Rafael Picanço

Behavioral Scientist

I have a degree in Psychology (2010) and a master's degree in Theory and Behavioral Research (2013), both from the Universidade Federal do Pará (Brazil). My expertises are Learning and Motivational Processes, especially in the field of Experimental Analysis of Behavior. I have worked in the following topics: research with captive capuchin monkeys (Sapajus spp) and basic learning processes as stimulus equivalence, conditional discrimination and simple discrimination. I am currently a doctoral student (2014-2018) in Theory and Behavioral Research at the same university, and my research interests are computer vision, eye tracking and its intersections with basic learning processes. In the educational field, I have strong interest in educational systems based on active methodologies and self-management of individualized teaching programs. Next, you can check the main projects that are part of my academic trajectory.


Free-mtrix is a couple of softwares written for the Laboratory of Social Behavior and Cultural Selection at Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil. The software allows designing and presentation of social experiments based on tasks similar to the ones reported by Vichi, Andery and Glenn (2009). In such tasks, each participant can choose visual elements of a matrix and then the software determines which individual and social consequences will be presented.

Designer is the software used to design social experiments and laboratory micro-cultures. To design your experiment, all you need to do is to fill in a short form (~ 10min). The form uses a behavior analytic terminology, making it intuitive for researches of this field. At the end, a configuration file containing the experiment becomes available and ready for use, arquiving or further editing, as needed.

Runner is the software used to run configuration files. The program will read the file and then manage, present and record the experimental task. The program has a built-in chat allowing distant participants to interact. Choices, other experimental data and chatting are recorded automaticly in real time. The ZMQ library allows the program to be executed in a single machine, for tests for example, or in machines of a local network.

Free-mtrix is free software (GPL3) and all generated data is open and accessible in plain text.

Technically speaking, the program was designed to study macro and metacontingencies, as well as to study concurrency between individual and social contingencies.

For details about the macro and metacontingencies, please see:

Vichi, C., Andery, M. A. P. A., & Glenn, S. S. (2009). A metacontingency experiment: the effects of contingent consequences on patterns of interlocking contingencies reinforcement. Behavioral and Social Issues, 18, 41-57. doi: 10.5210/bsi.v18i1.2292

Ongoing doctoral project. It aims to replicate the feature-positive effect with human participants and to describe typical eye movements potentially correlated to it. This project is using the Pupil platform to track eye movements and an open source Stimulus Control software to run behavioral experiments. The lab relies on a single computer and a simple DIY response button. Regardless of that, a more complex apparatus is being evaluated, adding basic ergonomic furniture, an extra computer, a projector and a DIY projection screen to the setup.


The tool is a work in progress and can be extended to run a wide range of behavioral experiments. Currently, it can be used to design, present, archive and record some complex feature-positive experiments and simple eye orientation experiments. It aims to allow, with a few clicks and basic background, fast experiment design. It supports sounds (using the Bass library), videos (using the LCLVLC component and the libvlc library) and images (jpg, bmp) as stimuli (antecedents, consequences). It supports a wide range of response requisities, or technically "schedules of reinforcements" (FR, FI, VR, VI, FT, FI, DRH, DRL, DRO, multi components, etc). There are Object Oriented Classes implemented to present trials as Text Messages/Instructions, Simple Discriminations and Conditional Dicriminations. Stimuli can be presented either successively or simultaneously. Mouse (or touch) tracking is implemented in these two last classes. "Discrete Trials" or "Free Operant" designs are possible too. It was designed to be cross plataform; currently tested under Windows (7, 8 and 10), Crunchbang 11, Ubuntu (13.10 and 14.04) and Debian 8. It is an open source (GPL3) application writen in Object Free Pascal (Lazarus 1.6.0, FPC 3.0.0).


The Experimental School for Primates lab is a branch of the National Institute of Science and Technology on Behavior Cognition and Education (INCT-ECCE). The school is located at Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil. It aims to teach, mainly to non-human primates, pre-symbolic or language like skills. The "school" metaphor have been used inside a basic research environment to refer to an individualized school curriculum, built from simple to complex tasks. Research relies on single subject design and different procedural strategies for establishing prerequisites. Students are not forced to study, they receive classes only if they choose to. As a consequence of it, teachers relies on meticulously programmed procedures based on food presentation to give the best learning experience as possible to their students. Hence, no extended food deprivation periods are maintained and all students are well feed twice a day, with free water, fruits, ration, vegetables and supplements. These circunstances gives an approximation to real life challenges, specially when humans with severely delayed development are the students. Automated and individualized teaching procedures are the main products of this basic research environment. To make this happens, a lot of effort was done by the team in order to make software and hardware solutions. It is worth noting that I was able to cooperate with the computer scientists, by testing their software, discussing good practices and strategies, and even implementing the features I needed to my own work. I am very pround of having been able to help others to make progress on their work too. Finally, I am very pround of have been a teacher of the Experimental School for Primates.

For a more detailed description of the scope of this research topic:

McIlvane, W. J., Dube, W. V., Serna, R. W., Lionello-DeNolf, K. M., Barros, R. S., & Galvão, O. F. (2011). Some Current Dimensions of Translational Behavior Analysis: From Laboratory Research to Intervention for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In E. A. Mayville & J. A. Mulick (Eds.) Behavioral foundations of effective autism treatment, (pp. 155–181). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.