Friday, September 28, 2012

The Latest Issue of "The Current Repertoire" Now Available Online

The latest issue of The Current Repertoire (Fall 2012) is now available online.  The Current Repertoire is the official newsletter of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.  This issue includes:
  • How Good Science is used to Promote Bad Treatments: The Story of Brain Inflammation, Autism, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - An article contributed by Tom Zane from his Science, Fads & ABA Series
  • News from the UK: Story from the Republic of Ireland - A piece written by a parent of a child with autism and qualified teacher from Dublin
  • What is STAMPPP? - News from Mickey Keenan about the project Science and the Treatment of Autism: A Multimedia Package for Parents and Professionals
  • Built to Last: Certifying Behavior-Based Safety? - Tim Ludwig writes about BBS Certifications in Italy and Europe
  • Common Problems with Behavioral Observations - Terry McSween discusses common problems with behavioral observations
  • 6 Ways to Maintain Your Mental Flexibility - Megan Coatley gives behavioral-based tips
  • Keeping Track to Avoid Losing Track - "There's an app for that"... Darlene Crone-Todd motivates us for weight loss and diet control
  • Newly Accredited Behavioral Safety Programs - Join the Commission celebrating the behavioral safety programs of 11 organizations
 more

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nudge or Think: What Works Best For Society?

If approached in the right way, citizens are willing to change their behaviour and do more to help themselves and others, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project, carried out jointly at the universities of Manchester and Southampton, experimented with different intervention techniques which encourage citizen participation and explored people’s motivations for community involvement. The researchers focused on comparing the effectiveness of 'nudge' techniques, where people are offered incentives to change their behaviour, and 'think' techniques, which takes a planned approach where people are given information, the opportunity to discuss and debate a subject, and then opportunity to act. Overall, they found that while the nudge interventions yielded better results, these were not always sustained in the long term. more

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Researchers Erase Fear "Memories" in People Through Behavior Alone

In [a] new study, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden first gave people something to fear -- an image that, every time it flashed on a computer screen, was paired with a shock. They then brought the subjects back the next day and reminded them of their fear memory -- the beginning of the reconsolidation process -- by showing just the image that they had associated with the shock the day before. This reactivated the memory, inducing fear, but theoretically also making the memory easier to erase. Next, they split the subjects into two groups. One got an "extinction treatment" 10 minutes after reconsolidation, in which the researchers showed the subjects the images over and over again without shocks, so that the subjects would stop associating one with the other. The other group got the same treatment, but after a six-hour delay. In both groups, the researchers then measured how "present" the fear memory was, using a standardized measure of skin conductance-basically how sweaty their skin gets during a presentation of the feared image. The first group showed no fear, while the second group showed quite a bit, confirming that the timing mattered... more

Monday, September 24, 2012

Your Brain on Pseudoscience: The Rise of Popular Neurobollocks

An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism – aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash – and it’s everywhere...The human brain, it is said, is the most complex object in the known universe. That a part of it “lights up” on an fMRI scan does not mean the rest is inactive; nor is it obvious what any such lighting-up indicates; nor is it straightforward to infer general lessons about life from experiments conducted under highly artificial conditions. Nor do we have the faintest clue about the biggest mystery of all – how does a lump of wet grey matter produce the conscious experience you are having right now, reading this paragraph? How come the brain gives rise to the mind? No one knows. more

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BACB News: Supervision of Board Certified Behavior Analysts

The supervision of others is an essential activity in applied behavior analysis because of its central role in obtaining BACB certification and in the tiered service-delivery systems often used by behavior analysts. In March 2012, the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) and the [Behavior Analyst Certification Board] BACB collaborated on a joint survey of supervision practices. The survey’s two main purposes were to summarize important supervision phenomena for the field and provide relevant information for the BACB’s Supervision Task Force, which was tasked with updating the organization’s supervision and experience standards. An Internet survey was sent to all BACB certificants, student members of APBA, and faculty contacts of BACB approved course sequences who were requested to invite current students to participate. A total of 2,268 individuals responded to the survey. A summary of the survey’s main findings is now available in Issue #39 of the APBA Reporter. more 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alva Noe: The Unlimited Novelty Of Language?

This fact of linguistic creativity plays a pivotal role in an argument that, in Jackendoff's words, "serves as the foundational premise of modern linguistics." (He goes on to note that the argument is Chomsky's and that he's made it in myriad publications.) The argument in question goes roughly like this: the only way to explain our open-ended ability to cope with linguistic novelty is to suppose that "in our heads" there is a system of rules that governs the combination and recombination of words into well-formed sentences. To know a language is to have a "mental grammar." There is something ironic in the fact that Jackendoff explains linguistic creativity by repeating what Chomsky and others have written elsewhere in myriad publications. But is it even true? It is striking that Jackendoff doesn't offer anything more in defense of the claim about unlimited novelty than I have repeated here. Is this such a straight forward matter? Is it just self-evident that the examples of Jackendoff's wife and daughter demonstrate the existence of the linguistic creativity that plays such an important role in laying the foundations of linguistic theory? I am skeptical. more

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sam Harris on Life Without Free Will

One of the most common objections to my position on free will is that accepting it could have terrible consequences, psychologically or socially. This is a strange rejoinder, analogous to what many religious people allege against atheism: Without a belief in God, human beings will cease to be good to one another. Both responses abandon any pretense of caring about what is true and merely change the subject. But that does not mean we should never worry about the practical effects of holding specific beliefs. I can well imagine that some people might use the nonexistence of free will as a pretext for doing whatever they want, assuming that it’s pointless to resist temptation or that there’s no difference between good and evil. This is a misunderstanding of the situation, but, I admit, a possible one. There is also the question of how we should raise children in light of what science tells us about the nature of the human mind. It seems doubtful that a lecture on the illusoriness of free will should be part of an elementary school curriculum. In my view, the reality of good and evil does not depend upon the existence of free will, because with or without free will, we can distinguish between suffering and happiness. more

Monday, September 17, 2012

Genetic Influences on Learning and Addiction?

Smoking cues, such as the sight of cigarettes or smokers, affect smoking behavior and are linked to relapse and cigarette use. Nicotine metabolism, by a liver enzyme, also influences smoking behavior. Variations in the gene that codes for this enzyme determine slow or fast rates of metabolism and therefore, the level of nicotine in the blood that reaches the brain. In the study smokers were screened for their nicotine metabolism rates and their enzyme genotype. Participants were aged 18 – 35 and smoked 5-25 cigarettes daily for a minimum of 2 years. People with the slowest and fastest metabolism had their brain response to visual smoking cues measured using functional MRI. Fast metabolizers had significantly greater response to visual cigarette cues than slow metabolizers in brain areas linked to memory, motivation and reward, namely the amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, insula, and cingulate cortex. more

Friday, September 14, 2012

Training Detection Dogs to Save Lives

Cynthia Otto, who served on a team that used working dogs to search for survivors in the rubble at ground zero, created the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She's a veterinarian who specializes in emergency, critical care and disaster medicine, and she has consulted with the military about the health of search-and-rescue dogs, including Cairo, the dog who worked on the Osama bin Laden mission. She tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that detection dogs are invaluable. "There are so many jobs now that dogs are being used for," Otto says. "Originally it was kind of looked at as that patrol dog or the bomb-detection dog, but now they're being used to find the IEDs [improved explosive devices]. Some of them are actually being used for therapy in the field, which is really incredible. But they're starting to look at all of the different potential components that these dogs can contribute to...and the detection area is so important because these dogs are better than any machine that we have — and they can save lives." more

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92

Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist whose 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness” questioned the legitimacy of his field and provided the intellectual grounding for generations of critics, patient advocates and antipsychiatry activists, making enemies of many fellow doctors, died Saturday at his home in Manlius, N.Y. He was 92...Dr. Szasz (pronounced sahz) published his critique at a particularly vulnerable moment for psychiatry. With Freudian theorizing just beginning to fall out of favor, the field was trying to become more medically oriented and empirically based. Fresh from Freudian training himself, Dr. Szasz saw psychiatry’s medical foundation as shaky at best, and his book hammered away, placing the discipline “in the company of alchemy and astrology.” more

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Publication of Guidelines for Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders

The purpose of this document is to inform decision-making regarding the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to treat medically necessary conditions so as to develop, maintain, or restore, to the maximum extent practicable, the functioning of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in ways that are both efficacious and cost effective. The document is based on the best available scientific evidence and expert clinical opinion regarding the use of ABA as a behavioral health treatment for individuals diagnosed with ASD. The guidelines are intended to be a brief and user-friendly introduction to the application of behavior analysis for ASD when funded by health care plans.  more

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Philosophy v Science: Which Can Answer the Big Questions of Life?


Julian Baggini: No one who has understood even a fraction of what science has told us about the universe can fail to be in awe of both the cosmos and of science. When physics is compared with the humanities and social sciences, it is easy for the scientists to feel smug and the rest of us to feel somewhat envious. Philosophers in particular can suffer from lab-coat envy. If only our achievements were so clear and indisputable! How wonderful it would be to be free from the duty of constantly justifying the value of your discipline. However – and I'm sure you could see a "but" coming – I do wonder whether science hasn't suffered from a little mission creep of late. Not content with having achieved so much, some scientists want to take over the domain of other disciplines. more

Monday, September 10, 2012

Register for "Behavioral Safety Now"


Get insights, best practices and success stories in behavior-based safety and behavioral techniques. Now in it's 17th year, the Behavioral Safety Now Conference is the premier venue for collecting cutting-edge ideas and strategies to improve safety, quality, customer service and productivity. The conference includes an educational program for all levels of management, safety professionals and employee teams who have an interest in learning about the behavioral safety approach. All proceeds benefit the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, a Massachusetts non-profit organization. Join the industry's most innovative thinkers sharing practical ideas for creating peak performance workplaces. more

Friday, September 07, 2012

Apple and Orangutans: Apes Found to be Enamored with iPads


The comparisons between orangutans and humans are undeniable and multifaceted – they can recognize themselves in a mirror, they have hairlines (that recede, just like ours), they share 97% of our genetic code, and the males tend to be sociable only during mating (we kid). And now, zookeepers across the U.S. and Canada have discovered, both species share a technological fascination, too. For orangutans, playing with iPad apps appears to be as popular among the apes as it is with humans. more

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A New Technology Twist In The Energy Efficiency Story


Blend a little new energy tech with a pinch of behavioral psychology and you’re bound to get something unexpected...The modlet is a small box that you plug into an electrical outlet. It comes with a USB port that goes into your computer. This sets up a wireless signal that allows the modlet to talk to your computer.  You plug an appliance into the modlet, and then your computer screen shows the energy use of the appliance. Most interesting, from your computer you can control the power flow into the appliance, and even schedule shut offs in advance. For example, you might set up a schedule to turn off power to devices not in use on nights and weekends. Using the modlet, ThinkEco arranged a competition between two Greif buildings, with a team of 30 employees in each. The project stems from behavioral research that indicates people are more apt to save energy when comparing their performance against others – one of several ideas emerging in the study of how and why we use energy. more