Friday, December 30, 2011

Toddlers Don't Monitor Their Own Speech

Adults and children hear their own voice and use it as feedback to monitor their speech, but it seems that young toddlers do not. When I’m talking I can hear my own voice. And with that feedback I can tell almost immediately when I’ve made an error. Like I just did. An error. Adults have this skill and so do older children. But we are not born with this ability. It develops between ages two and four. So finds a study in the journal Current Biology. more

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Behavioral Safety via SmartPhone

An extra eye on the road: It's rare that an Android app exclusive could make iPhone users jealous, but the iOnRoad augmented driving safety app is one of them. Mount an Android smartphone running the app on to the windshield and it uses the phone's camera to provide an extra eye on the road. It monitors traffic, measuring relative speeds between your car and the car in front, reporting all information onscreen. It also provides an advanced collision warning system, monitoring if the car ahead is perilously close. It also features a launch screen for other apps, making the phone easier to control in-commute. The app even dips a toe in the world of behaviour modification, issuing "safety points" to drivers operating at safe speeds and at safe headway distance from the car ahead. more

Schools Encourage Healthier Eating with "Nudges"

[H]ealth experts say using "behavioral economics" to influence student purchasing is a less drastic way to combat childhood obesity and encourage healthier eating. The idea behind this mix of economics and psychology is that subconscious signals affect decisions to eat healthier. Simple tweaks to the lunch line can shift perceptions, steering students toward healthier choices while still allowing choice...Research has found that placing healthier items in the front of the lunch line, promoting food with descriptive names and letting students choose among good-for-you options all have significant impacts. Putting fruit in attractive baskets instead of stainless steel bins or charging less for healthier items has been found to influence student choices. more

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

UCLA Neuroscientists Demonstrate Advances in "Brain Reading"

For the study, smokers sometimes watched videos meant to induce cravings, sometimes watched "neutral" videos and at sometimes watched no video at all. They were instructed to attempt to fight nicotine cravings when they arose. The data from fMRI scans taken of the study participants was then analyzed. Traditional machine learning methods were augmented by Markov processes, which use past history to predict future states. By measuring the brain networks active over time during the scans, the resulting machine learning algorithms were able to anticipate changes in subjects' underlying neurocognitive structure, predicting with a high degree of accuracy (90 percent for some of the models tested) what they were watching and, as far as cravings were concerned, how they were reacting to what they viewed. more

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Smart Is This Bird? Let It Count the Ways

By now, the intelligence of birds is well known. Alex the African gray parrot had great verbal skills. Scrub jays, which hide caches of seeds and other food, have remarkable memories. And New Caledonian crows make and use tools in ways that would put the average home plumber to shame. Pigeons, it turns out, are no slouches either. It was known that they could count. But all sorts of animals, including bees, can count. Pigeons have now shown that they can learn abstract rules about numbers, an ability that until now had been demonstrated only in primates. In the 1990s scientists trained rhesus monkeys to look at groups of items on a screen and to rank them from the lowest number of items to the highest. more

Monday, December 26, 2011

Heroes Of The Taj Hotel: Why They Risked Their Lives

When a Mumbai hotel was besieged by terrorists in 2008, something extraordinary happened: Workers didn't flee. They stayed behind to help save guests at the risk of their own lives. What could possibly explain it? A new study attempts to answer that question..."It perhaps has something to do with the kinds of people that they recruit to become employees at the Taj, and then the manner that they train them and reward them," he says...This system — of immediately rewarding desired behavior — will likely sound familiar to people interested in psychology. It's by-the-book conditioning, the same kind of conditioning used by B.F. Skinner to train his pigeons. more

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mothers' Teach Their Children "Perspective Taking"

Young children whose mothers talk with them more frequently and in more detail about people's thoughts and feelings tend to be better at taking another's perspective than other children of the same age. That's what researchers from the University of Western Australia found in a new longitudinal study published in the journal Child Development. "Parents who frequently put themselves in someone else's shoes in conversations with their children make it more likely that their children will be able to do the same," according to Brad Farrant, postdoctoral fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia, the study's lead author. more

Spirit's Ben Baldanza compared to B.F. Skinner

In an interview, Baldanza told IdeaWorks: "The fees we charge do two things. They are not only there to drive revenue. Another absolutely strategically important aspect is to create economic incentives for customers to behave in ways that lower our costs," the report states. That's the basic behavior modification principal IdeaWorks talks about. If you bring aboard a bag for the overhead compartment, you have to pay extra. If you don't pay for it when you book the ticket, you pay even more. more

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Habit Formation is Enabled by Gateway to Brain Cells

Research published in the journal Neuron shows that NMDA receptors on dopamine neurons in the brain's basal ganglia are essential to habit formation. These receptors function like gateways to the brain cells, letting in electrically charged ions to increase the activity and communication of neurons. Their pivotal role reminds neuroscientist Dr. Lei Phillip Wang of a computer's central processing unit. "The NMDA receptor is a commander, which is why it's called a master switch for brain cell connectivity," said Wang, the study's first author. To determine their role in habit formation, GHSU researchers used a genetic trick to selectively disable the NMDA receptors on dopamine neurons and found, for example, mice could be trained to push a lever for food without it becoming an automatic response. If they were full, they wouldn't push the lever. But just as humans can't refrain from flipping a light switch during a power outage, satiated mice with receptors could not pass up the lever. more

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The Experimental Analysis of Behavior" Reprinted in Latest Issue of American Scientist

B. F. Skinner's 1957 article "The Experimental Analysis of Behavior" is reproduced in full in the latest issue of American Scientist. It is available for free online. From the article:

"Not so long ago the expression “a science of behavior” would have been regarded as a contradiction in terms. Living organisms were distinguished by the fact that they were spontaneous and unpredictable. If you saw something move without being obviously pushed or pulled, you could be pretty sure it was alive. This was so much the case that mechanical imitations of living things—singing birds which flapped their wings, figures on a clock tolling a bell—had an awful fascination which, in the age of electronic brains and automation, we cannot recapture or fully understand. One hundred and fifty years of science and invention have robbed living creatures of this high distinction." more

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Latest Issue of "Inside Behavior Analysis" Available Online

The latest issue of Inside Behavior Analysis, the official newsletter of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International, is now available. This issue includes an article by SABA president Michael Dougher discussing the important work SABA does on behalf of behavior analysis; a recap of the 2011 Autism Conference in Washington, DC; updates from ABAI boards, committees, and accredited programs; Abigail Calkin’s touching tribute to Steve Graf; and more.

New Strain of Lab Mice Seem to Mimic Human Alcohol Consumption Patterns

A line of laboratory mice developed by a researcher from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) drinks more alcohol than other animal models and consumes it in a fashion similar to humans: choosing alcohol over other options and binge drinking..."The free-choice drinking demonstrated by the new mouse line provides a unique opportunity to study the excessive intake that often occurs in alcohol-dependent individuals and to explore the predisposing factors for excessive consumption, as well as the development of physiological, behavioral and toxicological outcomes following alcohol exposure," says Grahame, who is a biopsychologist specializing in alcoholism. more

Monday, December 19, 2011

Take This Sugar Pill and Call Me in the Morning

"People behave according to context and circumstances. This is true with regard to medical or pharmaceutical treatment," explains Dr. Ofer Caspi, Director of the Integrative Medicine Section at the Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital. "People respond to the name of the medicine, its color, size and cost. The way medicine is taken has a big impact. Having a shot is more effective than taking a pill. A red shot is more effective than a colorless one; and an operation is considered the most effective treatment..." Prof. Rafael Gorodischer of the Patient Safety and Risk Management Unit at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, believes that "the expectation of success in treatment and the patient's motivation are related to effects of placebos. Another factor is classical 'Pavlovian' conditioning, as a result of a learning process." more

Police Reward Good Drivers With Gift Cards

Drivers received some positive reinforcement for obeying the rules of the road during the holidays. Police officers in Prosper, TX, gave out gift cards as a reward for good driving. Gary McHone, Prosper's Assistant Police Chief, said this is their way to live up to a well-known police motto of "to protect and serve." more

Friday, December 16, 2011

Erroneous Analyses of Interactions in Neuroscience: A Problem of Significance

In theory, a comparison of two experimental effects requires a statistical test on their difference. In practice, this comparison is often based on an incorrect procedure involving two separate tests in which researchers conclude that effects differ when one effect is significant (P < 0.05) but the other is not (P > 0.05). We reviewed 513 behavioral, systems and cognitive neuroscience articles in five top-ranking journals (Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron and The Journal of Neuroscience) and found that 78 used the correct procedure and 79 used the incorrect procedure. An additional analysis suggests that incorrect analyses of interactions are even more common in cellular and molecular neuroscience. We discuss scenarios in which the erroneous procedure is particularly beguiling. more

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Behaviorism at 100" - Revisionist History?

From Scientific American: According to author Stephen Ledoux, "Over its second 50 years, the study of behavior evolved to become a discipline, behaviorology, independent of psychology." Behaviorism as a philosophy of science began with an article by John B. Watson in 1913, and its several varieties inform different behavior-related disciplines. During the past 100 years, disciplinary developments have led to a clarified version of behaviorism informing a basic, separate natural science of behavior. This recently emerged independent discipline not only complements other natural sciences, but also shares in solving local and global problems by showing how to discover and effectively control the variables that unlock solutions to the common behavior-related components of these problems. more

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helping Your Fellow Rat: Rodents Seem to Show Empathic Behavior

The first evidence of empathy-driven helping behavior in rodents has been observed in laboratory rats that repeatedly free companions from a restraint, according to a new study by University of Chicago neuroscientists ..."There was no other reason to take this action, except to terminate the distress of the trapped rats," Bartal said. "In the rat model world, seeing the same behavior repeated over and over basically means that this action is rewarding to the rat." As a test of the power of this reward, another experiment was designed to give the free rats a choice: free their companion or feast on chocolate. Two restrainers were placed in the cage with the rat, one containing the cagemate, another containing a pile of chocolate chips. Though the free rat had the option of eating all the chocolate before freeing its companion, the rat was equally likely to open the restrainer containing the cagemate before opening the chocolate container. more

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creating Artificial Intelligence Based on the Real Thing

Several biologically inspired paths are being explored by computer scientists in universities and corporate laboratories worldwide. But researchers from I.B.M. and four universities — Cornell, Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California, Merced — are engaged in a project that seems particularly intriguing...In recent months, the team has developed prototype “neurosynaptic” microprocessors, or chips that operate more like neurons and synapses than like conventional semiconductors...It is still questionable whether the scientists can successfully assemble large clusters of neuromorphic chips. And though the intention is for the machines to evolve more from learning than from being programmed, the software that performs that magic for any kind of complex task has yet to be written. more

Monday, December 12, 2011

Survival of the Fittest: Linguistic Evolution In Practice

A new study of how compound word formation is influenced by subtle forms of linguistic pressure demonstrates that words which “sound better” to the speakers of a language have a higher chance of being created, suggesting that, like biological organisms, words are subject to selection pressures that play a role in deciding which words become part of a language over time. [With link to original article] more

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Chimpanzee Who "Sees" Sounds?

To determine whether humans learn to associate sounds and colours from others, or whether they are innate and do not require language, Ludwig searched for the associations in captive chimpanzees. She and colleagues at Kyoto University in Japan showed six chimps aged 8 to 32 a small black or white box, and then trained them to to select a square of the same colour on a screen to receive a fruit reward. The apes also heard a high or low tone when making their choice. When high tones accompanied white squares and low tones were matched with black, the animals picked the correct colour 93% of the time, on average. When the colours and sounds were reversed, their success rate fell to about 90%. more

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Good Or Bad: Surprises Drive Learning In Same Neural Circuits

Primates learn from feedback that surprises them, and in a recent investigation of how that happens, neurosurgeons have learned something new...Some scientists have posited that separate anatomical structures, or at least distinct circuits, process positive or negative feedback to direct future behavior, but there has been little proof, at least at the level of individual neurons. Asaad said he expected to find some of those hypothesized processing differences between the lateral prefrontal cortex and the subcortical caudate nucleus, which govern high-level planning, by probing hundreds of individual neurons in each structure in two macaque monkeys while they worked on trial-and-error learning tasks. Monkeys received juice for guessing right or none for being wrong. Instead, he and Eskandar found the neurons in both structures acted very similarly for both positive and for negative feedback. "We were looking for differences and we just didn't detect any in the signals we were looking for," said Asaad, who is affiliated with the Brown Institute for Brain Science. more

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Paper Wasp Has a Special Talent for Learning Faces

Sheehan and Tibbetts tested learning by training wasps to discriminate between two different images mounted inside a T-maze, with one image displayed at each end of the top arm of the T. Twelve wasps were trained for 40 consecutive trials on each image type. The paired images included photos of normal paper wasp faces, photos of caterpillars, simple geometric patterns, and computer-altered wasp faces. A reward was consistently associated with one image in a pair. more

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Gray Matter in Brain’s "Control Center" Linked to Reward Processing

Within a short period of the MRI scans, the scientists also used electrodes placed on the research subjects’ scalps to measure a particular electrical signal known as the P300 (an event-related potential derived from an ongoing electroencephalogram, or EEG, that is time-locked to a particular event). This specific measure can index brain activity related to reward processing. During these electrical recordings, the subjects performed a timed psychological task (pressing buttons according to a specific set of rules) with the prospect of earning varying levels of monetary reward, from no money up to 45 cents for each correct response with a total potential reward of $50. Previous studies by the research team have shown that, in healthy subjects, the P300 signal increases in magnitude with the amount of monetary reward offered. Cocaine-addicted individuals, however, do not exhibit this differential response in the P300 measure of brain activity, even though they, like the healthy subjects, rate the task as more interesting and exciting when the potential reward is greater. more

Monday, December 05, 2011

Basic Behavioral Principles And Immigration Reform

Behaviorist principles can inform the issue of immigration. By definition, all reinforced behaviors will continue or increase in frequency or intensity. Surely, illegal immigration makes up a set of behaviors that have been reinforced for decades. Illegal immigrants are directly rewarded by powerful financial incentives, including employment opportunities and an array of entitlements. Indirectly, they are reinforced by the weak Executive Branch follow-through on immigration laws. These are the “magnets” to which several Republican candidates have often referred. Understanding this, who can blame immigrants who enter our country illegally? more

Friday, December 02, 2011

Chimps, Feces-Throwing, And Operant Conditioning

"What appears to be the main reward for throwing [feces] is the simple ability to control or manipulate the behaviour of the targeted individual (ape or human). For example, in our laboratory, chimpanzees will patiently wait for strangers or visitors to approach and then will throw at them. They do not conceal their intentions and they will often stand bipedal and threaten to throw by cocking their arm with the projectile in their hand in preparation for throwing. The passers-by can see this and will often try and negotiate with the chimpanzees to put down the projectile, or they will try to trick the ape by stopping, then dashing rapidly past the ape enclosure. This seems to be the reaction the apes hope to get from the humans and, in operant conditioning terms, is the only 'reward' the chimpanzees receive for throwing." more

Say Goodbye To Being Shy

"Shyness is characterised by being nervous and having anxiety when around other people. There may be some physiological responses, such as sweaty palms and feelings of panic, when the shy person has to talk to others," explains Dr Jon Bailey, professor of psychology at Florida State University and specialist in behaviour analysis...A number of techniques are being used by therapists to help their clients through shyness, and include repeatedly exposing the client to feared social situations (for example, practising public speaking); challenging the unrealistic beliefs and predictions that contribute to the anxiety (for example, examining the evidence for anxiety-provoking beliefs rather than assuming they are true); and learning to improve social and communication skills. "Collectively, these strategies are taught in the form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)," he explains." more

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Psychology Must Learn A Lesson From Fraud Case

In a 2006 study published in American Psychologist, I helped to show that almost three-quarters of researchers who had published a paper in a high-impact psychology journal had not shared their data (J. M. Wicherts et al. Am. Psychol. 61, 726–728; 2006). Several data sets, authors said, had been misplaced, whereas others were kept secret because they were part of ongoing work, or because of ethical rules meant to protect participants' privacy. Such confidentiality has long been the most common excuse that psychologists offer for not sharing data, but in practice, most simply fail to document their data in a way that allows others to quickly and easily check their work. more

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No Child Left Behind, Or Else

Demanding better performance from schools and teachers is a good start, but part of the answer to America’s mediocre educational performance lies in asking more of students...Schools can also motivate students with positive reinforcement by paying them for performance. In a 2010 study that used randomized trials in over 250 urban schools, Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr. found that financial incentives for educational inputs (e.g. paying students to read books) can significantly increase achievement. In fact, relative to education reforms of the past few decades, financial incentives “produce similar gains in achievement at lower costs.” more

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Behind The ABCs In Vietnam

Learning Strategies is Vietnam’s first organization to provide children experiencing behavioral, developmental or academic difficulties with specialized support. The group’s director Tony Louw explains their origins and aims to Madeleine Adamson...Louw advocates the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a teaching strategy that uses a child’s interests to accelerate their rate of learning. “ABA is a scientifically validated mode of intervention in which goals are broken down into achievable developmental steps,” says Louw. more

Nature Neuroscience: Leptin Regulates The Reward Value Of Nutrient

We developed an assay for quantifying the reward value of nutrient and used it to analyze the effects of metabolic state and leptin. In this assay, mice chose between two sippers, one of which dispensed water and was coupled to optogenetic activation of dopaminergic (DA) neurons and the other of which dispensed natural or artificial sweeteners. This assay measured the reward value of sweeteners relative to lick-induced optogenetic activation of DA neurons. Mice preferred optogenetic stimulation of DA neurons to sucralose, but not to sucrose. However, the mice preferred sucralose plus optogenetic stimulation versus sucrose. We found that food restriction increased the value of sucrose relative to sucralose plus optogenetic stimulation, and that leptin decreased it. Our data suggest that leptin suppresses the ability of sucrose to drive taste-independent DA neuronal activation and provide new insights into the mechanism of leptin's effects on food intake. more

Monday, November 28, 2011

The A-B-C's of Parenting

Your kid's having another meltdown. What are you going to do? New research says time-outs or other punishments won't make the bad behavior stop in the long run. Neither will nagging, endless explaining, or yelling. To really get them to change, parents have to focus on the "A-B-C's," says Dr. Alan Kazdin, a Yale psychology professor who also heads the Yale Parenting Center. His team of researchers have developed techniques they describe as a parent management training program, focusing on the ABC's. more

Teaching Patients To Ease Their Own Pain

Already, neuroscientists know that how people perceive pain is highly individual, involving heredity, stress, anxiety, fear, depression, previous experience and general health. Motivation also plays a huge role—and helps explain why a gravely wounded soldier can ignore his own pain to save his buddies while someone who is depressed may feel incapacitated by a minor sprain. more

Friday, November 25, 2011

Should We Pay People To Be Healthy?

A provocative new study out of Australia investigates the novel approach of providing financial incentives to individuals if they change their health behavior. Investigators note that financial incentives transform many business behaviors, including the way physicians practice. For that reason, Dr. Marita Lynagh and her colleagues from the University of Newcastle in Australia set out to investigate if financial incentives could encourage individuals to change unhealthy behaviors and use preventive health services. more

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Darwin’s Tongues

Now a small contingent of researchers, many of them evolutionary biologists who typically have nothing to do with linguistics, are looking at language from in front of their computers, using mathematical techniques imported from the study of DNA to wring scenarios of language evolution out of huge amounts of comparative speech data. These data analyzers assume that words and other language units change systematically as they are passed from one generation to the next, much the way genes do. Charles Darwin similarly argued in 1871 that languages, like biological species, have evolved into a series of related forms. And in the same way that geneticists use computerized statistical approaches to put together humankind’s family tree from the DNA of living people and a few long-dead individuals, these newcomers can generate family trees, called phylogenies, for languages. From existing data on numbers of speech sounds and types of grammatical structure, these phylogenies can point to ancient root languages and trace a path to today’s tongues. more

Does So-Called "Language Gene" Speed Learning?

At the neuroscience meeting, Schreiweis reported that mice with the human form of FOXP2 learn more quickly than ordinary mice. She challenged mice to solve a maze that involved turning either left or right to find a water reward. A visual clue, such as a star, along with the texture of the maze's surface, showed the correct direction to turn. After eight days of practice, mice with the human form of FOXP2 learnt to follow the clues to the water 70% of the time. Normal mice took an additional four days to reach this level. Schreiweis says that the human form of the gene allowed mice to more quickly integrate the visual and tactile clues when learning to solve the maze. In humans, she says, the mutation to FOXP2 might have helped our species learn the complex muscle movements needed to form basic sounds and then combine these sounds into words and sentences. more

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unpredictable Rewards: Twitter's "Activity" Stream And Our Dwindling Attention Reservoir

It might seem like splitting hairs to term one use of Twitter distracting, as if other forms were obviously productive and always informative. But Twitter--and Facebook, and Google+--give back what you put into them. And whether you find the recurring distractions of social networks helpful at all depends on what your goal is. Eyal Ophir, primary researcher at the Stanford Multitasking study, believes ticker-style updates are effective in a way familiar to researchers of operant conditioning. "Unpredictable rewards keep us guessing, so we'll keep checking long after we're no longer getting rewarded, because 'you never know,'" Ophir wrote in an email. "So if there's one or two exciting tweets, or a rewarding social experience in the Facebook Ticker, and we can never tell when something like that will come again, that's going to be a good motivator for us to just keep checking. And that's going to drive up the perceived value of interrupting whatever we're doing (work, family, etc.) to go and check." more

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Musical Ability of Goldfish

After the death of a pet Papillion dog she had trained to participate in a Punch and Judy puppet show, she wasn’t emotionally ready to train another dog, and decided to see what she could do with goldfish. The plan was to include a video of the fish performing in a shadow puppet show. “I didn’t expect much from them other than to be able to train kind of rote behaviors,” Rains said. But Jor Jor caught on quickly when she trained her to ring a hand bell by pulling at a line extended into the water. “She took to it with such obvious zeal that I thought, you know, I need to pursue this more, because clearly this fish loves music,” Rains said. Rains uses operant conditioning devised by the psychologist B.F. Skinner in the 1950s as her training technique. It involves rewarding desired behavior, in little steps, with food until the entire action is completed. more

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fraud Scandal Fuels Debate Over Practices of Psychology

The discovery that the Dutch researcher Diederik A. Stapel made up the data for dozens of research papers has shaken up the field of social psychology, fueling a discussion not just about outright fraud, but also about subtler ways of misusing research data. Such misuse can happen even unintentionally, as researchers try to make a splash with their peers—and a splash, maybe, with the news media, too...Even before the Stapel case broke, a flurry of articles had begun appearing this fall that pointed to supposed systemic flaws in the way psychologists handle data...Bad things happen when researchers feel under pressure, [Wagenmakers] adds—and it doesn't have to be Stapel-bad: "There's a slippery slope between making up your data and torturing your data." more

The 2012 Association for Behavior Analysis, International Autism Conference Program Is Now Online.

The 2012 Association for Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI) Autism Conference program is now online. ABAI's Sixth Annual Autism Conference will be held January 27–29, 2012, in Philadelphia, PA. You can view the entire program online and use the personal scheduler to plan your time at the event. more

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The End of the Maze: How The Rodent Labyrinth Fell Out Of Favor

Soon the rat became the standard animal in psychology, and the maze was the standard apparatus for the rat. One crucial innovation came from a young psychologist named James B. Watson, who for his dissertation sent rodents through a Hampton Court maze while under various degrees of sensory deprivation...The golden age of maze-building would soon come to an end, however. In the 1920s, the psychologist B.F. Skinner put rats through mazes as many of his colleagues did, but by the end of the following decade his faith in the method had waned. He began testing rats and pigeons in a bare-bones, lever-pressing apparatus. As Skinner's influence grew over the next few decades, conventional maze research fell into decline. Psychologists turned their attention toward the study of reinforcement schedules and stimulus-response relationships that could be measured without having to build a double-alternating, tridimensional spiral. more

Alan Kazdin Wins the APA Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology Award

Alan E. Kazdin is the 2011 winner of the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology. “For outstanding and pathbreaking contributions to the understanding of the development, assessment, and treatment of psychopathology. Alan E. Kazdin’s theoretically innovative, methodologically rigorous, and scientifically informed research has significantly advanced knowledge of child and adolescent psychopathologies such as depression and conduct problems. His writings on research strategies and methods have set a high standard for rigor in the field. His work and his ideas have had an enormous impact on the science, practice, and teaching of psychology, and his research has strengthened assessment and treatment of children and adolescents in scientific and clinical settings. His passion, energy, wisdom, and wit have inspired countless colleagues and students over the years, and his work will no doubt continue to do so for many generations to come.” more

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Motion Pictures In The Human Sciences Film Archive

The Motion Pictures in the Human Sciences site is an online library and discussion forum relating to the history of the use of motion pictures in psychology, psychiatry, the neurosciences, and related fields. The site is the online extension of a new collaboration between film historians and historians of science at the University of Chicago, to study the relationship between the history of the human sciences and the history of film. The online library contains a growing number of films and related material. Some of the films you can view here have never before been digitized. The site also serves  a curatorial role: we have tracked down films available in disparate locations on the web, and have imbedded them here, to make them easier to find, document, and discuss. more

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Psychology of Poker Machines

The core of pokie [poker machine] technology is reinforcement, utilising the principles of both operant and classical conditioning. Operant conditioning relies on the provision of random rewards to induce continued activity, on the basis that excitement is generated by the unpredictability of the size and timing of such rewards. Classical conditioning in a sense complements this by marking out the rewards with lights and sounds, which in time become associated with the provision of the reward. In other words, the pokie is a machine to program humans to particular types of behaviour. more

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dr. Jerry Shook Passes Away After A Long Battle With Cancer

On Friday, November 11th, 2011 Dr. Jerry Shook, founding CEO of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Dr. Shook's contributions to public policy and credentialing in behavior analysis were monumental in shaping the field as we know it today. more

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Exposing Social Gaming's Hidden Lever

Zynga’s (the makers of the Facebook game Farmville) success has much to do with their skillfully executed manipulation of the human brain. One such method is known as the Random Reward Schedule, based on the results of a study conducted by psychologist B.F. Skinner. In this study, he found that giving pigeons a consistent food reward lead to the least engagement. They would eventually get bored and only come back when hungry. Skinner then found that randomizing whether the reward was given made the pigeons come back more often, as did randomizing the amount of the reward. Lastly, he found that combining these experiments to randomize both whether the reward would occur and how much the award was for lead to a striking increase in engagement. Zynga and other social games companies have implemented the Random Reward Schedule to great effect in their games to keep players coming back. more

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Discipline Without Spanking

Just like practicing a musical instrument or practicing the backstroke over and over in advance of a performance or competition, teaching our children to behave properly in a variety of situations takes preparation on our part and practice, practice, practice...Unless you decide to teach that positive behavior -- good manners at the grocery store or handling delicate things with care -- your child will always return to the negative behavior, says Dr. Alan Kazdin, professor psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, director of the Yale Parenting Center and author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. more

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tantrum Tamer: New (Old) Ways Parents Can Stop Bad Behavior

Forget everything you may have read about coping with children's temper tantrums. Time-outs, sticker charts, television denial—for many, none of these measures will actually result in long-term behavior change, according to researchers at two academic institutions. Instead, a set of techniques known as "parent management training" is proving so helpful to families struggling with a child's unmanageable behavior that clinicians in the U.S. and the U.K. are starting to adopt them...The training focuses on three components known as the ABCs: the Antecedent, or the environment and events that set the stage for a tantrum or other undesirable action. Then there is the Behavior itself, and how parents can help a child learn new behaviors, in some cases using pretend scenarios. The Consequences component involves reinforcing a positive behavior or discouraging a negative one. more

Monday, November 07, 2011

Odds Are, It's Wrong

For better or for worse, science has long been married to mathematics. Generally it has been for the better. Especially since the days of Galileo and Newton, math has nurtured science. Rigorous mathematical methods have secured science’s fidelity to fact and conferred a timeless reliability to its findings. During the past century, though, a mutant form of math has deflected science’s heart from the modes of calculation that had long served so faithfully. Science was seduced by statistics, the math rooted in the same principles that guarantee profits for Las Vegas casinos. Supposedly, the proper use of statistics makes relying on scientific results a safe bet. But in practice, widespread misuse of statistical methods makes science more like a crapshoot. more

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Latest Issue of The Behavior Analyst

Volume 34, Issue 2 of The Behavior Analyst—Henry D. Schlinger, editor—will be mailed soon. The table of contents for this issue can be found here. Contributors to this issue include Thomas Critchfield, William Baum, Sam Leigland, Emmanuel Zagury Tourinho, and Rogelio Escobar, among others. The Behavior Analyst is the official publication of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. The Behavior Analyst was first published in 1978 by the Midwestern Association of Behavior Analysis.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Special Issue Of "Nature" On Neuroscience: The Autism Enigma

Everything about autism spectrum disorder conspires to make it hard to understand. It takes diverse forms, from profound communication and behavioural problems to social difficulties coupled with normal language and even precocious talents. (Here, Nature will refer to them all as autism.) The prevalence of autism is rising — by some counts, steeply — but the reasons for that are unclear. Causes of the condition include a complicated mixture of genetic and environmental factors, most unknown (see page 5). Its roots lie in the development of the human brain, a process that, despite huge leaps in neuroscience, remains mysterious. So as awareness rises and parents clamour for answers, scientists can offer few certainties. Hearsay and unsubstantiated theories sometimes fill the void. more

CNN'S Eatocrocy: The Psychology Of Food Aversions

Here’s how taste aversion works: You and your buddies go out for a few drinks. You’re young and wild and love drinks with the strong coconut flavor of Malibu Rum. Things get a little out of hand, and you spend part of the night praying to the porcelain god. You recover, and next weekend go out for drinks again. The bartender passes you your favorite drink, but this time the smell of coconut immediately makes you want to vomit. You loved Malibu for years, but now, the very thought of it makes you sick. more

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Will Behave For Money

Contingency management — sometimes in the form of simply paying people to quit drugs or exercise more — is making the jump from smallscale studies to populationwide programs...After spending the better part of a century germinating in psychology labs, psychologist-designed programs are finally taking root in the wider world, especially in drug treatment programs and company wellness initiatives. The results, so far, are nothing short of staggering: Homeless people with HIV are remembering to take their medications, cocaine addicts are showing up to work on time and drug-free, and already healthy workers are becoming even healthier, by increasing their gym attendance and refilling prescriptions on time. As for drug courts, those that faithfully apply principles pioneered by B.F. Skinner are reducing recidivism by upward of 35 percent, according to a research review by Marlowe (in the Chapman Journal of Criminal Justice). That success has spurred a huge uptick in drug court participation nationwide, to the point that every state now offers drug courts, says Marlowe. In essence, Skinner is scaling up. more

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Robot Brains and Pavlovian Conditioning

Knowing that the cerebellum is responsible for coordinating and timing all the body's movements, Mintz and his team wanted to see if the synthetic cerebellum - a computer chip wired to the brain - could receive and interpret sensory information from the brainstem, analyze it like a biological cerebellum does, and transmit the information back to motor centers in the brainstem. To test this robotic interface between body and brain, the researchers taught a lab rat to blink whenever it heard a particular sound. After disabling its cerebellum, they noted that the rat couldn't perform this conditioned response. But once the robotic chip was hooked up to its brain, RoboRat was once again able to blink on cue, as conditioned. more

Monday, October 31, 2011

Equine Study Suggests Benefits Of Positive Reinforcement

The recent study in Denmark by Payana Hendriksen and colleagues suggested positive reinforcement methods were preferable to negative reinforcement when training horses in potentially stressful situations. They found that horses trained using positive reinforcement methods trained more quickly and showed less evidence of stress. more

Friday, October 28, 2011

Nest Learning Thermostat: Shiny Toy or Serious Behavior Modification Tool?

The Nest thermostat has a feature called “time to temperature,” which displays the amount of time it will take to heat or cool the home. This information is intended to prevent people from oversetting the temperature with the idea that when they turn it up higher, it will heat the room up faster, which, by the way, it won’t. What happens instead is that the home becomes overheated and the owner ends up opening the windows to cool it back down, wasting a ton of energy in the process. What’s more, Nest also provides a website that shows you how much energy, and money you are saving, a classic example of behavior modification. This kind of direct immediate feedback is also much of the impetus behind smart meters, where it is used to monitor and reduce household electrical usage. more

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Latest Issue of Behavioral Interventions Now Available

The latest issue of the journal Behavioral Interventions is now available. Behavioral Interventions aims to report research and practice involving the utilization of behavioral techniques in the treatment, education, assessment and training of students, clients or patients, as well as training techniques used with staff. Behavioral Interventions publishes: (1) research articles, (2) brief reports (a short report of an innovative technique or intervention that may be less rigorous than a research report), (3) topical literature reviews and discussion articles, (4) book reviews.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Iconic Sound Bites: A Pavlovian Response?

When done right, nothing is more instantly recognizable and associable as a catchy sound bite. Once upon a time, instantly recognizable jingles were the backbone of the advertising industry. Today, audio clips are a little more pervasive, considering our seeming dependence on electronic devices...One may feel a sound bite is just that, a quick piece of noise, but the above list should prove that a lot of meaning can be held within, and conveyed by, a short piece of well-composed sound. From insights into a certain time period, to creating a Pavlovian effect of instant joy or anticipation, recognizable pieces of noise are more important than the short amount of time it takes to listen to them would make them seem, and the tech industry understands that as much as — if not better than — anyone else. more

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Change Hurts: Influencing Our Energy Behavior Is Messy Business

Jon Bird is a master of getting people to change their ways...Last spring, Bird and his colleagues enlisted a group of 17 households on Tidy Street in Brighton, a seaside town south of London, who agreed to record their electricity use over time. To make their progress (or lack thereof) plainly visible, he enlisted artists from the nearby Goldsmiths College to stencil a giant graph down the street. A red line down the center of the graph indicated the city's average electricity usage. The Tidy Street residents' use was charted with a yellow line and stars, so residents could see how they stacked up to the rest of town. more

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting Distracted From The Real Issues Of ADHD

While strongly supporting behavioral therapy for young children with ADHD, the American Academy of Pediatrics authors make clear to note that good behavior therapy is hard to find. In fact, they write, finding good mental health care at all is hard to find. In many parts of the country, they add, you can’t find any specialized mental health care for kids at all. And if you can, good luck getting insurers to pay for it – especially critically important parts, like detailed psychoeducational evaluations by psychologists, which can help prevent false diagnoses of ADHD. more

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sustainable Business Forum: What Is Behavior-Based Safety?

To continue making progress in safety management, leaders turned to psychology to better understand human behaviour. During this time the dominant paradigm of psychology was Behaviourism and specifically operant conditioning. Operant conditioning stipulates that learning occurs over time as a function of the positive and negative reinforcement of specific behaviours. Through operant conditioning, people make associations between a behaviour and its consequences, either positive or negative. Behavioural Based Safety (BBS), based on the principles of operant conditioning developed by prominent psychologist B.F. Skinner, emerged as these principles were applied to the workplace. more

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Are You Addicted To Achievements?

Gaming in its wide variety of forms can provide virtual satisfaction for these needs too. Achievements are one of these ways - an additional method by which games cater for our compulsive drive to improve and better ourselves...The view of gamers and developers alike on this most fundamental aspect of gaming has altered over the last three decades. In a way, the difference is staggeringly simple; somebody somewhere took the word "achievement" and pluralised it. Now, instead of being presented with a high score or a series of credits at the end of a game, achievements are scattered like breadcrumbs throughout a gamer's experience. The new gaming model of achievements bears some resemblance to experiments in psychological conditioning undertaken in the 1950's, the most famous of which are B.F. Skinner's experiments into "operant" conditioning. more

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting The Best Teaching Tools To Schools

Back then, in the early '70s, Siegfried Engelmann led a government-sponsored investigation called Project Follow Through. It compared nine teaching methods and tracked their results among 75,000 children from kindergarten through third grade. It found that the Direct Instruction (DI) method of teaching reading — based on sounding out words rather than learning them whole (phonics), and on a tightly scripted format emphasizing repetition and student participation — was vastly more effective than any of the others. And for poor kids. Including black ones...Decade after decade, DI has continued to kick serious butt all across this great land. Houston, Baltimore, Milwaukee — you name it; I am unaware of anywhere it hasn't worked, and it's hard to even choose one example as a demonstration. more

Using “The Power of Small Wins” to Reduce New Hire Employee Turnover

It’s fairly easy to grasp the concept of the power of small wins; Snowfly Incentives founder Brooks Mitchell, Ph.D. describes it as “rewarding the daily homework” in his paper New Ways To Curb Employee Tardiness, Absenteeism and Turnover by Using Employee Selection and Online Games...The simple answer is to amplify the incentive reward for every positive event for newly hired agents until they have accepted the fact that the day is usually going to be filled with negatives and frequent rejections. An “event” does not need to be a sale; it could be simply asking for the sale or some precedent activity. more

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do Programs That Pay People To Lose Weight Really Work?

What if someone would pay you to lose weight? Not a token amount from your meddling fitness freak brother-in-law, but serious cash, say $10,000? Would you try it? But what if you had to put some skin in the game, 60 of your hard-earned dollars for the chance to win that $10,000 or smaller prizes of $5,000 and $3,000?And what if you had to do this at the office, with a team of co-workers who would monitor your progress, or lack thereof, and whose chances at a payoff depended on you?...As you might have guessed, such elaborate wagers are underway at companies across the country, perhaps the most innovative variation in the growing trend of offering overweight Americans — and those with other unhealthful habits, such as smoking and drug use — financial incentives to change. Such experiments live at the nexus of cost-benefit analysis, behavioral psychology and the obesity crisis. more

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monkeys Use a Brain-Controlled Virtual Hand To "Feel" Virtual Objects

An international team of researchers has developed a brain implant that enables monkeys to examine virtual objects by means of a virtual arm controlled by their brain...In a task involving a choice between two visually identical objects, the monkeys were able to distinguish between a reward-producing object, which was associated with an electrical stimulation when 'touched', and an object that produced neither electrical stimulation nor a treat. This shows that the brain can decode information about the sense of touch without any stimulation of the animal's skin, says Nicolelis. His team reports their results today in Nature. more

The Latest Issue Of Behavior Modification Is Now Available

The latest issue of Behavior Modification is now available. Behavior Modification (BMO) presents insightful research, reports, and reviews on applied behavior modification. Each issue offers successful assessment and modification techniques applicable to problems in psychiatric, clinical, educational, and rehabilitative settings, as well as treatment manuals and program descriptions. Practical features help you follow the process of clinical psychological research and to apply it to behavior modification interventions.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Current Directions in Behavioral Science Is On Hiatus

Current Directions in Behavioral Science is on hiatus for the week of October 10th through October 14th.  Daily posts will resume on Monday, October, 17th.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Here, There, Everywhere: Reward And Punishment "Processing" Is Widespread In The Human Brain

Understanding the neural basis of reinforcement and punishment processing is of paramount importance to cognitive neuroscience," explains primary study author Dr. Timothy Vickery from the Department of Psychology at Yale University. "Most perceptual and cognitive functions are served by discrete brain structures, and thus the focus in the reward literature has been on understanding specialized circuits that process reward, such as the basal ganglia. In our study, we tested whether signals related to decision outcomes, encompassing both reinforcement and punishment, may be represented more extensively beyond the traditional reward- and penalty-processing areas that have been described." more

B. F. Skinner: Hefferline Notes And The William James Lectures

The B.F. Skinner Foundation, the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and David Palmer announce that the publication of searchable .pdf documents of the Hefferline Notes and Verbal Behavior: William James Lectures. The Hefferline Notes were taken by Ralph Hefferline in the summer of 1947 while attending B. F. Skinner's six week lecture on verbal behavior at Columibia University. The William James Lectures was the unpublished manuscript from Skinner's lectures on verbal behavior in 1948 at Harvard University. The searchable manuscripts were created by David Palmer and funded by Edward Anderson through the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. They are available from the B. F. Skinner Foundation and the Cambridge Center's websites. more

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Founded In Behaviorism: Celebrating 50 Years of Psychology At Wesleyan University

From the very beginning, Illinois Wesleyan’s department was aligned firmly in the field of science. “We feel our methodology fits in with the natural sciences, focusing on the principles of scientific research design,” said Williams, who teaches courses in neuroscience. That belief stems directly from the founding members of the Psychology Department and its first chair, Roger Ulrich. “Ulrich was a Skinnerian,” said Schnaitter, referring to the work of B.F. Skinner, a famed behavioral psychologist. “He believed psychology is the science of the behavior of organisms...Schnaitter came to Illinois Wesleyan in 1969. By that time, all three of the original members of the Psychology Department had left for other schools, but the concept of Skinnerianism prevailed, he said. “The roots set by Ulrich and his behaviorist colleagues ran very deep, and the curriculum in psychology was all behavior analysis,” he said. “It was not your typical psychology program with theories of personality, abnormal psychology and counseling psych – none of those things were taught here.” more

Behavioral Therapies Work for Weight Loss

Although health-outcome data are sparse, behavioral interventions are effective in yielding clinically meaningful weight loss in overweight and obese individuals, according to a study published in the Oct. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. more

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Mouse Model for Autism?

UCLA scientists have created a mouse model for autism that opens a window into the biological mechanisms that underlie the disorder and offers a promising way to test new treatment approaches. Published in the Sept. 30 edition of Cell, the research found that autistic mice display remarkably similar symptoms and behavior as children and adults on the autism spectrum. The animals also responded well to an FDA-approved drug prescribed to autism patients to treat repetitive behaviors often associated with the disorder..."[The researchers] developed a mouse model to observe how a gene variant commonly linked to human autism reveals itself in mice." more

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Inferring Emotion From Facial Expressions: Context Is Everything

“Humans are exquisitely sensitive to context, and that can very dramatically shape what is seen in a face,” says psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard School of Medicine. “Strip away the context, and it is difficult to accurately perceive emotion in a face.” That is the argument of a new paper by Barrett, her graduate student Maria Gendron, and Batja Mesquita of the University of Leuven in Belgium. It appears in October’s Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.
The paper—reviewing a handful of hundreds of studies supporting the authors’ position, says Barrett—refutes the contention that there are six to 10 biologically basic emotions, each encoded in a particular facial arrangement, which can be read easily in an image of a disembodied face by anyone, anywhere. more

Monday, October 03, 2011

Latest Issue of The Current Repertoire Now Available Online

The latest issue of The Current Repertoire (Vol 27, #3, Fall 2011) is now available at the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies website. The Current Repertoire is the newsletter of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and is published 3 times per year.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cyborg Rats, Robo-Brains, And Classical Conditioning

To test the function of the artificial cerebellum, the team used a tried-and-true technique known as classical conditioning, pioneered by Ivan Pavlov in dogs. In the technique, a rat with a functioning brain was exposed to a puff of air in its eye at the same time an auditory tone was played. With enough repetition, a healthy rat (with an intact brain) would come to flinch its eye any time the tone alone was played, just by associating the noise with the blink-inducing air puff. With its cerebellum non-operational, a rat couldn't learn this very simple behavior — something rats usually pick up in no time in a lab setting. But when hooked into the external synthetic cerebellum, the same rat soon learned to blink every time the tone was played, meaning that the chip had effectively replaced an entire, vital part of its brain. more

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting Discipline Right In The National Hockey League

In the article I noted the that there are powerful incentives for hockey players to engage in violence: approval from fans and coaches alike, career advancement, etc. As such, any discipline policy would have to be sufficiently principled to combat the many incentives skaters have to try to hurt their peers. Three relevant factors of that alter the effect of consequences are: 1.) Immediacy, 2.) Contingency, and 3.) Size…The NHL unarguably had issues with all three of these areas under Campbell. Contingency and size were especially problematic with punishments being poorly understood and inconsistently applied. Consequences were sometimes minimal or non-existant, making them seem both arbitrary and mostly inconsequential. It’s therefore no surprise the league struggled to meaningfully deter or extinguish dangerous behaviors... more

Why Animal Research Needs To Improve

The most reliable animal studies are those that: use randomization to eliminate systematic differences between treatment groups; induce the condition under investigation without knowledge of whether or not the animal will get the drug of interest; and assess the outcome in a blinded fashion. Studies that do not report these measures are much more likely to overstate the efficacy of interventions. Unfortunately, at best one in three publications follows these basic protections against bias...Fewer still define beforehand the most important ('primary') outcome. As a result, they tend to report only the outcomes that happen to show statistical significance, reducing a rigorous, hypothesis-testing experiment to something more like observational research. more

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Environmental Influences On Aggression In Aquarium Fish

An angry glare from the family goldfish might not be the result of a missed meal, but a too-humble abode. Fish in a cramped, barren space turn mean, a study from Case Western Reserve University has found...Along with environment size, Oldfield tested the complexity of an environment and the effects of number of fish within tanks. The addition of obstacles and hiding places using rocks, plants, or other similar objects can increase the complexity of the aquarium environment. He found that an increase in tank size and complexity can reduce harmful aggressive behaviors, and make for healthier fish at home. Oldfield quantified aggressive behavior as a series of displays and attacks separated by at least a second. Displays are body signals such as flaring fins. An attack could be a nip, chase, or charge at another fish. more

First U.S. "Food Dudes" Program Results In More than 40 Percent Increase in Fruit And Vegetable Consumption Among Elementary Students

The Food Dudes program was developed by psychologists at Bangor University in Wales in order to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and at home. Food Dudes is comprised of a three-step system of using role models, repeated tastings and rewards to help elementary students appreciate the benefits of healthy eating...[W]e saw about a 40 percent increase in fruit consumption and a 55 percent increase in vegetable consumption among the students in the school, many of whom weren't eating these foods with any regularity before," said Greg Madden, associate professor in USU's department of psychology. more ... more

Monday, September 26, 2011

Intermittent Reinforcement: Exploiting The Way We Undervalue Privacy

[Doctorow] insists data-driven companies such as Facebook actively exploit users by soliciting as much data as possible. “Facebook trains you to undervalue your privacy. These companies are [full of] social scientists now and those people have read their Skinner (an American behaviorist), have read their Adler (founder of the school of the school of individual psychology) and they understand intermittent reinforcement.” In exchange for posting status updates, photos and other information, Facebook users are intermittently rewarded with attention from people they care about. This mechanism can have addictive qualities similar to gambling. more

The Latest Issue Of The Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis Is Now Available.

The latest issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is now available. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a psychology journal that publishes research about applications of the experimental analysis of behavior to problems of social importance.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Game Transfer Phenomena" And Classical Conditioning

His team had been carrying out another video game study when they discovered that many of their 42 interviewees were talking about a similar experience. Often, after playing a game for a long time, they would momentarily transfer elements of the game content, or the interface, into their real-lives, usually harmlessly..."Most of the experiences were neutral and often quite positive. We distinguished between what we call automatic GTP, which are almost like reflexes or classically conditioned responses, and those where players deliberately take elements out of the game and work them into their day-to-day routines." more

Changing Government Machinery in India With Behavior Analysis

Hence, there seems to be an immediate need for members of Indian police to change the emphasis from unnecessary abusive and discourteous language to shift to more scientific gadgets, better training capsules, more emphasis on behavioural tools and bring across a fundamental shift in the basic thinking of policemen. This needs training and special efforts. The concept of behaviour modification might also prove useful here. Behaviour modification is the use of empirically-demonstrated behavioural change techniques, such as altering an individual's behaviour and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behaviour and/or the reduction of maladaptive behaviour through its extinction, punishment and/or therapy. Today, there are so many behaviour-modification training programmes which use assistance of the core concepts of behaviour management and even behaviour engineering. All these tools and training techniques/modifications need to be adopted for the police department... more

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Young Bonobo Shows Signs Of Autism?

Teco isn't acting like others his age. Constantly on the move, performing repetitious behaviors and avoiding eye contact, he puzzled his mother, who didn't know how to handle him at first. Surely, this isn't normal behavior for a year-old bonobo that should be learning the ins and outs of his ape social group. Speculating the roots of Teco's change, staff at the Great Ape Trust who care for the young bonobo put forth a surprising theory: What if Teco is autistic?...Could the primate's unnatural rearing or early interaction with humans affect his developmental trajectory? It's not clear, and likely won't be for some time. more

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Search Of Biomarkers For Autism: Scientific, Social And Ethical Challenges

There is widespread hope that the discovery of valid biomarkers for autism will both reveal the causes of autism and enable earlier and more targeted methods for diagnosis and intervention. However, growing enthusiasm about recent advances in this area of autism research needs to be tempered by an awareness of the major scientific challenges and the important social and ethical concerns arising from the development of biomarkers and their clinical application. Collaborative approaches involving scientists and other stakeholders must combine the search for valid, clinically useful autism biomarkers with efforts to ensure that individuals with autism and their families are treated with respect and understanding. more

Minds And Machines: The Limits Of Turing-Complete Machines

[O]ur goal is to initiate a broader dialogue around understanding the prospects and limits of Turing-complete machines in such simulation endeavors, starting with creative decision making, but hopefully extending in future to understanding the simulation of individual and organizational learning, intelligence and lack thereof...Consciousness is, of course, a contentious issue. Philosopher of the mind Gilbert Ryle argued that we are not conscious at all, but merely have propensities to behave in certain ways given certain stimuli — a form of logical behaviorism. More, much of computer science is still deeply wedded to strong artificial intelligence according to which a sufficiently complex network of logic gates, electronic or bowls of water, will "emerge" into consciousness. However, there is no reason to suppose that such a network could solve the frame problem. Thus we argue that strong artificial intelligence is a non-starter. more

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Latest Issue of Inside Behavior Analysis Newsletter Now Available

The latest issue of Inside Behavior Analysis is now available online from the Association for Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI). The Association publishes three newsletters annually to inform ABAI members of news and events. Newsletter editions typically feature updates from the ABAI leadership, a focused topic of interest to the membership, upcoming events, and updates from chapters, SIGs, and other behavioral organizations.

Monday, September 19, 2011

MIT Professor Gives Language Lessons to Computers

Regina Barzilay, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is trying to make computers better listeners by making them play Civilization, a 20-year-old strategy game in which players build a city into an empire by vanquishing and absorbing neighboring cultures. A member of MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, Barzilay, 40, developed a software program that begins with no grasp of the game. The computer “reads” the manual and then keeps returning to it while playing. As it races through thousands of simulations, the computer learns to connect words in the directions (“attack,” “build,” “capture,” and “revolt”) as the game unfolds...The computer gets positive reinforcement—a higher score and a win—when it makes correct guesses about the meaning of words. When the computer loses, it traces back through its reading of the manual to see where its interpretation went wrong. more

An Audience With Koko The "Talking" Gorilla

I’d been told beforehand not to make eye contact initially as it can be perceived as threatening, and so I glare at the ground. But I can’t help stealing brief glances at this beautiful creature. Koko, if you’re not familiar, was taught American sign language when she was about a year old. Now 40, she apparently has a working vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and understands around 2,000 words of spoken English. Forty years on, the Gorilla Foundation’s Koko project has become the longest continuous inter-species communications programme of its kind anywhere in the world...Some skeptical researchers have argued that Koko does not understand the meaning behind what she is doing and simply learns to sign because she’ll be rewarded – known as operant conditioning. In the 1999 PBS Nature documentary, A Conversation With Koko, Dr Patterson admits that in the beginning she, too, thought Koko was simply doing it to “get stuff”, but the gorilla began stringing words together to describe objects she didn’t know the signs for. more

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pigeons Don't Wear Socks: Why We Think Rituals Can Influence Results

And a couple more sock shocks while you're still paying attention. Firstly, your behaviour is allegedly shared with pigeons. A discovery made in 1947, though only in principle as pigeons don't wear socks...In 1947, the famous behavioural psychologist BF Skinner stuck a few half-starved pigeons in a box and put food pellets down a chute at random intervals. The pigeons, said Skinner, began to think that whatever they did when the food arrived somehow caused the food to arrive, so they did it often...He called this "adventitious reinforcement". Some accidental association between an outcome and whatever you are doing at the time - wearing those socks on the day of a huge win - becomes established in your mind as a real relationship. It has to be said that some dispute Skinner's analysis, and since he also developed a pigeon-guided missile during World War II, you can tell he liked provocative ideas - and maybe not pigeons. more

New Books Available Through The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

News about new books and a note from Charlie Catania announcing "Behavior Side Story" are now online at the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies website. more

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rethinking the Way College Students Learn

College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers. more

Latest Issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is Now Available

The latest issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is now available. The Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior is a psychology journal primarily for the original publication of experiments relevant to the behavior of individual organisms.

Gene-by-Environment Interaction Studies Need More Scrutiny

A new study from McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the University of Colorado concludes that genetic research drawing correlations between specific genes, environmental variables and the combined impact they have on the development of some psychiatric illnesses needs additional scrutiny and replication before being accepted as true. McLean Hospital investigator Laramie Duncan, PhD, and co-author Matthew Keller, PhD, at the University of Colorado conducted a comprehensive review of the first decade of research looking at how specific genes and environmental variables interact to influence psychiatric disorders including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alcohol abuse and suicidal behaviors. more

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Addiction Is Not A Disease Of The Brain

All addictive drugs and activities elevate the dopamine release system. Such activation, we may say, is a necessary condition of addiction. But it is very doubtful that it is sufficient...Neuroscientists like to say that addictive drugs and activities, but not the nonaddictive ones, "highjack" the reward-reinforcement pathway, they don't merely activate it...If this is right, then we haven't discovered, in the reward reinforcement system, a neurochemical signature of addiction. We haven't discovered the place where addiction happens in the brain. After all, the so-called highjacking of the reward system is not itself a neurochemical process; it is a process whereby neurochemical events get entrained within in a larger pattern of action and decision making. more

Slow Down! Why Some Languages Sound So Fast

[T]he researchers discovered [that] the more data-dense the average syllable was, the fewer of those syllables had to be spoken per second — and thus the slower the speech. English, with a high information density of .91, was spoken at an average rate of 6.19 syllables per second. Mandarin, which topped the density list at .94, was the spoken slowpoke at 5.18 syllables per second. Spanish, with a low-density .63, ripped along at a syllable-per-second velocity of 7.82. The true speed demon of the group, however, was Japanese, which edged past Spanish at 7.84, thanks to its low density of .49. Despite those differences, at the end of, say, a minute of speech, all of the languages would have conveyed more or less identical amounts of information. more

Monday, September 12, 2011

Using Giant Rats To Detect Tuberculosis: A Q&A With Dr. Alan Poling

APOPO has been using African giant pouched rats to detect landmines since 2000. In 2008, they began using the rats to detect tuberculosis, which has a distinct smell the rats can pick up on. APOPO has been working with DOTS [Directly Observed Treatment Short course] centers in Tanzania. DOT Centers are the internationally recommended standard for treating TB- the purpose of the center is both to diagnose and treat TB...GlobalPost had a conversation with Dr. Alan Poling, a professor at Western Michigan University, who is part of APOPO's team.  He speak about training the rats, where he believes the science is leading, and next steps for APOPO. more

Special Learning Partners with Dr. James Partington to Develop Autism Solutions

Special Learning, Inc., an online comprehensive autism solutions company, today announced its collaboration with Dr. James Partington of Partington Behavior Analyst (http://www.partingtonbehavioranalysts.com), a pioneer in the area of Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior and the creator of The ABLLS-R, a comprehensive assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills-tracking system used to help teach language and critical skills to children with autism or other developmental disabilities. more

Friday, September 09, 2011

Fiscal Responsibility and Good behavior: A Rewards Program For Second-Graders

Second graders in Cheryl Marumoto’s class at Blue Ridge Elementary School get more than a gold star for doing well in class. They get paid. While it isn’t real money, students do get credit for good behavior as part of the Money Cents for Kids program, Marumoto uses in her classroom. Developed by Susan Nunamaker, the program is a way to teach financial knowledge, while incorporating positive reinforcement of good behavior. more

At-Home Stroke Therapy Applauded For Results

Here's how it works: In the weeks immediately after a stroke, there are tasks the body actually can't accomplish. As time goes by, that ability returns. But by then, the brain has learned that, say, the left arm doesn't work, so it stops trying to move it, a phenomenon Taub calls "learned disuse." To counter that, CI requires patients to constrain their functional limb -- usually with a mitt that's worn constantly on the good hand over the course of therapy -- and perform a series of tasks that get the "bad" limb working again. The therapist watches, encourages, and uses positive reinforcement to keep patients working at it until they get better. more

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Habit Makes Bad Food Too Easy To Swallow

A new paper by USC researchers reveals why bad eating habits persist even when the food we're eating doesn't taste good. The study also reveals the surprisingly simple ways we can counter our habits to gain control over what we eat...The researchers controlled for hunger and whether the participants liked the popcorn they received. The researchers also gave popcorn to a control group watching movie clips in a meeting room, rather than in a movie theater. In the meeting room, a space not usually associated with popcorn, it mattered a lot if the popcorn tasted good. Outside of the movie theater context, even habitual movie popcorn eaters ate much less stale popcorn than fresh popcorn, demonstrating the extent to which environmental cues can trigger automatic eating behavior. more

IBM Unveils Microchip Based On The Human Brain

How to replicate the squishy sophistication of the human brain in hard metal and silicon? IBM thinks it's found a way, and to prove it has built and tested two new "cognitive computing" microchips whose design is inspired by the human brain...In preliminary tests, the chips were able to play a game of Pong, control a virtual car on a racecourse and identify an image or digit drawn on a screen. These are all tasks computers have accomplished before, but the new chips managed to complete them without needing a specialized program for each task. The chips can also "learn" how to complete each task if trained. more

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Medicare Recommends Coverage of Seniors for Intensive Behavioral Intervention for Obesity

“The evidence is adequate to conclude that intensive behavioral therapy for obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2, is reasonable and necessary for the prevention or early detection of illness or disability and is appropriate for individuals entitled to benefits under Part A or enrolled under Part B and is recommended with a grade of A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force,” the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote in its August 31 Decision Memorandum. more

Is Your Company Safe by Accident: Developing a Behavior-Based Safety Approach

According to the authors of a new occupational safety book, going a month, a year, or even several years without an incident is more likely a function of sheer luck than a predictor of a safe organization. Safe by Accident? was written by behavioral safety experts Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels to help companies understand how an in-depth knowledge of the science of behavior is more effective at creating a company-wide commitment to safety. more

Monday, September 05, 2011

Behavioral Cusp?: Infants Trained To Concentrate Show Additional Benefits

Although parents may have a hard time believing it, even infants can be trained to improve their concentration skills. What's more, training babies in this way leads to improvements on other, unrelated tasks..."[T]he better a child is at concentrating on one object, such as a book, and ignoring distractions, for instance people moving around a room, the better that child is going to learn. We show that attentional control abilities can be trained at a much earlier age than had previously been thought possible." more

Learning To Use Keyboard Shortcuts Through Positive Reinforcement

Efficiency is a free program that trains you to use keyboard shortcuts in Windows and Microsoft Office (2010 and 2007) Word and Excel. The app shows you the keyboard shortcuts associated with your mouse movements to help you learn them. Clicking on the bold button in the ribbon in Excel, for example, will bring up a little notification that you could use Ctrl+2 next time. When you use Ctrl+2 the next time, Efficiency will offer you some positive reinforcement (“good job!”). more

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Biofeedback-Driven Video Game to Battle Anxiety and Stress

While gamers have been using video games to combat stress and anxiety for decades, mental health professionals are only just beginning to see the benefits (and potential drawbacks) of interactive entertainment on our physiological well-being...a team of students and faculty from Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College are developing a video game that utilizes biofeedback technology (generously provided by Mind Media B.V.) to help students combat anxiety by developing their everyday self-control skills. more

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Princeton Study Matches fMRI Scans With Complex "Thought"

The topic database let the researchers objectively arrange the fMRI images by subject matter, Pereira said. To do so, the team searched the brain scans of related objects for similar activity to determine common brain patterns for an entire subject, Pereira said...Based on the similar brain activity and related words, Pereira, Botvinick and Detre concluded that the same neural response would appear whenever a person thought of any of the words related to furniture, Pereira said. And a scientist analyzing that brain activity would know that person was thinking of furniture. The same would follow for any topic. more

Simple Teaching Tool Boosts Student Reading Performance

Dr. John Begeny developed the literacy program, Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS), to give teachers a new tool to promote reading “fluency.” Reading fluency is effectively a child’s ability to read with sufficient speed and accuracy, while also reading with good expression – for example, pausing at commas when reading out loud. When students read fluently, the have a greater capacity for understanding what they read, and they are also more likely to choose to read. more

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Behavior Management Needed--There Is No "Quick Fix" For Weight Loss

As the medical community searches for tools to treat the growing obesity epidemic, there is a place for "very low" calorie diets, medically defined as diets consisting of 800 calories per day or less. These diets can be prescribed for those who are obese and need to lose large amounts of weight. But they are undertaken under physician supervision, with regular blood tests, blood pressure screenings and EKGs, among other screenings. Further, the food on these regimens often is prescribed, too, to ensure that patients get adequate nutrition from the calories they consume. This is accompanied by coaching in behavior modification and long-term strategies for weight control so the pounds don't just return when the very low calorie diet ends. There's no quick fix in weight loss, and no miracle pill or injection that will erase the sensation of hunger. more

Personalized Data Input Portal and Online Patient Community To Combat Obesity

The abiliti® system is a novel implantable device that uses proprietary eating event sensors to initiate gastric stimulation that helps patients feel full sooner than they otherwise would. Additionally, the device automatically records information on those eating and drinking events, as well as frequency and duration of exercise. The my.abiliti portal is the only online destination and community that can utilize objective behavioral data, collected and stored by the abiliti device and wirelessly retrieved with the connect.abiliti Wand. This accurate information enables intelligent weight loss management based on routine self monitoring. more

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bilingual Babies And Behavioral Flexibility

In a new study, the researchers report that the brains of babies raised in bilingual households show a longer period of being flexible to different languages, especially if they hear a lot of language at home. The researchers also show that the relative amount of each language – English and Spanish – babies were exposed to affected their vocabulary as toddlers...[T]he researchers followed up with the parents when the babies were about 15 months old to see how many Spanish and English words the children knew. They found that early brain responses to language could predict infants' word learning ability. That is, the size of the bilingual children's vocabulary was associated with the strength of their brain responses in discriminating languages at 10-12 months of age. more

Think You're An Auditory Or Visual Learner? Scientists Say It's Unlikely

We've all heard the theory that some students are visual learners, while others are auditory learners. And still other kids learn best when lessons involve movement. And still other kids learn best when lessons involve movement. But should teachers target instruction based on perceptions of students' strengths?...Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, who studies how our brains learn, says teachers should not tailor instruction to different kinds of learners. He says we're on more equal footing than we may think when it comes to how our brains learn. more

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Close Encounters Of The Animal Kind

“We’re trying to give people who are interested in a zoo career the chance to come in and really see what it’s like to work at the zoo and work with the animals,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive programs manager...“Rhinos actually do have somewhat prehensile limbs, especially the black rhino, to aid them when they’re feeding on grasses,” Copeland said. “We may have the rhinos work with the trainers to hold the brush or we may have them do something with their feet, like finger painting.” Rhinos, like all the zoo’s animals, are taught new tricks with positive reinforcement. When the animals engage with trainers, they’re rewarded with something they like. If they don’t want to do the activity, trainers look for something else to do with the animal. more

Vaccines Are Safe, Hazards Few And Far Between

Vaccines do come with risks for trouble, but problems are generally rare, according to a new review of the evidence from the Institute of Medicine. The independent panel considered adverse effects from eight common childhood vaccines, and found that in many cases there wasn't enough evidence to if say there was a problem. But the committee came out loud and clear on the controversial question which drove the report. Do vaccines — such as the one against measles, mumps and rubella — cause autism? Nope. more

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Time Cells" May Bridge The Temporal Gap In Memory

Dr. Eichenbaum and colleagues developed an innovative task that required rats to distinguish sequences of two events that were separated by a time delay. The task required the rats to remember the initial event in order to respond appropriately to the second event and receive a reward. The researchers recorded hippocampal neural activity as the rats completed the tasks...The researchers observed that activity in the hippocampus robustly represented sequential memories and that certain cells became activated at successive moments during the empty gap that occurred between the two events. more

"Trial-And-Error" Learning And The Aging Brain

Canadian researchers have found the first evidence that older brains get more benefit than younger brains from learning information the hard way – via trial-and-error learning...In two separate studies, researchers compared the memory benefits of trial-and-error learning (TEL) with errorless learning (EL) in memory exercises with groups of healthy young and older adults...In both studies, participants remembered the learning context of the target words better if they had been learned through trial-and-error, relative to the errorless condition. more

Disney Teaches Gorillas To Be Perfect Patients

Then Dr. Stetter and his staff figured out a way to train Animal Kingdom’s gorillas to be still and cooperative during ultrasounds and blood pressure checks, a major advantage in helping pinpoint the state of their health. Now zoos across the country are following suit, using Disney’s guidelines and the Gorilla Health Project. Trainers used verbal cues, hand signals and treats, like fruit, as positive reinforcement to teach Gino how to turn around and display the appropriate body parts. more

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Driving: The Key To Cutting Gas Use?

"Driving behavior is going to be a part of that meaningful effort to reduce fuel use," O'Dell said. Many cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf -- leaders in the hybrid and electric car markets, respectively -- already alert drivers to their good habits. A monitor in the Prius tells drivers how much fuel they are using and when the car is using electric power. The Leaf's console shows drivers an ever-growing digital tree, demonstrating to drivers how well they are doing at eco-driving. more

Gamification in Education: Should We Play?

Gamification does not necessarily involve the use of high technology. In fact, I've seen some very effective gamification that has been implemented using trading cards. A great example is the Teachers College at Columbia University, where they designed gamification for K-12 and higher education. Because many K-12 students don't have access to a computer, they implemented the whole gamification strategy based on "action cards." Gamification is certainly easier with the help of technology since it can help track a wider range of actions and interactions with a much higher fidelity than humans. However, the fundamental game mechanics and dynamics do not change -- they are all based on behavioral psychology, not technology. more

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Operant Conditioning to Achieve Voter Expectations

Operant conditioning is a term used to describe the idea that people can be trained by reward and punishment. So how do we use this concept to increase fiscal responsibility in Elgin? Because politicians make the rules, they must be trained to make good ones. Politicians care about reelection…a lot. Thus, the Elgin OCTAVE will reward the politicians that act responsibly with positive publicity and will punish (peacefully of course!) those with a disregard for your wallet by working to oust from office as swiftly as possible. more

Toy Psychology

Using virtual points and badges to shape our behavior may not be as effective as some have hoped. The intuitive idea is simple and appealing. Games are engaging, so making anything more gamelike should make it more engaging too. The scientific justification seems equally straightforward. Game mechanics invoke reinforcement learning; like B. F. Skinner's rats, we are repeatedly rewarded to produce the desired behavior. more

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watson's "Is Thinking Merely Action of Language Mechanisms"

The British Journal of Psychology is making available selected classic articles from past issues.  One such article is John B. Watson's "Is Thinking Merely Action of Language Mechanisms" from 1920.  You can get a PDF of the article here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ABAI 2012 Call for Papers

The 2012 Association for Behavior Analysis, International (ABAI) Annual Convention Call for Papers is now available online.

Behavioral Science Podcasts from SQAB

A series of podcasts are available from the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB).  They cover topics ranging from evolution to radical behaviorism to chaos theory, and everything in between and around. more

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Pigeon At The Smithsonian

It’s 1943, and America desperately needs a way to reliably bomb targets in Nazi Germany. What do we do? For B.F. Skinner, noted psychologist and inventor, the answer was obvious: pigeons. “During World War II, there was a grave concern about aiming missiles,” says Peggy Kidwell, a curator of Medicine and Science at the American History Museum. “Military officials really wanted to figure out how to aim them accurately,”  Skinner approached the National Research Defense Committee with his plan, code-named “Project Pigeon.” Members of the committee were doubtful, but granted Skinner $25,000 to get started. more

Robust Preschool Experience Offers Lasting Effects On Language

Preschool teachers' use of sophisticated vocabulary and analytic talk about books combined with early support for literacy in the home can predict fourth-grade reading comprehension and word recognition, new research from Vanderbilt University's Peabody College finds. The findings, published in Child Development and included in a review article in the August 19, 2011 edition of Science, present evidence that there are lasting, complex and mutually reinforcing effects that flow from strong early childhood classrooms. more

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Listening is (Covert) Speaking?

The brain has two big tasks related to speech: making it and understanding it. Psychologists and others who study the brain have debated whether these are really two separate tasks or whether they both use the same regions of the brain. Now, a new study, published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that speaking and understanding speech share the same parts of the brain, with one difference: we don't need the brain regions that control the movements of lips, teeth, and so on to understand speech. more

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

With practice, Foer argues, it’s possible for nearly anyone to bend back the “curve of forgetting” in one’s favor, a notion that begins the author’s quest to improve his own memory. The book is largely an account of Foer’s immersion in the world of competitive mnemonists, nearly all of whom claim to possess merely average memories. World Memory Champions, it turns out, aren’t sponges; they’re athletes, and they owe their prowess to training techniques that were once common knowledge... more

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Food Dudes Win SABA Award

A Bangor University scheme which which uses cartoon characters - the Food Dudes - to encourage healthy eating in primary schools has won international recognition. Professor Fergus Lowe and Dr Pauline Horne of Bangor University’s School of Psychology, are to receive the Scientific Translation Award (Technology Transfer) from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis at their Annual Convention in Seattle in the USA in May 2012. more

Friday, August 12, 2011

The (Behavioral) Science Behind the Dublin Zoo

The zoo also links in with an international breeding programme for Sumatran tigers and positive reinforcement training has helped keep stress levels down, says Creighton. One cub, Wanita, had a problem with her heart and needed frequent monitoring, but because sedatives can alter blood flow she needed to be checked while awake, so Creighton worked with her to ease her into that situation. “I got her to recognise a target and when she touched it she got a piece of meat,” he recalls, describing how eventually she would stretch up high to touch the target, and her heart could be checked. “It’s a positive way of training them for what would be a stressful situation.” more

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Addicted to Tanning

“Using tanning beds has rewarding effects in the brain so people may feel compelled to persist in the behavior even though it’s bad for them,” said Dr. Bryon Adinoff, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study available online and in a future print edition of Addiction Biology. “The implication is, ‘If it’s rewarding, then could it also be addictive?’ It’s an important question in the field.”  more