By Carson Yahrmarkt, 2022 awardee of an Innovative Student Research – Master’s Thesis Grant
Carson Yahrmarkt is a master’s student at Northern Michigan University (NMU). His interest in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior began when he was an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Paul Andonis’ cockroach laboratory. He is currently working on his master’s thesis studying under Drs. Cory and Forrest Toegel. The SABA grant will support Carson’s master’s thesis research, which involves the study of factors that maintain behavioral disruptions during transitions between schedules of reinforcement. These transition-related disruptions are particularly problematic in the daily lives of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Carson’s study will evaluate effects that different kinds of environmental stimuli have on the behavioral disruptions produced during transitions from favorable to unfavorable reinforcement schedules. Rats will respond in standard operant chambers with two retractable levers. In some conditions, the schedules will be signaled by spatially localized stimuli (i.e., the lever that is available in the chamber); in other conditions, they will be signaled by spatially diffuse stimuli (i.e., tones played over the chamber’s speaker). These conditions will allow us to learn about the role that the reduced contact possible in arrangements that use spatially localized signals plays in maintaining behavioral disruptions.
Following this research and completion of his master’s degree, Carson plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis. Ultimately, Carson plans to continue his academic career at a university where he can teach and conduct basic and translational research.