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2012 CalABA Award for
Outstanding Contributions to Behavior Analysis


Allen Neuringer, PhD · Reed College

Friday, Feb. 17 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.   (more info.)

Dr. Neuringer obtained his B.A. from Columbia College in 1962 (Fred Keller taught his Introductory class), his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967 (Richard Herrnstein advised his thesis), and taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon from 1970 until his retirement as MacArthur Professor of Psychology in 2008. He continues to teach Functional Variability as emeritus professor. His research has shown that pigeons can discriminate among musical episodes, e.g., Bach versus Stravinsky; that pigeons' self control is governed in ways similar to Walter Mischel's children; and that rats and pigeons will respond for food reinforcers even when food is freely available, sometimes referred to as contra freeloading. He has also published on the possibilities of self experimentation. Since the early 1980's his research has focused on reinforced variability its characteristics, implications, and applications. He lives at the Ridge, a forested area in western Oregon, in a house he built with Martha, his spouse, and Reed students; and plants trees and feeds birds.

The More-or-Less Voluntary Operant
Operant responses are said to be voluntarily emitted and contrasted with elicited reflexes, conditioned and unconditioned. But some operants appear to be more voluntary than others think addiction and compulsion versus artistic or scientific activities. Research on control by reinforcers over levels of variability will help us better to understand the voluntary nature of the operant, and the voluntary continuum. Reinforcers and discriminative stimuli precisely control levels of response variability, from stereotypy to random emission. I will provide an overview of research on reinforced variability, with emphasis on recent work both in the operant field and elsewhere. I will also discuss real-world applications relevant to shaping, creativity, problem-solving, and behavioral pathologies.