Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

46th Annual Convention (Online)

SABA Awardees


Effective Presentation of Behavior Analysis in the Mass Media
Matthew Johnson (Johns Hopkins University)


Expanding the Frame of Behavior Analysis and Communicating With the Media

A fortunate part of my early academic environment was exposure to behavior analysis, which has been critical to my investigation of drugs, addiction, risk behavior, and therapeutic pharmacology. One topic is behavioral economic demand analysis, which I have used to examine the relations among tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and the effects of a potential cigarette nicotine-reduction policy. Another topic within the realm of behavioral economics is delay discounting. I have conducted studies helping to identify delay discounting as a fundamental behavioral process underlying addiction across a variety of drugs. My research has applied delay discounting to understand risky sexual behavior in the form of condom use decisions. My drug administration studies show that cocaine and alcohol acutely increase sexual risk behavior by decreasing likelihood of condom use through a delay discounting mechanism. I have conducted drug administration studies with drugs from nearly all drug classes, investigating abuse liability and behavioral effects. These have included first-in-humans studies and studies of novel or atypical drugs such as salvinorin A, the active agent in Salvia divinorum. Finally, I have conducted extensive research with the psychedelic drug psilocybin, including studies showing large long-term reductions in depression and anxiety in cancer patients, and high smoking cessation success rates in treatment-resistant smokers. Overall, my research has provided me the opportunity to speak to the media about a larger number of topics such as: the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs; novel psychoactive drugs largely unknown to the public; the risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and other drugs; the effects of drugs on sex and sexual risk, and the changing landscape of tobacco/nicotine and cannabis products. My behavior analytic background has not only been instrumental in conducting my research, but also in responsibly communicating about these topics to the public.


Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis
João Claudio Todorov (Universidade de Brasilia)


The Social Tissue and the Salamander’s Tail

What makes us human? That is an old question, much older than the modern division of science. Today anthropogeny tries to explain the origin of humans with a multidisciplinary approach. To answer that question one first has to define culture. For some biology researchers, “culture is information that is capable of affecting individuals’ behaviour, which they acquire from other individuals through teaching, imitation and other forms of social learning. Here, ‘information’ includes knowledge, beliefs, values and skills.” In behavior analysis, Skinner has shown a definition that can cover all of the meanings of previous attempts, with the advantage of specifying what and how it is learned; in his own words, “the usefulness of any lawful relation depends on the sharpness of reference of the terms in which it is stated.” In behavioral terms, culture is the set of conditional relations, or contingencies, which regulates the power to reinforce or punish members of a group. Large groups usually have some controlling agencies for different kinds of behavior.


Scientific Translation
Leonard Green (Washington University in St. Louis)


On the Complexity of Discounting (and People)

Although steep delay discounting is associated with various behavioral problems (e.g., substance abuse), it is best not conceived of as a character flaw such as impulsivity. Such a view, while part of a centuries-old tradition, does not distinguish between actions whose outcomes involve gains and losses, or between delayed outcomes and probabilistic outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that how steeply an individual discounts one of these kinds of outcome often is independent of how steeply they discount other kinds. Therefore, consistent with a behavior-analytic view, we advocate an approach that does not require making judgments about the character of the individual. We show that when drug- (i.e., cocaine, nicotine) dependent individuals are compared with controls, a substantial number of the drug-dependent individuals discount delayed monetary rewards less steeply than the average (median) member of the control group. Moreover, a substantial number of the controls discount more steeply than the average drug-dependent individual. Finally, many everyday choice situations differ from those studied in most discounting experiments in that they involve both gains and losses as well as qualitatively different outcomes that may be both delayed and probabilistic. Past research on discounting that focused on simpler choice situations has provided a solid foundation, but research on more complicated situations is needed. The principles revealed by such research both inform the choices of treatment providers and improve our understanding of the complicated decisions that people face every day.


International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

Julian Leslie (Ulster University)


Behaviour Analysis in Ireland: Sustained Growth From Small Beginnings

Serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. So, it was serendipitous that Jock Millenson, a Columbia Ph.D. in operant conditioning, moved to London in the 1960’s, because this led to the beginnings of behaviour analysis in Ireland in the 1970’s. By the late ‘60’s Jock had a research position at Oxford University and in a brief time window he taught me at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and introduced me to Leo Baker who was in a faculty position at Trinity College Dublin. When I moved to Northern Ireland in the mid-70’s, Leo and I established a small group to support behaviour analysis in Ireland. This began as entirely concerned with EAB but gradually became more involved with ABA. To help deal with applied and professional issues it morphed into the Division of Behaviour Analysis of the Psychological Society of Ireland around 15 years ago. Now, behaviour analysis is taught in most of the universities in Ireland, North and “South”, and there are three well-established ABA Masters programs. Masters and Doctoral graduates from Irish programs are in teaching and professional roles across the world, including a group of Ulster graduates in the Middle East. Researchers trained in this Irish network have contributed substantially in both basic and applied fields. It has been a great pleasure to witness this growth which I am sure will continue.


International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

Jennifer Austin (University of South Wales)


Embracing Challenges and Abolishing Stereotypes to Support the Growth of Behaviour Analysis in the United Kingdom

When I arrived at the University of South Wales (then the University of Glamorgan) in 2008, I was the sole behaviour analyst in a department comprised mainly of cognitive and health psychologists. Hired to lead an undergraduate programme in child development, I immediately began the task of infusing behaviour analysis into any space I could find or create. Since that time, I have worked with a team of incredible colleagues to build undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in behaviour analysis, develop the first university-based behaviour analysis clinic in Europe, and capitalise on opportunities to demonstrate the breadth and power of behaviour analysis across underserved populations and settings. In this presentation, I will share some of the outcomes of these endeavours and analyse the contingencies that generated them.


Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysis
Center for Autism and Related Disorders, accepted by Doreen Granpeesheh


Programmatic Contributions Award Acceptance Speech by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) was founded in 1990 by Doreen Granpeesheh, Ph.D., BCBA-D, at the suggestion of O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D., who wanted the participants in his groundbreaking study to have an ABA program to attend when they aged out of his UCLA research. What began as a one-woman practice in Westwood, California, grew into the largest ABA provider in the world with more than 260 clinic locations in 33 states. Having practiced, researched, and advocated for ABA for over 40 years, Dr. Granpeesheh provides a view of the earliest years of behavioral applications to the treatment of autism, and speaks of the ways in which access to ABA has grown, largely as a result of the onset of health insurance funding. Dr. Granpeesheh shares the lessons learned in the field, describes how data-driven decisions continue to shape behavior analysis, and shares her insights on future directions.


Enduring Programmatic Contributions in Behavior Analysis

PAXIS, accepted by Dennis Embry


Bettering the World: Creating Population-Level Change Using Behavior Analysis

In 1968, Baer, Wolf and Risley wrote: “Better applications [of behavioral science], it is hoped, will lead to a better state of society, to whatever extent the behavior of its members can contribute to the goodness of a society.” I grew up with that idea and passion—even before I was their student, but they had the practical science. Only a few things from ABA have been brought to population-level scale—with measured population-level benefits. My talk is how my colleagues and I have achieved population-level impact on violence, mental health, addictions and academics using ABA and other proven science. The driving example in this talk, and paper, uses the Good Behavior Game, because it was the first ABA publication on a whole classroom implementation of ABA. Scaling up and scaling out GBG is a function having worked with Sesame Street, implementing my national child-safety effort in NZ, implementing an ABA tobacco control strategy, and understanding and building a business based on sales rather than grants. Achieving population-level benefits with ABA is unlikely to happen as a direct result of an NIH grant. The contingencies are not aligned. Both the Good Behavior Game at micro level and as our international prevention-science company involve selection by consequences to achieve the vision that Baer, Wolf and Risley envisioned. My talk lays a step-by-step pathway to population-level impact of ABA informed prevention science that Don, Mont and Todd foresaw 50 years ago, but did not live to see. From these lessons, we might succeed in bettering the world they predicted.


Modifed by Eddie Soh