2019: Ryan Becker

Utah State University

Ryan Becker earned a BS and MS in psychology at Arizona State University (ASU) under the mentorship of Drs. Federico Sanabria and Elias Robles. His research there with human participants focused on interval timing, delay discounting, and loss aversion. At ASU he also served as a statistics consultant, tutor, and teaching assistant.


Ryan was a Ph.D. student at Utah State University under the guidance of Dr. Amy Odum, where he was involved in several research projects with animal subjects, investigating the effects of reinforcers on behavioral variability.


The research the SABA grant was awarded to support examines relational frame theory and behavioral momentum theory by testing whether behavioral persistence transfers with the use of relational framing. The long-term goal is to identify the theoretical link between the persistence of operant behavior and human language. Relational frame theory posits that language-able humans transfer the functions of stimuli to one another when they participate in an equivalence class, and empirical evidence supporting behavioral momentum theory indicates that the reinforcement rate predicted by a conditional stimulus is the primary determinant of response rate when an operant is disrupted (e.g., in extinction). These findings lead to the interesting prediction that persistence will be transferred through derived stimulus relations.


Seventy-five college students will learn to coordinately frame stimuli within several stimulus classes, and then one stimulus within each class will be trained to predict a certain rate of reinforcement. In a final test, a coordinately framed stimulus will be presented during extinction; the hypothesis is that quantitative models of behavioral momentum theory will be satisfied even though the relationally framed stimulus will never be paired with reinforcement.


Ryan and Dr. Odum transferred the project to Utah State University Ph.D. student Diana Perez, also known as D. D. is an Afro-Latinx student who is involved in several projects in the areas of delay discounting and animal research on behavior variability. Her interests are primarily response persistence, social discounting, and the effects of delayed reinforcement on behavior. She earned a BA in psychology at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) under the mentorship of Drs. Ellie Kazemi and Sara Berzenski,where her research focused on supervision, training, feedback, and clinical work. At CSUN she also served as a research assistant, lab supervisor, and behavior therapist, and she developed a passion for translational research.


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