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Héctor Martínez Sánchez, Ph.D.

Basic Processes in Animal and Human Behavior

Laboratory director: Dr. Héctor Martínez Sánchez
e-mail: hectorm@cencar.udg.mx

1) Instructional control and conditional discrimination
In the study of the effects of instructions on human behavior, instructional antecedents and the consequences of execution have proven relevant to the exercise of control using conditional discrimination procedures. Specifically, we have studied these two variables in the context of first order sample equalization tasks, by analyzing the effects of two instructional histories on interaction with different densities of information. With respect to instructional history, we have designed experimental situations that include a history of true instructions followed by the presentation of false ones, in order to later compare them with situations that include only a history of false instructions. In addition, we have studied the effects on execution of the presentation of distinct densities of consequences (delayed, partial and continuous information). The results of these studies suggest that behavior controlled by instructions is a function of the interaction of verbal factors, antecedents of following instructions and the correspondence between the instructions given and their consequences. These findings are directly linked to applications in such areas as education and clinical and organizational psychology.

2) Variability and the stereotyping of human behavior
Only recently has behavioral variability come to be considered as an operant; as a result, interest has increased in studying it experimentally. In order to explain behavioral variability, researchers have turned to models derived from animal research in detriment of those that involve analyses of the variability of human behavior itself. This project explores some empirical possibilities of studying the variability and stereotyping of human behavior generated in our laboratory. With the participation of children and adults who are exposed to first order sample equalization tasks, three variables have initially aroused our experimental interest: a) feedback; b) instructions; and, c) stimulus conditions. The results obtained to date suggest that continuous feedback may interfere with the establishment of variability, that instructions may favor the control of stimuli and that the sequence of conditions (variability vs. stereotyping) may exercise differential effects on participants’ performance. These studies have application in the treatment of certain persistent behaviors –such as autism– and improving school learning.

3) Experimental models of alimentary behavior
The interest in studying alimentary behavior in animals in controlled environments traces its roots back to the early decades of the 20th century. One of the preferred experimental preparations for studying alimentary behavior has consisted in restricting access to food or water using a variety of measures and for distinct periods of time in experiments involving certain animals that are known for having extraordinarily ordered alimentary habits, such as rats. On occasion, these restrictions have functioned only as pre-conditions used to attain a motivational state (hunger or thirst) which then makes it possible to study the acquisition or maintenance of behavior. Today, however, it is necessary to develop experimental models that will allow us to improve our understanding of certain behavioral phenomena related to the restriction of alimentary behavior. For example, self-deprivation, binge eating (excessive intake) and variations in body weight can be studied systematically in the laboratory. The importance and application of these experimental models is related to controlling aberrant alimentary behavior (e.g., bulimia, anorexia and obesity).