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 #372
CE Offered: PSY
Behavior Analysis for a Sustainable World
Monday, May 28, 2012
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
6A (Convention Center)
Area: CSE/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Mark P. Alavosius (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Richard F. Rakos (Cleveland State University)
CE Instructor: Richard F. Rakos, Ph.D.

The rate of biodiversity loss, degradation of the atmosphere, global warming and other human-induced changes to our environment are accelerating and exceeding planetary boundaries for sustained human development. Governance and management of human behavior is needed to go beyond sectoral reduction of negative externalities and now extend to protecting and restoring a global habitat fit for humanity. This invited symposium presents three provocative papers describing roles for behavior analysts in preparing us for what lies ahead and to be resilient in the face of coming challenges.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Target Audience:

People interested in a sustainable planet

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to:
  • Describe the many opportunties for behavior analysts to work to improve our planet for humanity.

Climate Change and the Global Need for Sustainable Practices: Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities for Behavior Analysts

WILLIAM L. HEWARD (The Ohio State University)

For decades scientists who study the Earth's atmosphere, waterways, and the ground have issued fact-filled warnings about our planet's declining health and its ability to continue to sustain human activity. Human behavior is responsible for the Earth's rapidly changing climate and the depletion of some ofits limited resources to dangerously levels. While behavior analysts have contributed to at least partial solutions to many problems faced by society—improving education, helping people achieve healthier life styles, making highways and factories safer, caring for people exhibiting challenging and life-threatening behavior, and treating individuals with autism to name just a few—our field has paid scant attention to the impact of human behavior on the environment. But this is changing. Behavior analysis is uniquely poised to contribute to a broad range of interventions to promote the husbandry of our planet's resources, restore damaged eco-systems, and perhaps prepare us to adapt and be resilient in the face of inevitable changes to come. This talk will survey some of the initiatives developing within the behavior analysis community in response to climate change and challenges to sustaining a healthy planet for future generations.

William L. Heward, Ed.D., BCBA-D, is Professor Emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. He has been a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, a Visiting Professor of Psychology at Keio University in Tokyo and at the University of São Paulo, a Visiting Scholar at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, and lectured in 14 other countries. His many publications include the text, Applied Behavior Analysis (2nd ed., 2007, co-authored with John Cooper and Tim Heron), which has been translated into several languages. A Fellow and Past President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Bill has received numerous awards recognizing his contributions to behavior analysis, including the Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award from the American Psychological Association's Division 25, the Distinguished Psychology Department Alumnus Award from Western Michigan University, and the Ellen P. Reese Award for Communication of Behavioral Concepts from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Bill currently serves as chair of the program planning committee for ABAI�s Behavior Change for a Sustainable World conference to be held August 3-5, 2012.

The Earth May Be Warm Later, but I'm Cold Now: Motivating Sustainable Consumer Choices

DONALD A. HANTULA (Temple University)

'Sustainable' consumer choices pose a paradox. A sustainable choice may pay off in the future but most likely has no immediate positive impact. Punishing 'non-sustainable' consumer choices through taxes and surcharges is politically unpopular, regressive and often unfeasible. Instead, the challenge for motivating sustainable consumption choices is to make the payoff for these choices fairly immediate and fairly certain. These payoffs may not necessarily be monetary or material; they can also be social. The Behavior Perspective Model differentiates between informational and utilitarian reinforcement; an important concept in understanding and motivating sustainable consumer choices. Strategies involved in increasing the immediate informational reinforcement of consumer goods, immediate economic incentives or 'green choices' and manipulating motivating operations for such choices are promising beginnings. The challenge here is to develop 'set and forget' interventions that will nudge consumers towards sustainable choices. Interventions based on a behavioral economic analysis of consumer choice, combined with a deft use of technology will lead the way in changing consumer choices from destructive overconsumption to constructive sustainable choices.

Donald A. Hantula (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame), is an organizational psychologist, associate professor of psychology, member of the Interdisciplinary Masters Program in Applied Behavior Analysis and director of the Decision Laboratory at Temple University. Previous positions include occupational health promotion at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, appointments in business schools at King's College (Human Resource Management) and St. Joseph's University (MIS), and as a visiting scholar in behavior analysis at University of Nevada-Reno. He is the past Executive Editor of the Journal of Social Psychology. Currently he serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, where he recently guest edited 2 special issues on Consumer Behavior Analysis. He has also edited special issues of Psychology & Marketing and IEEE Transactions on topics such as: experiments in e-commerce, evolutionary perspectives on consumption, and Darwinian perspectives on electronic communication. Professor Hantula served on the National Science Foundation's Decision Risk and Management Sciences review panel and remains an ad hoc reviewer for government and private research funding agencies. He is a trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Don has published in many high impact journals in computer & information sciences, economics, management, marketing, medicine, organizational behavior psychobiology, and public health. His research in evolutionary behavioral economics combines behavior analytic and Darwinian theory to focus on questions in financial and consumer decision making and escalation of commitment He also maintains active research and application projects in performance improvement and human/technology interactions. He has a forthcoming book titled Consumer Behavior Analysis: (A)rational approach to consumer choice and decision.

Countercultural paths to sustainability

LYLE K. GRANT (Athabasca University)

The problems of sustainability are deeply woven into the fabric of modern society. Current attempts to address problems like climate change and energy depletion are mainly centered on making energy use more efficient and maintaining an economy of perpetual growth on a planet of finite resources. An alternative set of solutions emerges from cultural reinvention in which work time is reduced and noneconomic reinforcers assume greater individual and societal importance. This type of cultural reinvention is inherent in B. F. Skinner's WaldenTwo, Tibor Scitovsky's proposal for an arts-based society, Paul Schafer's call for a cultural renaissance to supplant our current economic age, in the voluntarysimplicity movement, and in bohemian subcultures. Potential examples of behavior-analysis applications and research to facilitate cultural reinvention are provided.

Lyle Grant is professor of psychology at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. His areas of research and application have included concept learning, instructional materials development for distance learners, the behavior analysis of narratives, and sustainability. He is co-author of the text Principles of Behavior Analysis. After teaching behavior analysis for many years he came to realize that the forces of economic growth enlist behavioral principles in service of increasing material consumption despite the harmful effects this has on climate change and resource depletion. His recent work has therefore emphasized the necessity of a transition from an economic age to a cultural age in which the arts, sports, and recreation take precedence over continued growth and success defined in terms of increasing material consumption.



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