Monday, April 30, 2012

Drug Punishers to Reduce Drug Reinforcement

Drug addiction is a vicious cycle, but the original high is not the problem. What is the problem are the changes in our brains and behavior that drive us to seek the next high, and the next. The relationship between drug-taking and the resulting high is what behavioral pharmacologists refer to as “reinforcement." And if we are able to alter the reinforcing value of a drug, how much we desire to get that next hit, we might be able to help addicts overcome their addictions. more

Friday, April 27, 2012

Culture, Not Biology, Shapes Language

There's no language gene.There's no innate language organ or module in the human brain dedicated to the production of grammatical language. There are no meaningful human universals when it comes to how people construct sentences to communicate with each other. Across the languages of the world (estimated to number 6,000-8,000), nouns, verbs, and objects are arranged in sentences in different ways as people express their thoughts. The powerful force behind this variability is culture. more

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Operant Conditioning and Fiscal Responsibility: We Must Incentivise Taxpayers

In psychology in order to change or influence behaviour of a person or an entire community or society, ‘reinforcement’ or ‘punishment’ are core tools of operant conditioning; stimulus which encourages or discourages certain select behaviours. Many countries use these tools to achieve their goals. Why don’t we use the power of operant conditioning to help deliver the objective of expansion of the tax net? One prominent business chamber, the American Business Council, has been recommending for many years to introduce a “Tax Payer Card” with clear benefits to taxpayers... more

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Ten Commandments of Performance Measurement

Employees who have a stake in the financial success of their organization are much more focused and engaged in their work and aware of how it impacts the overall success of that organization than those who don’t. Unfortunately, most organizations rely solely on increases in base pay to reward employees and struggle with how to get the most from their compensation dollars, including how to evaluate and compensate performance objectively and equitably. Great care should be taken in developing specific measures for scorecards and incentive pay. There are some measurement principles that apply to all measures and should be considered each time a measure is developed. more

Monday, April 23, 2012

Specific Protein Triggers Changes in Brain Reward Center Linked to Cocaine Addiction

New research from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York reveals that repeated exposure to cocaine decreases the activity of a protein necessary for normal functioning of the brain's reward system, thus enhancing the reward for cocaine use, which leads to addiction. Investigators were also able to block the ability of repeated cocaine exposure, to induce addiction. The findings, published online April 22 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, provide the first evidence of how cocaine changes the shape and size of neuron rewards in a mouse model. Repeated exposure to cocaine decreases the expression of a protein necessary for normal functioning of the brain's reward system, thus enhancing the reward for cocaine use and stimulating addiction. Using the protein's light-activated form in real time, in a technique known as optogenetics, investigators were also able to block repeated cocaine exposure from enhancing the brain's reward center from cocaine. more

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How To Fix It

I wish that more of our passengers could see the system from the perspective of a screener. It is here, at the front lines, where the conundrum of airport security is in sharpest relief: the fear of missing even the smallest thing, versus the likelihood that you'll miss the big picture when you're focused on the small stuff. Clearly, things needed to change. By the time of my arrival, the agency was focused almost entirely on finding prohibited items. Constant positive reinforcement on finding items like lighters had turned our checkpoint operations into an Easter-egg hunt. When we ran a test, putting dummy bomb components near lighters in bags at checkpoints, officers caught the lighters, not the bomb parts. more

Why Everyone Hates IT People

Business books and gurus extol the value of innovation and spread the message that only companies who quickly change with the times have a hope of survival. The message to employees is “if you contribute innovative ideas, good things will happen to you and your tribe.” These messages constitute the cue or stimulus phase of a reinforcement loop. Originally studied by B.F. Skinner over 60 years ago, reinforcement remains a powerful basis by which we learn how to behave. In a successful reinforcement loop, the cue is followed by an action, which then brings a reward. Unfortunately, in most companies, when employees generate good ideas, no reward comes, projects lag, and innovation stalls. more

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preventing "Cravings" to Treat Drug Addiction

A study published last week in the journal Science describes a simple behavioural procedure that reduces heroin addicts' cravings and could also prevent them from relapsing after they've kicked the habit...[T]he procedure involves manipulating addicts' memories of past drug use, and could lead to non-pharmacological therapy for addiction, as well as psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and phobia...Cue exposure therapy relieves cravings in the clinical setting, but is less effective in doing so when addicts are re-exposed to drugs and associated cues later on. The new procedure could make this therapy more effective. more

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The (Monkey) Business Of Recognizing Words

New research shows that first-graders and baboons have at least one thing in common: Both can tell the difference between actual written words and random sequences of letters...[Jonathan] Grainger says the baboons had to step into a booth and tap the screen. "The first thing that comes up is a string of four letters, which at random could be a real English word or what we call a 'non-word' — a string of letters that's not a real English word," he says. Then the baboons had to indicate whether they were looking at a real word like KITE, or a non-word like EKTI. After doing this thousands of times, all of the baboons learned to recognize at least 80 words, even though they had no idea what the words meant. And Grainger says a baboon named Dan learned more than 300 words. more

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Movie Clips May Help Ease Drug Craving

Watching a five-minute video can help whitewash memories of past drug use in former heroin addicts and ease their cravings, a new study shows. By weakening mental ties between drug-related paraphernalia and the desire to use, the method may be a powerful and long-lasting way to help people struggling with addiction stay clean. “The process is really simple,” says study coauthor David Epstein of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, Md. “But it’s based on some really important ideas.” The method, described in the April 13 Science, seems to work by dampening the association between using a drug and cues that remind someone of using. Walking by a familiar corner where a dealer works or bumping into an old friend from drug-using days, for example, can be particularly hard for people battling addiction. more

Monday, April 16, 2012

Teaching an Electronic Pavlov’s Dog: Memristive Devices in Neuromorphic Circuits

A memristor device is a non-linear resistive device with inherent memory: when current flows in one direction through the device, resistance increases; when current flows in the opposite direction, resistance decreases. When the current is stopped, the device retains its last resistance value. A memristor could therefore behave like a synapse in the brain: it can adopt high or low resistance states and retains information even when the current is switched off...By applying appropriate and timed stimuli and observing the electrical behavior of the circuit, the team showed that their circuitry too could learn to associate two previously independent stimuli. more

Friday, April 13, 2012

Historical Interviews with B.F. Skinner Now Online

Psychology Today has recently made available a number of interview with eminent psychologists spanning the field's history.  Included among these interviews are two with B. F. Skinner, one conducted in 1967 and one in 1972.  The 1967 interview is a tour de force in which Skinner pulls no punches when commenting on the state of the field of psychology and the promise of behaviorism.  The 1972 interview provides a glimpse of Skinner at the peak of his notoriety, being the most famous psychologist alive at the time and one of the most prominent (if not controversial) public intellectuals of the day.  You can read the 1967 interview here, and the 1972 interview here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pay for Play: The National Football League "Bounty" Scandal

There is nothing wrong with attempting to lay a big hit on an offensive player.  It's simply a part of the game.  Think about it: How does the crowd usually react when Ray Lewis lays a monstrous hit on an opponent?  They cheer for him.  His teammates shout in approval.  This is true at all levels of football.  People cheer for big hits. This leads to modifications in defensive player's behavior.  For those of you who do not know what operant conditioning is, it "is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior."  Defensive players are conditioned to want to hit people hard because it leads to a reward everyone likes: praise. more

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April is an Important Month in the History of Behavior Analysis

Below are some of the major events in the history of behavior analysis that occurred between April 10th and April 13th. (The links direct you to more information about the events.)

On April 10th, 1958, the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior was first published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Charles B. Ferster was the journal's editor.

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

On April 12th, 1968, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis was first published. The journal was founded and published by the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Montrose Wolf was the editor of the journal.

On April 12th, 1968, Donald Baer, Montrose Wolf, and Todd Risley's article "Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behavior Analysis" was published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. By 1982, this article had been cited in over 535 other publications and was featured as a "citation classic" by the journal Current Contents.

On April 12th, 1968, Fred Keller's article "Goodbye, Teacher . . . " was published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The article described the application of behavioral principles to instruction.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Social Conquest of Earth?

At a certain point in their careers, great jazz musicians are almost bound to disappoint their fans...The vision that made them great the first time pushes them into new territory, and the magnitude of their early accomplishments—and the number of admirers they have attracted—makes their public's sense of betrayal all the more bitter. This reality comes to mind when reading Edward O. Wilson's "The Social Conquest of Earth," a sweeping argument about the biological origins of complex human culture. It is full of both virtuosity and raw, abrupt assertions that are nonetheless well-crafted and captivating, presented with equanimity and serenity even though a firestorm of disagreement surrounds them. It's not every book that is preceded by a critical public letter from more than 130 of the author's peers, as Mr. Wilson's was when a legion of biologists wrote to the journal Nature last year to register their belief that his current thinking is wrong. more

Friday, April 06, 2012

Zombies, Run for iOS turns Your Workout Into a Real-Life Action Adventure Game

It doesn’t matter where you run. It doesn’t matter how fast you run. It doesn’t matter how far you run. Just run. That’s the slogan for the new Zombies Run app for iOS, an adventure game of sorts designed to encourage people to run like hell...While moving, the runner will automatically collect supplies, such as weapons, ammo, medical equipment, as well as notes and recorded messages that give clues to how the world turned into an undead all-you-can-eat buffet. Occasionally, zombies will catch up with the runner (cued by progressively louder moans in the app), which means that it’s time to run as fast as possible to escape. If advancing zombies don’t encourage someone to pick up their gait, what will? more

International Society for Performance Improvement Honors Four Outstanding PI Professionals

The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) yesterday announced the recipients of its four prestigious 2012 Honorary Awards. The awards recognize outstanding individuals for their significant contributions to the performance improvement field and to ISPI. Honorees will receive their awards at the Performance Improvement Conference Awards of Excellence Luncheon, April 21, in Toronto. more

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Stanford Study to Try Cash and Social Game to Relieve Rush Hour Traffic

Cash prizes for getting to campus late or leaving early? Even Stanford University's hard-working employees and students may be tempted to participate in a new study. Most drivers with a university parking permit can now enroll in Capri (Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives), a program that seeks to reduce rush-hour traffic in the area. The crux of the study is motivating people more efficiently by offering a chance at a larger reward rather than a sure-fire small one. more

Monday, April 02, 2012

Behavior Modification: The Mobile Edition

Rightly or wrongly, Americans have a reflex reaction to behavioral theory because it always seems to start by diminishing one of the hallmarks of our cultural identity: free will. You just aren’t going to get very far here tossing that term around. For online advertising, that realization came a bit late in the game, after the Federal Trade Commission pretty much stamped much of the field "OBA" (for online behavioral advertising). Now all the industry can do is peddle back with euphemisms like “Interest-based advertising.” Yeah, like that's going to work. more