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 #230
CE Offered: BACB
Big Contingency, Small Contingency: Some Reasons for Behavior Analysts to Consider Lessons From Ecological Psychology
Sunday, May 27, 2012
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
4C-4 (Convention Center)
Area: CBM/AUT; Domain: Theory
Chair: James T. Todd (Eastern Michigan University)
Discussant: Eric V. Larsson (Lovaas Institute Midwest)
CE Instructor: James T. Todd, Ph.D.

While behavior analysis emphasizes the functions of behavioral and environmental events, it does not always have the ability to control these functions directly. In addition, the sheer quantity or scale of behavior can impede effective analysis and control. The purpose of this symposium is to explore some implications of these issues, and to suggest strategies that meld behavioral solutions with discoveries in conceptually related areas of psychology, Ecological Psychology in particular. The accusation that behavioral treatments cause long-term problems because they exceed ordinary behavior interactions in temporal intensity is given perspective by comparing what happens in an intervention for autism with the amount of behavior of children engaged in ordinary activities. The use of pre-existing behavioral structures to enhance the effectiveness of behavioral weight management programs is explored within the context of a family systems analysis. The manipulation of the physical structure of the environment to achieve small and large scale behavior changes, as expressed in classic works of design and books such as Big School, Small School, is shown to be a useful adjunct to direct contingency management. By looking to Ecological Psychology we discover important facts about the power of pre-existing environmental structures, and get a better perspective on not just the amount of behavior we must deal with, but the vast number of behavioral opportunities we have to effect socially important behavior change.


Early Intensive Behavior Intervention for Autism: Is It Actually More "Intensive" Than a Typical Child's Day?

CAITLYN SORENSEN (Eastern Michigan University), Lauren P. Byrnes (Eastern Michigan University), James T. Todd (Eastern Michigan University)

Critics have claimed that Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in children with autism. The intensity of the inventionnumerous learning trials in relatively short periods of timesupposedly cause stress that becomes evident later in life. The current study aims to show that Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention is unlikely to cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other anxiety disorders by examining the number of behaviors performed by a child with autism during Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention and compare it to the number of behaviors a typically developing child emits throughout a day. Children with autism have difficulty learning the way children are typically taught; behavioral therapists have to break down skills and teach them step-by-step. Using behavioral techniques to teach skills creates a learning environment filled with effective and functional reinforcement. Coding for the measure of a typical childs everyday behaviors was obtained from Barker and Wrigthts (1966) One Boys Day, which captures in narrative form every behavior a child emits in a day. The Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention data was obtained from educational and research video recordings produced by a well-respected Midwestern center for behavioral interventions. Interrater reliability was obtained on both measures of at least 90%. We predict that a typically developing child's rate of behavior will exceed or equal the rate of behaviors completed in intensive behavioral therapy. The results show that children in early intensive intervention exhibited on average lower rates of behaviors per minute compared to that of the typical childs rate of behavior. Therefore, intensive behavior therapy is not normatively intensive, and is not likely to cause problems such as stress.


Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Stimulus and Ecological Variables in Weight Management Programs

LISA M. TODD (Wayne State University), Kathryn Brogan (Wayne State University), Sylvie Naar-King (Wayne State University)

Prevalence of obesity in the United States is rising at astonishing rates. Researchers and practitioners have realized little treatment success; however, interventions targeting behavior change show promise. Behavioral interventions for weight management target knowledge, skills, and performance. Self-monitoring is a key element of traditional treatment aimed at increasing awareness of caloric intake and expenditure such that a motivated client can make effective changes in diet and activity. Stimulus control has received far less attention as an element of treatment despite the rich exposure to robust controls for unhealthy eating choices and sedentary behavior that fill a typical day. Creating an environment that is supportive of weight management/loss can present multiple challenges. Individuals may not have sufficient social support or financial resources to make significant ecological changes within the home environment. Furthermore, limiting the impact of controls outside of the home largely involves changing the way that one interacts with his or her environment. In this presentation, use of stimulus control in the treatment of adolescent obesity will be discussed as a core treatment element and as a primary treatment element when self-monitoring is not feasible.


The Coercivity of Settings Meets the Power of Positive Reinforcement: Using Physical Structures to Create Behavioral Functions

JAMES T. TODD (Eastern Michigan University)

Behavior analysis is unparalleled in its ability to identify and manipulate environmental contingencies to produce useful outcomes in individuals. But as good as it is at the individual level, it might fall short in recognizing the enormous amount of behavior that any individual emits and the level of behavior control exerted on individuals by the large-scale behavioral ecology. That is, we behavior analysts tend to favor micromanaging behavior--largely because we are asked to do exactly that, at least implicitly, in most of the behavior challenges we are given to solve. Yet, when our interventions move beyond the individual, or involve individuals who can easily move beyond the reach of our contingencies, we often find ourselves wanting. Another non-mediational psychology, Ecological Psychology, deals with environmental contingencies on a macro level, and manages degrees of behavior control at the macro level comparable to what behavior analysts achieve with the behavior of individuals. Although far less specific in its mechanisms, Ecological Psychologys uncompromising objectivity and non-mentalistic approach should make it conceptually interesting to behavior analysts. Its fundamental pragmatism should be attractive to those working on applied issues. This presentation will highlight some aspects of Ecological Psychology that could be usefully incorporated into behavioral solutions--particularly the use of the physical structure of behavior settings and the topography of behavior objects to control large amounts of behavior that could not be easily managed by the direct manipulation of contingencies.




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