2018: Cory Whirtley

West Virginia University

Cory Whirtley is a doctoral student at West Virginia University (WVU). Her interest in the experimental analysis of behavior began when she was an undergraduate researcher in Michael Perone’s animal laboratory. She is currently completing her master’s thesis. During her time at WVU, Cory has received training in both basic and applied behavior analysis and has worked extensively with animal subjects in the laboratory and with children with severe behavior in school settings.


One of Cory’s primary interests involves the study of factors that underlie the effectiveness of punishing stimuli. Although punishment is a basic process, ubiquitous in our natural environment, we still lack a clear understanding of the conditions under which punishment will be effective. Cory has been studying timeout from positive reinforcement, a common component of interventions to reduce undesirable behavior. Several lines of research have demonstrated that timeout will reduce behavior; however, the isolation of the variables responsible for this effect has not been sufficiently explored.


Cory’s recent experiments, including her master’s thesis, have been designed to evaluate timeout’s effects using an animal model with rats. Specifically, Cory is examining parametrically the contribution that the ongoing rate of reinforcement has on the punitive effects of timeout. In addition, she will be conducting a parallel experiment with shock to assess whether the relation between rate of reinforcement and timeout will hold with another punishing stimulus. This research aims to address theoretical questions surrounding the process of punishment and possible implications for the use of timeout in clinical application. The SABA grant will assist Cory in this endeavor.


Following this research, Cory plans to finish her doctoral degree in behavior analysis at WVU and obtain a postdoctoral position at a research university. Ultimately, Cory plans to work in an academic setting and continue addressing problems of clinical significance using basic and applied approaches.


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