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 #403
Impact of Behavioral Technology on Decision Making in Education, Human Service, and Military Settings
Monday, May 28, 2012
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
611 (Convention Center)
Area: EDC/OBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Todd A. Ward (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Jennifer L. Austin (University of Glamorgan)

Through recent empirical work in RFT, behavior analysis is increasingly placing itself in a position to theorize effectively and test empirically these educated guesses about the functioning of verbal behavior in organizations. The development and communication of verbal products, such as rules, instructions, leadership statements and strategic plans are major components of leadership activities in organizations. For instance, strategic planning and readiness are highly verbal activities because they rely on being prepared for a future that is not here yet; a future that is verbally constructed; and a future that will most probably be unlike what we have seen in the past. In addition, recognizing employees implicit responding and values can guide leadership in presenting formative and motivative augmentals that produce shared goals and hence improved cooperation within the organization. Moreover, the powerful effects of ACT related technologies such as value clarification, perspective taking and mindfulness have generalizable impact in terms individuals psychological flexibility and situational awareness in combat situations. By drawing upon a university wide intervention in the area of student advisement and associated interventions in the areas of RFT and ACT, this symposium provides an overview of recent experimental and conceptual analyses in the areas of decision making, problem solving, agility, and cooperative behavior in organizations.

Keyword(s): act, education

A University-wide System for Improving Undergraduate Students' Academic Success

DOUGLAS ROBERTSON (Florida International University), Martha Pelaez (Florida International University)

This study describes a major intervention designed to improve undergraduate students academic success at a large public research university in Florida. The intervention involves establishing a university-wide system that helps students learning to select an appropriate major and follow a clear path to graduation. University practices involve a set of interlocking contingencies that support the behavior of all the participants (e.g., students, advisors, administrators, faculty). The outcomes of these practices seem to be a function of the aggregate behavior of all the participants in the context of the university culture. We discuss the complexity of interrelated organizational programming that systematically provides contingencies for individual students that shape their constructive academic behavior towards graduation. At the aggregate level, these students behaviors lead to a shift in metacontingencies, from a culture of prolonged study and attrition to a culture of on-time graduation. We explain the individual behaviors, mechanisms, and interlocking contingencies that seem to account for a large-scale organizational change. This approach presents an organizational paradigm shift from unsupported, trial-and-error learning by undergraduate students searching for and pursuing a major, to highly supported individualized shaping aimed at discerning an appropriate major early and following the curriculum successfully.


ACT Goes to War: Values-Clarification Training in a Military Combat Simulation

TODD A. WARD (University of Nevada, Reno), Ramona Houmanfar (University of Nevada, Reno)

Values clarification procedures have been successfully used primarily in clinical settings due to their ability to act as motivative augmentals to sensitize individuals behavior to the environment and to loosen control of behavior by inaccurate verbal constructions disconnected from the environment. The current series of studies extends our previous work, which utilized brief web-based values-clarification modules to significantly increase cumulative GPAs and student retention in a university setting. For the current work, we adapted our values-clarification modules from an educational to a team setting in order to examine the generality of our past findings into a highly arousing military combat simulation. The first study in this line of research evaluates the impact of values-clarification on physiological and mental arousal, listener behavior, rule generation, and a variety of performance measures tied to the successful completion of mission objectives. The second study extends this work using a participant with a confederate partner playing against another two-person confederate team. If successful, this research will successfully extend the scope of ACT work into new areas and potentially point to cost-effective web-based performance improvement methods for a variety of organizational settings.


Evaluating a Brief Online Values Clarification Procedure to Improve Outcomes in a Human Service Organization

JARED A. CHASE (Chrysalis), Todd A. Ward (University of Nevada, Reno), Greg Smith (University of Nevada, Reno)

The nature of front-line work in human service organizations is such that employee burnout and turnover is common. Though not commonly discussed in the traditional OBM literature, studies are emerging on the effects of interventions derived from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) on these very issues. The current study seeks to contribute to this literature by evaluating the implementation of a brief web-based values-clarification module across three community homes in a human-service organization serving mild to moderate individuals with intellectual disabilities in Northern Nevada. More specifically, this study focuses on the role of teams and conceptualizes each house with its constituent manager and staff as teams working together to produce common goals. The goal of the current study is to have managers and staff examine and articulate their values related to teamwork and how such values relate to larger life values. If successful, this intervention could function as a motivative augmental to alter the reinforcing value of stimuli embedded in this oftentimes stressful workplace and change a variety of outcome measures in positive directions, such as incident report rates, employee satisfaction, staff turnover, treatment integrity and burnout.




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