SOAR Student Profiles

Tristan Mitchell

Tristan Mitchell

  • SOAR Position: Member
  • Major: Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Annie Galizio

Current Focus: Investigating the Manipulation of Reinforcer Magnitude and its Effect on Variable Behavior

Project Description

Reinforcement is when the immediate consequence of a behavior increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. The general understanding of greater reinforcement magnitudes, or larger reinforcers, is that they result in better task acquisition and performance. This may not be the case every time, particularly when organisms are being reinforced for behaving differently in a given situation. The results from research on reinforcer magnitudes and variable responding are unclear, some studies resulting in better performance on variable responding with larger reinforcers while other studies showed more repetitive responding with larger reinforcers. This study will involve rats creating four lever-pulling sequences and being reinforced under different variability requirements for those sequences. Reinforcer amounts will be manipulated to analyze how it affects the variablulty between sequences in order to investigate this discrepancy.

Why does this topic interest you?

I am a bit of a nerd about research in general, but particularly behavior modification is a big interest of mine. I am also a big advocate for mental health awareness, and disorders such as ASD, depression, and ADHD are associated with abnormal levels of variable responding. I believe a better understanding of the impact of reinforcer magnitude manipulations will aid in developing better behavioral interventions for promoting learning, social interactions, and problem solving.

What are your professional aspirations?

I will be finishing my bachelor's degree this fall and I plan on continuing my academic career into graduate school. I am indecisive about getting my master's and becoming a BCBA and working with neurodivergent children or if I want to get my doctorate and teach/conduct research at a university. Regardless, I have big plans in behavior analysis and I am excited to see where I end up!

Do you have any advice for future researchers?

Get involved! I was not aware until very late in my education that there were opportunities to not only get involved in research but also work on my own project. If you are interested in research, I would highly suggest joining SOAR as it will connect you to other student researchers as well as faculty who are interested in your success. My only regret is not joining SOAR sooner!

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