2021 Fellow of ABAI: Martha Pelaez
Martha Pelaez is currently the Frost Professor of Developmental Psychology at Florida International University, School of Education and Human Development. Dr. Pelaez has become an influential and important leader in behavior analysis through her innovative basic-applied research with infants and her dedicated service to the field. She is one of very few researchers to successfully bring a behavior analytic perspective to child development. Her co-authored textbook with Gary Novak, Child and Adolescent Development: A Behavioral Systems Approach, is considered to be the best work on child development from a behavioral perspective since Bijou and Baer’s seminal Child Development. In addition, Professor Pelaez was a founding editor of the Behavioral Development Bulletin (editor for 25 years) now an APA journal. A noteworthy feature of Dr. Pelaez’s research record is her ability to take the findings from relevant research domains, refine them, and apply them to developmental issues.
Martha Pelaez’s most important research and theoretical analyses include experiments on attachment and acquisition of fear (with Gewirtz); the development of a taxonomy of rules and rule governance and moral development; basic experiments on stimulus equivalence with infants; the establishment of eye contact (orienting), infant vocalizations and vocal imitation, joint attention, and social referencing behavioral cusps, as foundational precursors of derived relational framing and precursors of naming. She examined together with O’Hora and Barnes-Holmes how relational-frame theory connects to human intelligence. Most recently, Professor Pelaez has applied her behavioral expertise to address a relatively new problem of considerable social significance: the stress and anxiety associated with returning to school in the age of the COVID Pandemic. In addition to Professor Pelaez’s outstanding research accomplishments, she is recognized for her long-standing, excellent service to behavior analysis through her many positions on editorial boards, her service on a number of important special committees and task forces, and her critical role in the international development of behavior analysis.