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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #142
CE Offered: BACB
Thinking Big: Using Behavioral Principles to Enact Prosocial Change
Sunday, May 27, 2012
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
610 (Convention Center)
Area: TPC/CSE; Domain: Theory
Chair: Alphonso Carreker (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: Anthony Biglan (Oregon Research Institute)
CE Instructor: Michael Bordieri, M.S.

Behavior analysis has made significant contributions in various specific domains but has yet to achieve widespread societal impact. This symposium will explore ways in which behavioral principles might be applied to issues of community governance and societal importance with an emphasis on underlying philosophical issues and conceptual matters. The symposium will open with a paper that re-imagines Skinner's Walden Two through a contemporary lens and explores the role values play in a science of human behavior. Moving to a more molecular focus, the second paper will provide a behavioral analysis of interpersonal discourse and debate with an emphasis placed on encouraging effective discussions by facilitating accurate perspective taking. The third paper will focus on challenges inherent in values based living and will propose a model for values-based communities that foster prosocial behaviors. Strategies for increasing the reach of behavior analysis into public policy domains will be discussed with special attention given to promising efforts currently underway. In addition, implications for future research and advocacy will be explored.

Keyword(s): love, prosocial behavior, social change, values
Walden 2.0: Revisiting Behavior Analysis’ Unfulfilled Ambitions of Large Scale Societal Impact
MICHAEL BORDIERI (University of Mississippi), Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: Since its inception in the early 20th century, behavior analysis has embraced audacious goals regarding its potential impact on society. Skinner stated early on in his career that he had little interest in “the behavior of the rat for its own sake” (1938, p. 441) and wrote extensively on the potential societal applications of behavioral science in his novel Walden II (Skinner, 1948). While the impact of behavioral technologies has been enormous in many narrow domains (e.g., improving the quality of life of individuals with developmental disabilities), lofty ambitions for the widespread societal impact of behavior analysis have largely been left unfulfilled. Save for few notable exceptions, behavioral analysis has not made an enduring impact on large-scale societal issues. This paper will highlight several of these exceptional cases and explore the ways in which our basic principles might stretch out into the process of governance with an eye towards civil discourse and progressive change. In addition, Skinner’s ambitions explicated in Walden II will be re-imagined through a contemporary lens with an emphasis placed on the importance of values in our science and the difficulties inherent in finding a common ground to anchor a science capable of changing our world.

Theoretical Analysis of Effective Discussions and Discourse

KATE KELLUM (University of Mississippi), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Discussion and discourse in which participants fail to understand the other participants perspective seems to be prevalent in many professional, personal, and political contexts. The current paper provides an analysis of potential behaviors and contextual variables that make up ineffective and effective discussions. The paper suggests various functional definitions of effective discussions and ineffective discussions. The authors suggest that during ineffective discussions people often think something is wrong with other discussion participants (i.e., the others are stubborn, dumb, evil, power-hungry, illogical or simply crazy). While such thoughts are likely reinforced in the moment, it leaves discussion participants with little to do to facilitate further conversation or reach an agreement. The authors also suggest that effective discussions may involve accurate perspective taking. Potential methods of facilitating such perspective taking will be examined (e.g., instructions to elucidate historical and current contextual variables that might contribute to current behavior).


Love Made Visible: A Theoretical Analysis of Values-Based Communities at Work

EMILY KENNISON SANDOZ (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi)

The benefits of a life free from aversive control have long been noted in behavior analysis. In contemporary contextual behavioral approaches, this is discussed in terms of building repertoires that are primarily under the control of verbally-established values. Engagement in values-oriented behavior has been associated with lower physiological stress response (Creswell et al., 2006), improved academic achievement (Cohen et al., 2006), and greater feelings of love, connectectedness, empathy, and giving which mediate increased openness to threatening information (Crocker et al., 2008). Persisting in values-oriented behavior is associated with a number of psychological benefits. Valued living, or maintaining values-oriented behavior outside of the lab, however, presents a significant challenge. This conceptual paper will provide a theoretical analysis of the inherent challenge in pursuing valued living, the role of the socioverbal context in promoting behavior under aversive control, and the socioverbal context that would support valued living. The values-based community will be proposed as a model for supporting valued living in family, work, cultural and spiritual communities. Kahlil Gibran wrote, "Work is love made visible." Perhaps, with intention, communities can be built in which even the most perfunctory actions can truly be love made visible.




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