The Division 6 program for the 2012 APA Convention

Division 6 and Division 3 join forces for workshops in the areas of animal cognition, brain-behavior interactions, developmental psychobiology, and more

The program for Division 6 of the APA will be held August 3-5, 2012 in Orlando, FL. In this meeting two programs will be coordinated: Division 3 (Experimental) and Division 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience & Comparative Psychology) in an attempt to avoid overlapping material. Moreover, European scientists are especially invited in this convention. We call for research paper or poster submissions from Division 6 members, associates, affiliates, and students. All submissions invited or not, are welcome.

Brief descriptions for different events of the D6 program can be found below. All submissions must be made online. Please follow these guidelines as it will not be possible to accept submissions outside of this system.

We have received 21 total hours for the 2012 Division 6 program consisting of 14 ‘substantive’ hours and 7 ‘non substantive’ hours. Talks (faculty or student), posters (faculty or student), symposia (faculty, invited or proposed), keynote addresses (faculty, invited or proposed) constitute substantive hours. The President's talk, Poster sessions, the Executive Committee meeting, the Division 6 business meeting, conversation hours, and social hours comprise non-substantive hours.

All submissions will be reviewed and feedback will be provided to the extent possible.

Emphasis for the 2012 program will be placed on the areas of animal cognition, brain-behavior interactions, developmental psychobiology, comparative analysis of learning, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, invertebrate learning and behavior, learning and memory, motivation and emotion, and neuropharmacology of behavior.

The 2012 program will include the President's talk (title: “Some comparative psychology of learning”), the Hebb award talk, two invited conferences (“What is uniquely human?: An answer from the study of chimpanzee mind", by Tetsuro Matsuzawa, and “What can a comparative approach teach us about the evolutionary significance for organism survival of the simple learned behaviors of habituation and sensitization –or of any other behaviors seen across phylogeny?” by Edward M. Eisenstein), poster sessions, Div 6 executive committee and general business meetings, and general paper sessions grouped by topic.

Invited Symposia

New Methods in the Study of Aggression: From Genetics to Immersive Virtual Environments (110 min)

Symposium chair: Mel Slater (ICREA-University of Barcelona, Spain). This symposium is already closed.

Description of Event: Understanding the complex issues surrounding violent aggression is one of the most pressing societal needs today. A perpetrator attacks a victim possibly watched by bystanders. How did the situation become one of violence? What characterizes the motivations and behaviors of the perpetrator? Why are the victims victims? Do the bystanders intervene to try to stop, or maybe encourage the aggression? How are the actions of individuals tied up with the beliefs and goals of social groups with which they identify? It is a very great challenge to study these types of issues experimentally because of the practical and ethical difficulties involved. We cannot stage actual violent episodes for experimental studies. Instead researchers have mainly resorted to laboratory-based studies where various surrogates for violence are employed - such as generating loud noises to punish an opponent, or giving mild electric shocks. However, the ecological validity of such experiments, the generalization of the results to understanding violence, is doubtful. In this symposium Mark Levine will introduce the topic of bystander responses to violent aggression and describe a systematic behavioral analysis of real-life violent aggression captured on public space closed circuit (CCTV) cameras. Mel Slater will then describe a novel methodology that allows for laboratory-based study of bystander responses to violent aggression. Maria V. Sanchez-Vives will introduce a new methodology that has applications in rehabilitation of violent gender abusers. Finally, Carmen Sandi will talk about evidence, from animal studies, for the existence of biological roots in the transgenerational transmission of violence to intimate partner and others.

The Comparative Analysis of Learning: Jeff Bitterman’s Legacy (110 min)

Symposium Chair: Mauricio R. Papini (Texas Christian University). This symposium is already closed.

Description of event: Morton Edward Bitterman, known to friends and colleagues as “Jeff,” was internationally recognized for developing the methodological and theoretical foundations of the comparative analysis of learning. Over a period of 68 years, he published more than 300 papers and served as editor of the American Journal of Psychology, and associate editor of Animal Learning and Behavior and the Journal of Comparative Psychology. He was honored by the American Psychological Association in 2001 with the D.O. Hebb Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award and received the Ernest R. Hilgard Award for Lifetime Career Contributions to General Psychology in 2004. In addition, he was awarded the UH Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research in l992 and was a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, receiving its Howard Crosby Warren Medal in 1997. Jeff was professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii and former director of the Békésy Laboratory of Neurobiology at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. Jeff was an APA and Division 6 member. This symposium will honor his legacy.

Incentive, Expectancy, Emotion and the Brain (110 min)

Symposium Chair: Patricia Sue Grigson (Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA) (If anyone is interested in participating in this symposium, please contact the Program Chair ASAP).

Description of event: Charles F. Flaherty referred to reward comparison as commonplace. He, and others, demonstrated that all species tested compare disparate rewards over time. In most cases this involved the comparison of low vs. high concentrations of a sweet, for example, or large vs. small amounts of food pellets. More recent data have expanded upon this notion by demonstrating that rats, for example, also make comparisons across modalities and these comparisons have a global effect on perception, emotion, and behavioral choice. In this symposium, we will discuss the emotion elicited by an unexpected downshift in reward and underlying physiological and neural substrates. Via the use of selectively bred strains, we will examine the impact of genes on contrast in avoidance learning. We will examine cross-modal reward comparison by examining how a drug of abuse can come to devalue a natural reward in rats and in humans. Under such circumstances, anticipation of drug availability leads to the onset of a conditioned aversive state, devaluation of natural rewards, and to an increase in drug-craving and drug-seeking. Final consideration will be given to the obverse –i.e., to conditions where the availability of an alternative natural reward is compared with and can, as such, mitigate strongly against drug-seeking and drug-taking. As such, the investigators in this symposium will demonstrate that incentive contrast and emotion contribute not only to accurate detection of, and responding to, disparate levels of the same reward type, but also to the selection of behavior across different modalities over time.

Spatial Learning and Performance (110 min)

Symposium Chair: Anthony McGregor (Durham University, UK), (If anyone is interested in participating in this symposium, please contact the Program Chair ASAP).

Description of event: A capacity for navigation should be invaluable for the majority of animals. They will often find themselves in one location and need to move to another to obtain food, seek a mate, return to their home, and so on. This journey could, of course, be haphazard and guided by nothing more than the principle of trial and error. But if the position of the goal is known then a more efficient way of traveling would be to plot, and then follow, a course to the goal. The psychological processes underlying spatial learning and performance are still a matter of fierce debate, with sometimes conflicting theories derived from behavioral and neurobiological studies. This symposium will demonstrate the strengths of comparative, behavioral, and neurobiological approaches to the study of spatial learning, and encourage discussion of how best to resolve some of the differences between them.

Applications of Associative Learning (110 min)

Symposium Chair: Ian P.L. McLaren (University of Exeter, UK), (This symposium is already closed).

Description of event: The “Applications of Associative Learning” referred to in the title are to other domains of Psychology (particularly cognition). In this symposium the speakers demonstrate how modern associative theory has important implications for areas as diverse as Memory, Attention, Control, Perceptual Learning and Categorization. In each case specific examples of the role that associative processes play are given, and we make some attempt to characterize the interplay between associative processes and other rule-based processes in contributing to human mental life.


Presenters will have 15 minutes with 3 minutes reserved for questions. The program chair will group all paper submissions, with assistance from the session chair where appropriate. There could be room in the program for one or two paper sessions, 50 minutes in duration.


Poster sessions are grouped according to content and presenters should remain with their assigned poster board during the entire length of the session. Poster boards are 8’high with a surface of 4’x6’ and are placed in rows in a large hall. Instructions are provided online for preparation of posters in the required format.

For the 2012 convention Division 6 is hoping to substantially increase the number of posters. Please collaborate even if you have an oral presentation!


Each symposium will be allotted 110 minutes. Five invited symposia are currently being planned and no more could be added.