Thought Leaders 017 - Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz - Part 1

This month on Operant Innovations - Thought Leaders, we are sitting down and speaking with Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz about his history in Mexico and his experience working with Dr. Don Baer & Dr. Ogden Lindsley shaped him into the behavioral scientist he is today. Not only was he not immediately sold on the science of human behavior, he explains how his turbulent ride brought him to UNT.

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Shauna Costello (00:00:01):

You're listening to Operant Innovations. A podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. This month on Thought Leaders, we're speaking with Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz as he tells us about his journey into the field of behavior analysis.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:00:15):

I'm probably going to start in high school because that was the pivotal moment for me. It was in high school and when I finished high school. I had to decide what career to go to next. Of course, my father wanted me to be a physician and my mother wanted me to be an engineer. At that time, I could have gone to any of those. Another possibility was law. In Mexico, they say every family has to have a lawyer, a physician, and a priest in their family. Those are the essential components. I really didn't want to go into any of that, because I could have gone to be a doctor or a physician, but I look at my prerequisites or the amount of money, the amount of time that I would have to catch up. In high school, especially my second year, since school was so easy for me, I really didn't apply myself. Then I noticed, "Oh my God. So I really need these prerequisites to pass the exam." To be accepted into medical school or to be accepted into engineering. Anyway, my heart wasn't really there. At that time, when I graduated, or in my last year of high school, they opened at the university, psychology. They didn't have psychology before. I decided I was looking at what I wanted to do, my skills, and so I thought that psychology was going to be a good choice because I wanted to do something with humans and it all stood out to me. It looked like psychology was going to be starting all over again. To me, it looked so distant from what I was doing, because you don't need math, you don’t need biology, you don't need any of those things. That's what I thought at those times. So I decided on psychology. Actually, I went to the university, the Autonomous University of San Luis, Potosi, and I'm really the second generation of the psychology school when I entered. I was in my last year, there was the first cohort and me and my classmates were the second cohort. So I'm talking about 1974, 1975. Interestingly in the seventies, behavioral analysis was the thing to do in Mexico. It was super, super, super popular. A lot of people were doing behavior analysis and of course, very controversial, at least in terms of philosophy. I didn't know, since it was very popular at the time, so it was the fashionable discipline at the time. The persons who decide, they hired two persons from the Autonomous University of Mexico to come and help and design the psychology school, to come to the university, to be advisors and all of that. So one of those advisors was Emilio Ribes. Emilio Ribes is a very influential behavior analyst. Actually, he's an Intel behaviorist, probably. He would call himself an intel behaviorist in Mexico. So to my surprise the whole school was designed behaviorally. It was like a behavioral school, basically. It was not psychology. This was interesting to me because once I decided to study psychology, all my aunts and my parents just started giving me books. So I can read in the summer about Freud, Carl Jung, Adler. I was really reading up into psychoanalysis. I was ready. I enrolled and I remember my first class very clearly. My first class in college. The topic or the name of the class was general psychology. And the textbook was "Science and Human Behavior" by B.F. Skinner so I didn't know.

Shauna Costello (00:06:28):


Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:06:28):

My very first class, I went into it and there was the professor and he wrote the Greek symbol for psychology, and then he asked the class: "So what does this mean?" Everybody said, "Oh, that's the psych. That's the study of the soul", and he said, "Okay, let me tell you something. We don't have a soul." I said, "What? I don't have a soul? I don't believe it. This is not good." And they started talking about science and human behavior. I was totally shocked and partly because of how the professor of course introduced this notion. So it took me like two or three months in college to really accept behavior analysis, to really accept a naturalistic point of view on behavior.

Shauna Costello (00:07:49):

That is so interesting though, because we hear so many stories about people when they found behavior analysis, it was just like this light bulb that went off in their head and they're like, "Oh yes, I have to do this." To actually hear from you that, no, it wasn't necessarily like, "Oh, what have I been doing? No, I have to go do this." You actually took some time to really accept it.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:08:17):

Well, they told me that I didn't have a soul or free will and none of that existed. I said, "Wait a minute, that's not true. I do have a soul and I do have free will." So that makes a very interesting discussion with our classmates in class with everybody and actually that was a really good motivator because then we formed a study group and we started reading a lot about it because we were all puzzled. So I got over it by embracing it and I took it and said, "This is the coolest thing ever", and because we also had a rat lab and all of that. That was one of my favorite things and readings. One problem was when they designed the degree, they only designed the first two years. That was easy, because everybody was into the experimental analysis of behavior and people were doing it, at least in Mexico, they were doing experiments with pigeons, rats and all of that. A lot of people knew what to do, but applied behavioral analysis, very few. Very, very, very few. My college career was these two years of just basic principles and labs and all of that. That's when I was disillusioned like, "Oh my God, I need to study physiology too, and math and statistics. I was like, "Okay", but I did it. So you have the two years of the foundations and then after two years, you will choose a specialty. The two specialties were either to go into clinical or to education. There was nothing, because there were not very many people helping to do applied behavioral analysis, you know? They hired two people from the University of Kansas. Two masters students. One Mexican and one American. They hired them at the university to come and establish a laboratory for us. A lab that they named Wonderland. We had children with developmental disabilities, which I was very interested in at that time. I was interested in that. I thought that my field was going to be with children with mental retardations or developmental disabilities and all of that. By that time, I was interested in that. Then the other part was the clinical part. It was not special ed in Mexico, there was the clinical part. Of course, there were also options to do with adults. Everything was growing and the opportunities just were happening. Then in that lab these two persons whose names were Fernando Sarmiento and Bonnie Miller. They came and they did the clinical part, but in the same lab school, we had educational. It was basically a school for first graders, but most of our clients were young adults in Mexico that had never gone to school. They were mainly culturally deprived. Teach them how to read and do math and things like that. You know? So that was them. That was the laboratory that they came and built. They needed manpower too, because this was a school and we had maybe 30 students with developmental disabilities and 50 children that were culturally deprived. They needed personnel for this new lab. The university gave us the facilities and the Mexican army basically gave us desks, file cabinets. All kinds of things that they donated. Also, some rich people in San Luis, Potosi. They were very excited about it because there were almost no services like that for children. So, they needed people to be full-time and they made a deal with us. Anyone could do it. They called us and said, "We're opening this." I was more connected because by that time, I knew how to read English. It took me a long time, but I could read articles. I could translate them more or less, and one of the professors that came from the University of Kansas, didn't speak any Spanish. She learned to speak Spanish on the go. She needed people to support her and translate and then for her to choose the articles and for us to translate it and all kinds of things. So we really had to be there full time and we didn't have time to really go to classes. The deal that they offered us is to say, "You can come and work full time in this lab and if you do that, you don't have to go to class. All you have to do is pass the exams and the professors are going to tell you what the materials are and you study it on your own." You just show up whenever there is a test. Five of us accepted that and all the other people said, "No, that's too much", or they were part time. But five of us said, "Yes, that sounds like a good thing," because we're going to be learning directly from these guys and we were interested in applied behavior analysis. My last two years of college in psychology, I didn't go to school. I spent 24 hours in the lab and they were awesome 24 hours, because not only were we discussing current articles in JABA and stimulus control, but we were also being able to apply all of these things every day and help children.

Shauna Costello (00:17:00):

And clearly you passed too.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:17:00):

[Laughing] I passed the school. Yes. It was not that hard, because it was just like any other tests, you know? They were just more concerned with the content than anything else. I learned a lot, because I remember my first case that they assigned me. Basically, the students from psychology would come, we would have these children and then we would have practicum. We would teach them how to run a discrete trial program for children with developmental disabilities. A little bit of programming, instruction and programming and of course, in the educational part, we would have reading, math and all of that. I was working more closely with Bonnie Miller and she had a study in KU under Barbara Etzel. So she knew a lot of stimulus control and programming in the children. She was wonderful because we all were fascinated by that, like reading errorless learning and of that. I remember Bonnie, she would always get mad because we would mispronounce the name. Now I'm sort of saying it correctly, but before we would mispronounce everything and get into discussions: "Okay. How can you translate 'prompt' into Spanish?" It was very 'Englishy', but Bonnie gave me my first challenge. There was a girl there that was 12 years old when she got there that basically she looked like a vegetable. Vegetable in the sense that you would put her in the chair and she would be in the chair just staring. She was not interested in anything. She was the daughter of one of the donors there and that's why they asked me, "You know what? Just pay more attention to Christie." That was her name. They said to accelerate this to keep the parents happy because they were donating a lot of money and they were benefiting all kinds of children. So they said, "Okay, Jesus. You're going to teach her generalized imitation." I was like, "What? She doesn't even move." I tried all kinds of things. Some of them were not so good and I regretted this. I said, "No, if she gets really hot, she's going to move. She's going to have to move." So I took her chair and I put it on the patio and the sun was there. I left her there and I checked in on her and said, "She's going to get hot or something. She's going to react." Well, she didn't react to it. So I said, "No, this is not good." I was wondering all the time, "I don't have any reinforcers. I don't have anything that she wants." At that time, the students were coming and we didn't have iPods or anything like that, but we had transistor radios and they're small ones. Some of the students liked that because the university's radio was really good in classical music. If you wanted to hear classical music, a transistor radio was really cool. Of course, not the same quality, but you had a transistor radio.

Shauna Costello (00:21:38):

It's better than nothing.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:21:45):

[Laughing] Yes. Better than nothing. One day, I was with Christie and then one student passed by. He was listening to the transistor radio classical music. That was the first time that I saw her turn her head to the guy. I said, "What? I got a reinforcer." So now I brought a transistor radio and put it in her ear. She tried to grab it and take it from me and put it in her ear. Awesome. This is awesome. So with that, I tried for her to imitate with that transistor radio. The other thing that I did, I trained her to identify her parents on pictures. And the parents were beside themselves when I would say, "Where is your dad, Christie?" And she would point to her dad. "Where is your mom, Christie?" And she would point to the picture of her mom. The mom almost cried because they were totally taken by that. Me too, me too. I was blown away by the experience. Like, "Oh my God.” I was really into it and then unfortunately, Bonnie and Fernando, they only stayed with us for two years. They moved to a technological institute because program instruction, at that time, was really hot in Mexico. Especially in the technological institutes. One of the most famous technological institutes in Mexico is the Monterey Technological Institute. People say that every single class in the first year of engineers or whatever business you want, was all program instruction. All of it. They went to that technological institute run by the federal government. There was some politics at the university because they were attracting huge amounts of students, because everybody was hungry. Show me how I can deal with these children or do sessions and all of that. So they left. These five students that haven't even graduated... we were in our last years. They left us there to run the whole lab. Of course, supervised by a professor because the other professors didn't know how to run it and we knew how to do it. We had a professor there, so we were running it and all of us decided to do our master’s thesis there. So we were doing our thesis in the last year and running this and all of that. We did our thesis and Bonnie and Fernando came because they were advising us into the thesis and we did awesome theses. I think that I can still publish mine even though I did it a long time ago. At that time an article that caught my attention by Catania showing that choice was a reinforcement for pigeons. That pigeons will prefer to choose than not to choose. That was my thesis, because we had a talking economy that we were doing, and it was a pain in the butt. At that time, you had to calculate the prices in the hierarchy, which one is higher than the other. We were doing preference assessments all the time. And I said, "God, this is so cumbersome. Why don't we let them choose?" Before we went to the session, we stopped by the store. The reinforcer is told they pick whatever they want and now you're going to work for this. So my thesis was to show what would be the effect of therapies that would let children choose their own reinforces or therapies that would assign the preferred reinforcer to the child. The child will be working for it, but don't let him choose. Just derived through preference assessments, which one was the top. They would use that and go and run the sessions. The other ones, just right before they're running the session, they will stop by the store and let them choose whatever they want, but they will work for it. We had three things, so if they did 90% correct, they get the first choice, 80 to 90, the second choice and 70 to whatever, the third choice. That was my thesis and it was amazing because normal children and children with developmental disabilities, all of them preferred the therapies that allowed them to choose. And I reversed it and all of that.

Shauna Costello (00:28:26):

I love hearing that too and I think it's funny that you said you didn't publish that because I know that back when I was working in clinical years ago, that was one thing that we used all of the time was that choice factor of it as well. So that's phenomenal. I think you should just try to publish that. All these years later be like, "Hey, this is what I did back in the day. Here you go. I was way ahead of the time."

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:29:01):

[Laughing] Yes. It grew out of necessity because we were spending so much time in this room forming assessments. Once you know the child, you know exactly what they are going to pick. So that was good. Then the five of us stayed there and we graduated. Actually, the university gave us high honors and all of that and so we continued providing laboratory experience to the students in psychology. One thing that we started noticing is that in the school, especially with the children with developmental disabilities, those children were doing incredible things. We had incredible instructional control and, in our eyes, we were achieving tremendous behavioral change. We were amazed, but the parents didn't see this in their homes, you know? We would invite them to see them, because we had the two way mirrors. They could see the children actually performing really, really well, but none of that happened in their houses, which was a little sad for them. They thought, "Oh, so why then?" We tried to explain it: "No, no, no. Behavior is so specific and blah, blah, blah." We needed to learn about generalization and all of that kind of thing. Then I started to need to know about generalization. I need to. At that time or previous year, I'm talking now 1979, I remembered that I was talking to Bonnie Miller and Bonnie Miller said, "You know, why don't you read Stokes and Baer's article, 'An implicit technology of Generalization'?" So I tried to read it and I read it and I immediately thought I needed to go to talk to Don Baer. I need to learn about generalization. I talked to Bonnie and said, "You know, Bonnie. This is what we need. I need to go to the USA to learn about generalization." So she told me, "Why don't you write Baer and explain the problem? Who you are, what you're doing, and why are you applying to him? Or why would you want to study with him?" So I wrote a letter to Don Baer explaining all of this and telling him that I wanted to. He writes back and he says, "You know what? I really like what you're doing. I am accepting students, but I have no funding at all. So if you're going to come, you're going to have to pay your own way. Maybe your government", and all of that. I said, "Yes, yes, yes." At that time there was a program in '79 and a little bit into the eighties. Mexico thought that it was rich because of the oil. They were producing lots of oil and selling off the oil. The national council of science and technology in Mexico had a program to upgrade the faculty of all the universities. They were offering scholarships to any professor that would want to go and spend some time learning, but with the thing that you have to come back to the university. In my university, most of them were married and even though they were hungry for knowledge, I was single, wanting to learn generalization. I said, "You know, I'll take a scholarship." I told Don, "I would like to come. I secured a scholarship. I had this opportunity for this scholarship. So it's very likely that I will go. What do I have to do?" And then he told me, "Okay. Before we do anything, I would like to meet you. Why don't you come for an interview?" I said, "Okay, I should go." I had an interview. [Laughing] That was my second time in the USA. The first time I went with my friends and some other treat, when I was twenty years old. I went and then it was like, "Oh my God''. Almost trying to memorize Stokes and Baer's article. He was really gracious. He arranged for me to stay at the dorm in the university. That was really nice of him. I was so nervous. I knew I could understand English a lot. I could read, I could even write English. Speaking English was a problem. I would feel intimidated. No words would come out. Just being probably anxious or nervous or not being so fluent in speaking. I didn't have that much opportunity to speak, but to read and write and hear. The hearing was really good because I like American bands. I tried to learn the lyrics and those days the albums, most of them had the lyrics on the back. I tried to follow along and all of that type of thing. Those things became handy. So I went to KU, I had my appointment. I was talking to Don Baer and it was a very interesting interview because he would ask me, "So, why do you want to have a master's degree? What are you going to do with these books?" I said, "Don, I want to go back and continue working in the place." I explained the lab, because I want to do good. I want to bring the state of the art treatment for these children with developmental disabilities. And then he would add: "And do research." I said, "Oh yeah, yeah. Do research". Then he would come out "And what else?" And I would talk to him about my dreams. And he would always say, "And do research." By the third time, the light bulb came up. "Oh, research. That's important too.” So, this is what is important to Don. Not saving these children. So I got the idea. "Okay. Okay. So yes. So we need to do research to improve whatever, whatever." To make the story short, he told me, "Yes, you need a little help with speaking English. The only requirement that I'm going to put on you is that you come during the summer. You come and take English classes here at the university." Awesome.

Shauna Costello (00:38:06):

Not a bad trade-off.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:38:08):

No. And that's how I ended up being in Kansas, you know?

Shauna Costello (00:38:14):

Well, I know that you ended up in Kansas because that's easy to find, but how you got to Kansas, that is such a neat story.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:38:26):

Yeah, it is. No, it was incredible. Yes.

Shauna Costello (00:38:31):

So what about Kansas? And then after Kansas?

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:38:36):

When I got to Kansas, I was going to solve the problem of generalization. That was my quest. That's why I went to KU and I'll tell you about the generalization a little bit later on, but let me back up. When I came to Kansas, like a good student, I remember before the fall semester started I needed to pick my classes and I went to Don. Like a really good student I have my notebook here to write notes, and also the university catalog in the other hand. I came to my first meeting and said, "Okay, Don. I'm here. I'm ready. Which classes to take?" And I was ready to take notes. Then he tells me, "Well, Jesus. You know, universities are great places, and this is a great, great opportunity for you to grow in many, many ways. This is your chance. You're going to have two years of pursuing exactly what you want to do." And I said, "I don't know what that is?" He said, "I don't know what to recommend other than to tell you to look over there. That's the philosophy department. Downstairs, the floor below, that is biochemistry. The top, we have special ed and over there we have music. So what do you want to do, Jesus?" I was like, "What?" Nobody had given me this freedom. Then I said, "You know, Don. I got you. I'll come back tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Let me think about it, because I wasn't expecting this." So I went and I thought, "Okay, what classes do I need to take? How am I going to arrange my two years here and all of that?" I came back the next time and I told him, "You know, I want to take this class.." Then he could advise and he said, "You know what? You are too greedy. We'll go step-by-step. If you take all these classes, you're going to spend your time reading. How about you distribute it like this and blah, blah, blah?" So we came out with a plan there and then I was leaving and he told me, "You know, remember I told you that universities are very rich and there are lots of opportunities? By the way, the music school has awesome concerts. You know, the theater school has awesome plays. You should take advantage of all of that." I said, "Okay Don. Okay." You know, it's not just the books, you need to meet people and see the culture, because I'm telling you. Once you get out of university, unless you're a professor, it's very difficult to come back. I started in a good place because since I was doing already applied behavior analysis, I had a lot of prerequisites. I knew how to build observation systems, design differentiates and all of that, even a little bit of programming. I didn't know that Ogden Lindsley was still there at KU. I actually met Ogden Lindsley in my first ABA. When I went to my first ABA, it was in 1981. I wanted to meet all these heroes that I was reading about. I wanted to meet Skinner, I wanted to meet Lindsley, I wanted to meet Azrin, I wanted to meet Kazdin. All of those heroes I was reading about. In those days, ABA was really small. So it was very easy to find these guys and they were in the hotels and it was also a small integration. I found Ogden Lindsley and I started talking to him, but I thought that he was already retired or something. I didn't know where he was. He thought that I was coming from Mexico to ABA, and he didn't realize it. We were talking and he thought that I was interested in the standards relation chart, and precision teaching, which I was a little. I was more interested in his work with psychotics and schizophrenics and his reinforcement with humans and things like that. Then I told him that I was going to KU and I was in the department of human development. He said, "Really? I'm in the school of education right there". I said, "Really? Can I take classes with you?" He said, "Yes. You're enrolled." From then on every semester I took all his classes that he was teaching in the school of education, but I also signed up for what they called the special projects to do specialized projects. I met with him almost every week until he retired. He wrote an article and I helped him. It was really nice for me because at that time he was coming up with a new language to describe behavioral change in this standard relation chart. That's when he was coming up with the effects, like frequency jump, acceleration terms. All those terms. The bounce crease and all of that and I was fascinated. We wrote an article there that we never published. I mean, he published it in the precision media that is called meta charting, which basically was a method to summarize large bodies of literature in one chart. I was fascinated. I met Ogden Lindsley when I was there. He became, basically, my second advisor. I was doing all of that because, remember, my quest was to come and learn as much as I could and solve the problem of generalization. My idea was to go to the library and read about almost everything that I could about generalization and especially philosophy. Things related to philosophy. I told both Don and Ogden. Both of them, they really totally laughed. They laughed at me. They say, "It doesn't work that way." Both tell me, "If you want to understand generalization really… of course read, but you're not going to find it in the library. What you have to do is learn to create generalizations. Try to do research about how you would create generalization." That became the part of research. That's when I started thinking or turning. I started realizing what they wanted me to do is more research. Actually, maybe this might help some future students to listen to this. To me, one discrimination that I made that I thought that was very important and very substantial was to have the realization when I was at KU, that the expectations of me was very different from what it was in Mexico. In Mexico, they would expect me to read the books. At KU, they would expect me to write the books. Totally different. Same intelligence, same everything, but then I thought, "Oh my God, this is so different." Just that change in attitude makes you look at things very differently and behave very differently. To borrow a term for me. Learning that discrimination was a cusp for me, because, "Oh my God. I need to produce knowledge. I need to write about it." Which is basically the way that they want to train you. That was a tremendous lesson for me. At the beginning, I did a lot of work with preschool children mainly because the department had a preschool there and we could run experiments. A lot of what I did was on stimulus control. Perception, stimulus equivalence, memory and things like that. I was more into that because I didn't have access to people with mental retardation. Although, every week, in order for me to have that access, I would have to go to Topeka, Kansas. To the Kansas Neurological Institute, which was half an hour from Lawrence. What I did though, is every Monday, Don Baer had a research meeting there. I would spend all day with him in those meetings and working at the Kansas Neurological Institute and the kind of problems that they were trying to solve. It was very enriching because I had the opportunity of riding with him the way there and the way back. I had a lot of extra time with Don Baer.

Shauna Costello (00:51:02):

To say that you've had some good advisors is an understatement for sure.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:51:04):

Yes. The nice thing that both of them did was just pushing the envelope. To say, "You need to produce knowledge." I will tell you something that really liberated me and the experience that I had with Ogden Lindsley. I started doing my research and needed to produce generalization. Then I found an article that Stokes and Baer wrote about generalization of the way of people. I read that article in Java, and then I found a flaw in the experimental design. So I said to Don Baer, "You know, Don? I can see the conclusions of this, but the experimental design is flawed." Then he asked me, "What do you mean, Jesus?” I pointed out to him what was flawed and what design would really help to overcome that compound. Don Baer was really happy because he was all about logic and experimental design or proof was his thing. Everything that you can improve with experimental design or just prove, he was really happy. He told me, "Jesus, this is a great idea. This is genius." Awesome. I wrote the proposal, I'd show it at my research meetings with Don and the other PhD students. I was a master's student. Not even a PhD because I got my scholarship to do a master's degree there. So I did it. At KU, they used to have the tradition that once you come out with your thesis or whatever, you have to go to another research group and present your idea on your own. Without our advisors, nothing. You go there and defend it and get feedback from them and see what holes they can see and all of that. So I did that. They told me "Oh, Jesus. This is brilliant. This is awesome." You only have to do it once with another. By then, my head was huge. Like, "Well, I'm brilliant. I'm awesome. Everybody likes my research proposal." [Laughing] To tell you a story short, I exhausted all the research groups at KU. [Laughing]

Shauna Costello (00:54:31):

If I could have done that, I probably would have too. I can't really laugh too much at that, because I probably would have done the same thing.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:54:44):

Yeah. I was getting this awesome social reinforcement. I wanted more. So I exhausted all the research groups in the department. I said, "Who else? Who else? Who else can I show that I'm brilliant?" And I said, "Ogden." I went with Ogden and I went, "Hey, Ogden. This is my proposal for my master's thesis. I would like you to read it and give me your feedback." And then he tells me, "Sure. Right now." He was patiently reading, nodding his head, making faces and me, growing more anxious. Like, "When is he going say, 'Jesus, you're brilliant'?" Then finally he puts the paper on his desk and he looks at me and says, "Jesus, let me ask you. Before I start anything. Let me ask your question. Imagine, that there is this guy walking by the road. He sees another guy picking a chicken and trying to milk it. To get milk out of the chicken, the other guy stops and sees this guy trying to milk a chicken and goes and tells this guy, 'See?’ Takes the chicken, tries to milk it and he says, ’See? Milk is not coming out of here.' He's trying to show this other guy that milk is not coming out of the chicken. Tell me, Jesus. Who is more crazy? The guy who is trying to milk the chicken or the guy who stops and tries to tell the guy that milk doesn't come out of chickens?" I said, "You know? The second one." Then he went and slapped his hand on the desk and said, "Damnit, Jesus. That's what you're trying to do. If you know where to get the milk, just go and get it and show it to them. Never ever, ever try to prove anyone wrong. You'll be wasting your time." And me, I was like, "Whoa. What?" I was totally stunned. Like, "What just happened here?" I said, "Okay, Ogden." And he said, "Yes. Look, Jesus. This is what's going to happen. Let's say that your hypothesis is right. We don't even do hypothesis testing in behavior analysis, but let's say your hypothesis is right. I bet you that another Jesus is going to come and find a flaw in your design. Anyway, you are not really increasing any technology. You're just proving the other guy wrong. So what good is that? Let's say that you're wrong. That Stokes on Baer was right to begin with. What are they going to do? They're going to say, 'Of course, Jesus. We knew it all along.' Yeah? So you see either way, Jesus, you don't win." And I went, "What?" By that time I was thoroughly stunned or something like a deer with these bright lights or something.

Shauna Costello (00:59:00):

My mind is blown sitting here just telling me that as well, because that's completely a different way than a lot of us have been taught to look at things.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (00:59:10):

Yes. Thoroughly. No, definitely. Basically, I walked back to my apartment from his office. I used to live on the outskirts of the campus and just walked like a zombie. Then I sat down in the living room. I looked at my proposal and then I said, "You know what? Ogden is right." I threw it away and put it in the trash. Then you start from scratch all over again. Like, "Okay, so now what am I going to do?" Which actually turned out really well because I came out with a measurement system to measure what aspects of stimulus were controlling the response and to measure the discrimination and generalization by combining basically what I have learned about stimulus control and what I have learned from Ogden about precision teaching. In particular, the skip response that they use in the precision because I integrated that into the assessment of the stimulus control and it turned out to be really good. I was very happy because Ogden basically unleashed my creativity. It's like he gave me permission to be creative because before I was, yes, doing research, but I was sort of recovering kind of thing. I was doing research imitating people who were doing research and yes, I was interested, but how to go about it. I was basically imitating everyone. So how do you sustain doing research? You go and read an article, find a flaw or something or prove it and you improve the knowledge and all of that kind of thing. What he told me, "No, Jesus. You just go and produce whatever. Let other people disprove you or whatever. You just show them the milk." He meant, "They want generalization? Show them how to get it and work on that." And that's the way to prove or disprove and then he told me, "That's how behavior analysts do research." And that is called the controlistic strategy. You have to be able to deliver the goods, so to speak. I'm very thankful to him because he liberated me. I have all kinds of freedom and also the other thing that Don Baer ultimately taught me was that the research didn't need to be complex. That actually the base research was simple. Simple manipulation. Not so convoluted and ask simple questions and be cumulative. Go one at a time. Not to try to write about the great America. The great question in behavior analysis into one answer. Research and knowledge is cumulative. You're getting embedded, embedded, embedded in how to prove these results. That was a tremendous education. It was definitely that. So that was my master's thesis, my new master's thesis. I graduated and I went back to Mexico to find out that I have lost my job. That the political situation in the university had changed tremendously. And that behavior analysis in the school of psychology basically was disappearing. Yeah. The least that they want is a newly trained behavior analyst to come back to the school. So they said, "Sorry. Your job is not here." I said, "What do you mean I don't have a job? You guys sent me here. You sent me, you gave me the scholarship and If you don't do this, I'm going to go and complain to the national council of science and technology and tell them what happened." Since I didn't have anything to do, I spent a lot of time outside the provost office. I would bring my books until finally they said, "Okay, fine. We're going to rehire you." They rehired me, but they didn't give me any office. They gave me an assistant who was a friend of the president of the university. He was my assistant, but no office. They gave me this title and said, "You're going to be the director for advisors of all the laboratories that we have here." I said, "Sounds good." But they didn't give me an office, so I made my office downtown in a coffee shop with this guy. What they thought was that since they didn't really give me any responsibilities or anything, I was just going to cash my salary, go every month and do nothing, and just go and visit the labs. Which I did. I was visiting all the labs and I spent two months visiting the labs. Then I came out with a proposal and so I went to the director of the school of psychology: "Okay. I have been visiting all the labs they are running. I think that if we do these modifications and all of this, the labs are going to be way better of an educational experience and it's going to be awesome." The director was really surprised that I had come out with a proposal and he said, "You know what? Sure. Let me talk to the faculty. Come next week and we'll see." I said, "Okay." A week passed and I said, "What's up? Have you talked to the faculty? Did they like it or what?" He said, "No, no, no. I haven't had the chance. Come next week." I said, "Sure." Then I went back the next week and then I said, "So what happened, Carlos?" That was the name of the director. He said, "Guess what, Jesus. I have great, great news for you." I said, "What? Did they accept the proposal? Are we going to start doing this?" He said, "No, Jesus. Even better news." What could be better than that? He said, "Look, I have a scholarship here for you to go back to the USA and do your PhD. Do you want it?" I said, "Sure. I want it. I'll take it." I took it, but I understood that I could never go back.

Shauna Costello (01:08:02):

I like how that's how they told you to leave. [Laughing].

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:08:16):

It could have been worse.

Shauna Costello (01:08:16):

That's amazing. Wow. I think that was the best firing from a job I've ever heard of. "Hey, here's a scholarship. Go get your PhD." That's impressive.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:08:29):

Uh-huh. I was very happy that they did that because the other alternative would have made my life very difficult, but probably the director would say that maybe they have the capabilities or even make it even more difficult for them that they would make it for me. They were trying to figure out, "How can we get him to leave?" Then I finished my year there and then I came back in the fall and I started my PhD. Then I thought, "Okay, so this is a different gear now. By that time, the Mexican economy was going down and it was like 25 pesos per dollar. Something like that. I was thinking, "Oh my God, this is my best opportunity here." One thing that I got to appreciate in the USA was the libraries. So much information and the books and all of that. That's why I have so many old books because I started collecting books and buying used books because I thought for me to come back to the USA is going to be difficult. I spend a lot of time in behavioral analytic used books and others too. I was thinking that this was before the internet and it was back in 1992. The internet, it started like '94, '95, or something like that. We were going to start emailing. I mean, it was not that developed. So I wanted to have my library.

Shauna Costello (01:10:34):

I don't blame you because I appreciate that. I still prefer the real thing over the internet. That's still the first thing I do whenever I move to a new city. The first thing I do after changing my address is I go and I get a library card. First thing I do when I move to a new city.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:10:59):

Awesome. Yes.

Shauna Costello (01:10:59):

I also appreciate libraries and books and having that physical book.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:11:09):

Yes, definitely. No, it's totally different. Then my strategy changed in the sense of saying, "Okay, I need to stay in the United States as long as I can. I need to stay in my PhD as long as I can." So I had some money. I had three or four years, I don't remember, that were paid by this scholarship, but I stayed way longer than that. Then Don Baer hired me to manage one of his grants and we collaborated on the grants together. Since I was a little bit more senior, I was helping him with the new students, just to train the fundamental stuff. Where things are at, running sessions, teaching reliability, things like that. He relied a lot on me. We made an awesome partnership. It was very nice. He and I would write together very nicely and it was a great partnership. I really enjoyed writing my review paper from which the cusp paper came out. One section on my review paper is about the cusp, and the orientation there was developmental. Actually, my PhD is in experimental child psychology. It's not even in behavior analysis in fact. Everybody like me and Don Baer were sort of on the cusp of behavior analysis in terms of development, which I'm very happy about because I think that the development by all of behavior analysis, all of that, is our subject matter. They call it human development, but it's applied behavior analysis. That's what applied behavior analysis should be. To use all these principles and to create a technology to do better and solve problems and all that. So I was having lots of fun and I did lots of research.

Shauna Costello (01:13:53):

And either you're still working on that PhD, or you found a way to stay because.. [Laughing]

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:14:04):

Yes. So I have several projects and then some time in '92, a student from North Texas came to study with Don and she told Sigrid Glenn about me. It was interesting. I met her in Guadalajara. She came to one of my talks and showed what I was doing with Don there. Then she tried to hire me to come to UNT. She said, "Jesus, you should come UNT. We'll hire you." I talked to Don about it. Don Baer didn't want me to go to UNT. At that time, there were some opportunities in Georgia Tech and he wanted me to, but I didn't want it because it was in education and special ed. I didn't want to, because by that time I still… Now, my interest is all diversified but really what happened to me, at KU, was I became a researcher and I was making no difference in populations. Just knowing that whatever I learned from my research is going to be helpful for children with developmental disabilities too. In that sense, I became more diversified in what I do. At KU, I spent a lot of time with preschool children doing research with development. Some without this, but not much. Only about stimulus control and studying selectivity. So Sigrid Glenn said, "Come." It took her two years until finally.. and Don Baer basically said, "No, don't go." And I said, "Why don't you want me to go there?" And he would say, "You're not going to have children". I didn't understand what he meant by: "You're not going to have children." What he meant was, "You're not going to have PhD students", which meant if I wasn't going to have children, that meant that he wasn't going to have grandchildren either. [Laughing]

Shauna Costello (01:16:56):

That is the cutest thing I've ever heard. He wanted you to continue his line.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:17:03):

That line, yes. [Laughing] At that time, two things inspired me to come to UNT. I had a talk with Sigrid and she told me the plan. She said, "Jesus, we have the opportunity to have the first department of behavior analysis in the whole world and she painted it for me. It really attracted me. Her vision attracted me a lot. At that time, Allen Neuringer had visited KU and I was fascinated by creative research. Actually, he was also showing creativity and self-experimentation. So I thought, "Allen Neuringer only has undergrad students and he is able to do all these things. I'm sure I'm going to be able to do very cool things with just masters students." So I decided to come to UNT and then I stay here. I said, "Well, at least this is closer to Mexico." Closer to my hometown, because at least it's Texas. From Texas to Mexico is way closer.

Shauna Costello (01:18:29):

Well, I mean you helped bring UNT to what it is today as well. UNT is one of the best known programs in the world.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:18:41):

Oh yes.

Shauna Costello (01:18:43):

You and your colleagues are doing some absolutely amazing things at UNT as well.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:18:52):

Reflecting on that, I look at my career and I say, "You know, this was a good accident", because UNT is small so the pressure for having grants and conducting research isn't that much. It was there, but not really. If I had gone to a more established university and all of that, I would have totally grant, grant, grant, and here I could do research even without money with the students. I could choose whatever program or whatever things I was interested in behavior analysis. I will choose it and it will cost nothing. I mean, no cost. Like if I have to produce data here, I have to do this grant, I have to follow these lines, that would limit my research or my vision and all of that. In that sense, I think that it was good that I came to a small university, because it also provides the freedom that I like. I've been able to accomplish a lot at UNT and also all my colleagues. The community is amazing. It is pretty good. Now, we have sort of a PhD. Last year, I had my first PhD student. I have been working with her and I'm very happy with her. So I'm not as empty. I accepted her, because I've been consulting with her for three years in the school for children and she knows my way. So now we are just basically doing research. She's doing it and I'm helping her. I have at least the first one. Actually, that is not true because I co-advised PhD students, but they weren't behavior analysts. They went to information science and they wanted to do something information science that became analysis, so I was their co-advisor. They have an advisor in information science and me. To bring behavior analysis into information science.

Shauna Costello (01:21:41):

There you go. You had your children.

Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (01:21:42):

[Laughing] Yes.

Shauna Costello (01:21:42):

You're currently having your children. You got them. [Laughing] One thing to mention is that UNT has one of the only cultural behavior science programs as well, because of all of the different things that are going on at UNT. And I know that from some of the students I've had, who have come from UNT. They talk a lot about you and the things that you're doing. Thank you for listening to Thought Leaders. Come back next month as we continue our talk with Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz as he tells us where he sees the field going. And as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at


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