The PORTL Laboratory

I have some exciting news today!

During the last part of 2022 and the beginning of this year, Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and I were busy with a writing project. And, the article we were writing is now published!

The article, which is titled “The PORTL Laboratory,” was published earlier this month in the journal Perspectives on Behavior Science.

You can read the article for free using this link.

Here is the abstract for the article:

In the history of the field, behavior analysts have used the operant chamber as an apparatus for both teaching and experimental investigations. In the early days of the field, students spent significant time in the animal laboratory, using operant chambers to conduct hands-on experiments. These experiences allowed students to see behavior change as an orderly process and drew many students toward careers in behavior analysis. Today, most students no longer have access to animal laboratories. However, the Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab (PORTL) can fill this void. PORTL is a table-top game that creates a free-operant environment for studying the principles of behavior and their application. This article will describe how PORTL works and the parallels between PORTL and the operant chamber. Examples will illustrate how PORTL can be used to teach concepts such as differential reinforcement, extinction, shaping, and other basic principles. In addition to its use as a teaching tool, PORTL provides a convenient and inexpensive way for students to replicate research studies and even conduct their own research projects. As students use PORTL to identify and manipulate variables, they gain a deeper understanding for how behavior works.

How the article came about

Last spring, I was invited to give an SQAB tutorial lecture about PORTL at the annual convention for the Association for Behavior Analysis, International.

(If you’re not familiar with PORTL, it’s a tabletop teaching game that can help you learn about behavior and improve your teaching skills. You can learn more about PORTL on the Behavior Explorer website.)

After the convention, I was invited to write up my lecture and submit it to this journal. The article went through the peer-review process and revisions before it was accepted by the journal.

In the article, Jesús and I describe how students learned shaping skills and research skills during the early days of the field of behavior analysis. There’s some neat history that we discuss in the article.

Currently, many students no longer have access to animal laboratories and do not have hands-on opportunities that allow them to learn about behavior principles. However, PORTL, the Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab, can fill this void.

In the second half of the article, Jesús and I describe how PORTL can be used to illustrate behavioral concepts, teach shaping skills, and even conduct research studies.

I hope you enjoy the article!

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