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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Invited Symposium #220
CE Offered: BACB
Without Violence: Constructing the Science of Peace, Justice, and Healing
Sunday, May 27, 2012
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
6A (Convention Center)
Area: CSE/CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Anthony Biglan (Oregon Research Institute)
Discussant: Erica Chenoweth (Wesleyan University)
CE Instructor: Mark A. Mattaini, Doctor of Social Welfare (DSW)

There have been some notable gains in recent years, but violence at the interpersonal, economic, structural, and political levels remains a central socio-cultural challenge of the modern era. Human rights violations and conflicts at the individual, local, national, or international level cause deep damage to persons, communities and cultures. Applications of the natural science of behavior and behavioral systems analysis to attempts to challenge injustice, construct peace, and heal people and communities are in their infancy. Still, there are compelling reasons to believe that contributions from that science are possible. In this symposium, the presenters will explore the issues from selectionist and contextualist perspectives, and sketch out what is presently known about strategies for constructing peace, resisting oppression nonviolently, and healing trauma.

Keyword(s): achieving peace, nonviolent resistance, trauma, violence

Achieving Peace at the Individual, Interpersonal, Group, and International Level: An Evolutionary Perspective

ANTHONY BIGLAN (Oregon Research Institute)

This talk will present an evolutionary analysis of the generic features of conflict at several levels: the conflict we, as individuals experience within ourselves, the conflicts that occur between people, and the conflicts between groups—from small groups to international conflicts. Like other organisms, humans have an evolved bias toward detecting and avoiding danger. However our symbolic abilities—while useful for solving problems—mean that humans can perceive and seek to avoid threat that is only symbolically present. Reducing conflict both within and between individuals and groups depends on our reducing the power of symbolic relations to influence behavior that contributes to conflict. I will describe interventions that contribute to this change at all levels and will discuss the implications of current knowledge for reducing what appears to be the biggest threat to human wellbeing, namely our evolved tendencies to symbolically experience threat.

Anthony Biglan is a senior scientist at Oregon Research Institute and the co-director of the Promise Neighborhood Research Consortium. He has been conducting research on the development and prevention of child and adolescent problem behavior for the past 30 years. His work has included studies of the risk and protective factors associated with tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; high-risk sexual behavior, and antisocial behavior. He has conducted numerous experimental evaluations of interventions to prevent tobacco use both through school-based programs and community-wide interventions. He has also performed evaluations of interventions to prevent high-risk sexual behavior, antisocial behavior, and reading failure. He and colleagues at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavior Sciences published a book summarizing the epidemiology, cost, etiology, prevention, and treatment of youth with multiple problems (Biglan et al., 2004). He is a former president of the Society for Prevention Research, and a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Prevention, which recently released its report documenting numerous evidence-based preventive interventions.

Behavioral Systems Science for Nonviolent Resistance

MARK A. MATTAINI (Jane Addams College of Social Work)

Mohandas Gandhi often indicated that nonviolent resistance was "a science," but very little scientific work (almost none from a natural science perspective) has been pursued in this area. In this paper, the author will outline applications of behavioral systems science to the practice of effective nonviolent struggle. Given the enormous human costs of violent strategies of resistance, insurgency and rebellion, their poor record of sustainable success, and the emerging evidence for the potential power of nonviolent alternatives, the rigorous exploration of alternatives is a critically important direction for applied cultural analysis. Effective strategic analysis can only emerge from an understanding of the underlying dynamics of strategic options. This presentation elaborates four major clusters of strategic options, identified using a functional, natural science perspective; the basic behavioral and behavioral systems dynamics involved with each will be explored here through historical and contemporary cases. The four clusters explored in this paper are: Constructive noncooperation; Protest and persuasion; Disruptive noncooperation; and Active disruption. These clusters overlap with, but also depart in significant ways from, the widely accepted classification developed by Gene Sharp. The conceptual analyses presented here suggest directions for practical experimentation, clearly an essential although challenging next step.

Mark Mattaini is Associate Professor, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago, where he has led the development of the new Community Health and Urban Development concentration. Editor of the scientific journal Behavior and Social Issues, Dr. Mattaini is also the author/editor of 10 books, including PEACE POWER for Adolescents: Strategies for a Culture of Nonviolence (NASW Press), and Finding Solutions to Social Problems: Behavioral Strategies for Change (American Psychological Association), and over 80 other publications. Since the mid-90s, Dr. Mattaini has focused his research and practice on behavioral systems science for violence prevention with youth, constructing cultures of respect in organizations and communities, and effective nonviolent social action. He is the principal developer of the behavior analytic PEACE POWER strategy, which has been presented and implemented in at least 12 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and was recently introduced in a UNESCO-funded project in Brazil. He also recently provided consultation to the National Police and community organizations working to develop more effective ways to work with criminal youth gangs in Medellin, Colombia. He is currently completing a book, tentatively entitled Strategic Nonviolent Power: The Science of Satyagraha, analyzing the potential contributions of the science of behavior to nonviolent social action supporting justice and human rights.

Beyond PTSD: Treatment for Survivors of Trauma Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

VICTORIA M. FOLLETTE (University of Nevada, Reno)

This paper will present an overview of the need for a behavioral therapy that goes beyond the treatment of PTSD symptomatology. Our treatment model uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to address a diverse group of problems that can often be considered under the umbrella of experiential avoidance. Experiential avoidance is the unwillingness or inability of an individual to remain in contact with distressing private events. Often, individuals take deliberate steps to avoid these unpleasant emotions and these increased attempts to avoid them serve to increase the frequency and intensity of the distressing feelings. Experiential avoidance is a process that some survivors of sexual abuse or assault engage in to reduce their distress, but it is thought that this increases their risk of subsequent additional victimization (Rosenthal, Rasmussen-Hall, Palm, Batten, S. & Follette, 2006). Treatment that focuses on reducing avoidance and increasing behaviors consistent with valued life goals is an essential alternative to traditional exposure therapy for trauma. While exposure therapy has clearly documented positive outcomes, additional treatment for unresolved trauma related issues is often not available. Treatment goals focused on prevention of re-victimization and behavioral activation in accordance with client-identified values will be discussed.

Victoria Follette is recognized as a clinical scientist with a strong foundation in empirically based therapy and has published edited volumes related to mindfulness in psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral approaches to trauma therapy. In 2008 she was named as a Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and was also given the state psychological association�s award for Outstanding Psychologist. Currently she is the Chair of the Department of Psychology and is a licensed psychologist in the state of Nevada. Dr. Victoria Follette�s clinical and research work has emphasized an examination of the long term consequences associated with a history of child sexual abuse (Polusny & Follette, 1996). In particular, she has investigated the impact of experiential avoidance in the diverse outcomes associated with various forms of maltreatment in the family of origin (Polusny, Rosenthal, Aban & Follette, 2004). In addition to investigating intrapersonal impacts of trauma, she has also examined interpersonal problems in intimate partner relationships. She has also co-authored a self-help book on ACT for individuals with a history of abuse that can be adapted for group or individual therapy. Dr. Follette supervises a research lab at the University of Nevada, Reno that continues to examine trauma related outcomes, with a special interest in re-victimization.



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