphasized the importance of probabilistic information in the learning history of the organism. He won the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1986. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On May 6th, 1907, Kenneth Spence was born. Spence's exhaustive work defined the parameters of many factors influencing classically conditioned responses. He won the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1956, the first year it was awarded. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

B. F. Skinner T-Shirt by Hirsute History: Order a customized shirt emplazoned with Skinner or any other scientist of your choosing. more»

A searchable PDF version of B. F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior is available for free from the B. F. Skinner Foundation website. more»

Matthew Israel, who founded The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center 40 years ago, announced Monday he will retire as executive director as of June 1. Israel received a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University and trained as a behavioral psychologist under Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner. more»

Dr. Joseph V. Brady, a behavioral neuroscientist, was responsible for training some of the first U.S. spacefarers – monkeys Able and Miss Baker, and Ham the Chimp. For this work that helped set the stage for early U.S. human spaceflights, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is honoring the Founder of the Institutes for Behavior Resources (IBR) with its Pioneer Award. Brady, whose career spans more than six decades, is currently a professor of behavioral biology at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. more»

On May 1, 1974, the Midwestern Association for Behavior Analysis (MABA) was founded. Israel Goldiamond was the first president of the organization. MABA later became the Association for Behavior Analysis International. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On May 1, 1978, The Behavior Analyst, the journal of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, was founded. Scott W. Wood was the journal's editor. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

A full, home-computer version of Behavior Breakthroughs™, an interactive program developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), is now available to help train parents, caretakers and others who work with children and adults with behavioral problems....The program is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and more than 40 years of empirically validated research that supports behavior intervention strategies developed by professional psychologists and educators. more»

On April 28th, 1903, Ivan Pavlov presented "Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals" to the International Congress of Medicine at Madrid. This was the first public exposition of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes. Pavlov was the second of four speakers at a general assembly held at 3:00 p.m. at the Grand Amphitheatre of the Faculty of Medicine. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 27th, 1978, the first annual Virginia Tech Symposium of Applied Behavioral Science began in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

Edmonton police have added a new weapon to their traffic enforcement arsenal-rewards for good drivers. On Thursday traffic officers throughout the city were flagging down drivers they observed following the rules of the road. "We want to recognize people's safe driving efforts today by rewarding them with a $5 gas coupon," says Acting Inspector Dave Barry of the Edmonton Police Service. more»

On April 24th, 1976, B. F. Skinner wrote in his notebook: "We know about our behavior but not about its causes. Hence we believe that we cause it. But we do not always seem to be causing it and hence the belief in the unconscious: We behave because of causes which we do not know about." (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 22nd, 1970, the journal Behavior Therapy was first published by the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy. Cyril M. Franks was the first editor of the journal. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 22nd, 1888, Edmund Jacobson was born. Jacobson is best known for his methods of progressive relaxation, based on his instruments that measured muscle potentials in microvolts. He studied the covert behavior accompanying mental activity and developed what now is known as biofeedback. He was the founder of quantitative electromyography. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 21st, 1882, Percy Williams Bridgman was born. A Nobel laureate, Bridgman founded operationism, a branch of logical positivism. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 20th, 1965, Leonard P. Ullmann and Leonard Krasner's book Case Studies in Behavior Modification was published. This was the first use of the term behavior modification in the title of a book. By 1980, Ullman and Krasner's book had been cited in over 480 other publications and it was selected as a "citation classic" by the journal Current Contents. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 20th, 1915, Joseph Wolpe was born. Wolpe developed and promoted behavioral techniques of psychotherapy. The method of systematic desensitization is attributed to Wolpe. His Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition (1958) and The Practice of Behavior Therapy (1969) were landmark books in the field. Wolpe won the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology in 1979. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

The Smartest Way to Set and Achieve Your Goals - stickK is designed to promote a healthier lifestyle for you by allowing you to create "Commitment Contracts." A Commitment Contract is a contract that binds you into achieving a personal goal. more»

On April 18, 1917, Edward L. Thorndike became the fifth psychologist elected to the National Academy of Sciences. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 17, 1958, Joseph Wolpe's book Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition was published, describing the method of systematic desensitization. In 1980, this book was featured as a "citation classic" by the journal Current Contents. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

Virtual reality may lead to real-world improvement for stroke patients ... Advantages of virtual reality systems include real-time feedback providing immediate positive reinforcement... more»

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Therapy is now available. more»

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Modification is now available. more»

On April 12th, 1968, Don Baer, Mont Wolf, and Todd Risley's article "Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis" was published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. By 1982, this article had been cited in over 535 other publications and was featured as a "citation classic" by the journal Current Contents. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 12th, 1968, Fred Keller's article "Goodbye, Teacher . . . " was published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The article described the application of behavioral principles to instruction. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 12th, 1968, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis was first published. The journal was founded and published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Montrose Wolf was the editor of the journal. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 12th, 1957, the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior was founded at a meeting in the Statler Hotel in New York City. The journal was founded as a forum for studies of operant conditioning. A formal proposal for the journal was later written by Charles Ferster, William N. Schoenfeld, Murray Sidman, and Peter B. Dews. Ferster served as the first editor of the journal and sent out the first call for papers on August 8, 1957. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 10th, 1958, the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior was first published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. more»

New Podcast Available- Detecting landmines and tuberculosis: Real world applications of behavioral psychology. In this episode, R. Trent Codd, III, Ed.S., interviews Alan Poling, PhD about his work training African giant pouched rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. more»

On April 7, 1859, Jacques Loeb was born. Loeb’s work in physiology and his philosophy of science had a direct impact on the careers and theoretical perspectives of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. William Crozier, who would later become B. F. Skinner’s defacto graduate mentor, was strongly influenced by Loeb. Some of Loeb's more notable works include The Mechanistic Conception of Life (1912) and Forced Movements, Tropisms, and Animal Conduct (1918). more»

Georgia Aquarium opens elaborate new dolphin show: The 11 dolphins at the aquarium were brought in from attractions in Bermuda, Hawaii and the Bahamas between June and September of last year, said Michael Hunt, director of animal training. The animals are trained by positive reinforcement, getting a back rub, a handful of fish or a toy for good behavior, he said. more»

On April 4, 1979, the John B. Watson Symposium was held in Greenville, North Carolina, in commemoration of Watson's birth in 1878. Conference participants included B. F. Skinner, Fred Keller, and James V. McConnell. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology)

On April 3, 1967, B. F. Skinner entered into his notebook: "Strange to say, I am an Emersonian, a Thoreauvian. I want what they wanted. But I want it as part of a successful conception of human behavior. Maybe Walden Two was an apter title than I knew." (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

On April 1st, 1960, Thomas Szasz's article "The Myth of Mental Illness" was published in the American Psychologist. (Source: Today in the History of Psychology) more»

April is Autism Awareness Month. As part of its commitment to the autism community, educational technology company Rethink Autism is helping to educate parents through a new video series on their home page, "Every Day Counts, Everyone Can Help." Developed by Rethink Autism's clinical team and hosted by Rethink Autism's Director of Research and Training, Dr. Hannah Hoch, the series provides an overview of autism, video examples of early warning signs, and research-based teaching strategies that they can start using immediately. more»

New "early view" articles (i.e., articles available online in advance of print) are available from the journal Behavioral Interventions. more»

Children with Tourette syndrome could benefit from behavioural therapy to reduce their symptoms, according to a new brain imaging study. Researchers believe that 'training' the brain to encourage this process — through the use of behavioural therapy — could help young people gain control over their symptoms more quickly and effectively. Effective behavioural therapies could involve habit reversal therapy. [Do you really need "brain imaging" to tell you this? - Ed.] more»

On March 28th, 1922, Joseph V. Brady was born. Brady's work in behavioral biology includes well-known studies of ulcers in "executive monkeys" and the selective effects of reserpine on anxiety responses. He later applied experimental methods to problems of space flight and the prevention of drug abuse. He won the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology in 1991. (Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology) more»

The complete program for the 2011 Organizational Behavior Management Conference in Tampa, FL is now available online. more»

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of providing a world-class [and self-paced] education to anyone, anywhere. Despite being the work of one man, Salman Khan, this 2100+ video library is the most-used educational video resource as measured by YouTube video views per day and unique users per month. Every time you work on a problem or watch a video, the Khan Academy remembers what you've learned and where you're spending your time. We keep all of this data private but expose powerful statistics to each user and their coaches. You get at-a-glance information about everything you've been learning and whether or not you've been hitting your goals. You can drill all the way down from a bird's-eye view of your profile into each and every exercise problem that you've ever worked on. more»

The latest issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is now available. more»

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore: On the whole, Hale—who has clearly read his Chomsky and his Skinner, and knows his Clever Hans (the late-nineteenth-century horse whose apparent ability to count turned out to be a byproduct of unconscious cuing by his trainers) from his Nim Chimpsky (a baby chimp “cross-fostered” by a human family in a famous failed experiment in the 1970s)—seems unsure how much of how own design he wants to explain to the reader. more»

On March 22nd, 1889, Walter S. Hunter was born. A comparative psychologist, Hunter used maze learning to investigate factors influencing behavior and invented the delayed reaction and double alternation tests of animal learning. He was also one of the founders of Psychological Abstracts (1937). APA President, 1931. (Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology) more»

Yesterday (March 20th) marked the anniversary of B. F. Skinner's birth in 1904. Skinner's principles of operant conditioning affected nearly every field of psychology and made him the most well-known psychologist of his day. During his decorated career, he received the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1958), the National Medal of Science (1968), and the APA Citation for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology (1990). The link brings you to Skinner's NY TImes obituary, originally published on Aug. 20th, 1990. more»

An online inventory of B. F. Skinner's papers and other materials at the Harvard University Library. more»

DYMO™/Mimio® ITT, a leading provider of interactive teaching technologies for educators, today announces the acquisition of Headsprout®, an innovative provider of adaptive instructional content that adjusts automatically to each student's pace for learning...Headsprout® is a leader in the development and implementation of online instruction that adjusts automatically to each student's needs. Its scientific, research-based, adaptive software - Headsprout® Early Reading and Headsprout® Reading Comprehension - is used in thousands of classrooms, learning labs and homes in the U.S. and all over the world. more»

The latest issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is now available. more»

The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) training program for dealing with behavioral problems is available as an iPhone application. [This announcement does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the effectiveness of this product. - Ed.] more»

[A]nother group of 7-year-olds - 13 percent of those in the study - who initially rated high on the scale of emotional problems improved significantly...Fontaine said child psychologists are now eager to understand what factors - which may include improved parenting - led to the emotional health gains seen in this group. Other research has shown that children who display a lack of guilt and remorse do not improve their behavior when punished. However, there is intriguing evidence that such children respond well - even better than children with more normal emotions - to positive reinforcement. more»

On March 15th, 1921, the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency publicly announced hiring behaviorist John B. Watson. Watson's first job was to survey the market for rubber boots along the Mississippi River. His first account was Yuban coffee. Others included Odorono deodorant, Johnson and Johnson baby powder, Pond's cold cream, Camel cigarettes, Maxwell House coffee, and Scott toilet paper. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

Florida Institute of Technology Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Michael Grace has earned a three-year, $369,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work on the mechanisms of infrared imaging in pit vipers, pythons and boas...Applied Behavior Analysis faculty and students are working with Grace to shape the snakes' behavior to differentially respond to a lighted stimulus. more»

On March 11th, 1901, Willard S. Small's article "Experimental Study of the Mental Processes of the Rat II" was published in the American Journal of Psychology. This was the first article to report a study of maze learning in the rat and to use the term psychobiology. Other articles in the series reported physical development and exploratory behavior in the rat. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

On March 10th, 1937, B. F. Skinner became a member of Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology, at the University of Minnesota. The chapter sent a letter to the national office, listing the new members. A special note was written to the side of Skinner's name, with a line drawn from his name to the note. It read, "A true friend of Psi Chi." Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

On March 10th, 1989, the APA journal Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology was first published. The journal was formed from the assessment content of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Alan Kazdin served as editor of both journals for the first year. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

The Science of Safety: Between March 15th and April 29th, renowned safety experts Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels will present Effective Safety Leadership, a series of four 90-minute webinars that will provide specific tools for identifying ineffective practices, understanding the behaviors behind risky habits and rare errors, and how to foster long-lasting, effective safety practices. more»

The Association for Behavior Analysis, International has joined forces with the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) to provide science policy updates and action alerts. FABBS has recently developed an efficient way for scientists to stay abreast of important science policy issues and to take action. more»

The February 2011 issue of History of Psychology is now available and includes a note challenging a recent proposal that John Watson's "Little Albert" was Douglas Merritte, the son of a wet nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital. more»

If you are interested in the history of behavior analysis, you might like the "Behavior Analysis History" wiki. The site is a work-in-progress but already contains a number of interesting items. (For example, there is a great interview with Dave Palmer of Smith College.) more»

On March 3rd, 1908, John B. Watson accepted a faculty position at Johns Hopkins University. His starting salary was $3,000 per year. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

In the February 2011 issue of European Urology, Jean-Nicolas Cornu and colleagues reported the evaluation of the efficacy of prostate cancer (PCa) detection by trained dogs on human urine samples. In the study, a Belgian Malinois shepherd was trained by the clicker training method (operant conditioning) to scent and recognise urine of people having PCa. more» more»

On March 1st, 1960, the Gerbrands cumulative recorder mechanism was patented. Ralph Gerbrands invented a clutch and reset mechanism that gave his recorder a competitive advantage over similar equipment and contributed to the success of the Gerbrands Corporation. The Gerbrands Corporation went out of business on September 30, 1994. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

On February 28th, 1955, Time magazine featured the work of Keller and Marian Breland in an article titled "I.Q. Zoo." The Brelands were both students of B.F. Skinner. In 1946, they established Animal Behavior Enterprises (ABE), a for-profit animal training business. ABE, informally called the I.Q. Zoo, used operant methods to train animals for a wide variety of entertainment, advertising, and military applications. Their article, "The Misbehavior of Organisms," reflected on the roles of innate and learned components of behavior. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

Dr. Charles Schuster has passed away. Dr. Schuster was one of the first to demonstrate that animals would work to receive intravenous infusions of drug and he was a major player in several of the initial observations on the reinforcing properties of recreational drugs through the 1960s and 1970s. more»

On February 24th, 1913, John B. Watson gave his noteworthy lecture titled "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It" to the meeting of the New York Branch of the APA at Columbia University. The lecture was also published in Psychological Review (1913). Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

On Feb 23rd, 1903, The first meeting of the New York Branch of the APA was held. Edward L. Thorndike chaired the meeting. This organization was the forerunner of the modern Eastern Psychological Association. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

The winter edition of The Current Repertoire, the official newsletter of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, is now available. more»

While some desperate job seekers are still coming up empty after months of unemployment, others are aiming high for their dream job as a dolphin trainer...“We teach the science of operant conditioning, specifically behavior modification for marine mammals using positive reinforcement. Students learn how to effectively communicate to these animals using tools such as whistle signals, hand signals, and body posture,” Wood explained. more»

On Feb 21st, 1961, George S. Reynolds's article "Behavioral Contrast" was published in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Source: Today in the HIstory of Psychology

Logue's methods, as I said earlier, seem unconventional, but parents of children who have gone through modern speech therapy will recognize many of them instantly. Using a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, physical training and operant conditioning, Logue challenges, drives and occasionally goads his royal patient. more»

Science Symposium: 100 Years of Adventure in Science and Pseudoscience. Skepticism’s leading luminaries offer their expertise in a series of lectures and workshops designed to sharpen your skepticism and fine tune your critical thinking skills. more»

The latest issue of the journal Behavior Modification is now available. more»

We, the ABAI Executive Council, had the opportunity to consider afresh the meaning of our mission when we met in early December to conduct the business of the Association, review the recent past, and plan for the future. more»

In the US, a large-scale study, led by Washington University in St. Louis, will examine the effectiveness of a specialised version of the positive parenting program Triple-P, aimed at families of children who have been abused or neglected. more»

Warren K. Bickel, director of the Center for Substance Abuse at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has been selected as the 2011 recipient of the American Psychological Association Don Hake Translational Research Award... According to awards chair Cynthia Pietras, the award is being presented to Bickel for his contributions to understanding drug dependence and treatment, impulsivity, and behavioral economics, and for disseminating that work to a wide audience. more»

The arrangement was intended to settle a longstanding feud between Chomsky and psychologist B.F. Skinner about whether language was the key factor that separated humans from other animals, Hess said: "Skinner argued that even chimps could acquire language and Chomsky said language was exclusive to humans." more»


(Jul 25-30) Animal Behavior Society and International Ethological Conference - Bloomington, IN

(Sep 21-24) Florida Association for Behavior Analysis Conference - Daytona Beach, FL

(Nov 24-26) ABAI International Conference - Granada, Spain



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