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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Paper Session #215
Theory in OBM
Sunday, May 25, 2008
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Area: OBM
Chair: Bess J Puvathingal (Temple University)
Identifying and Extinguishing Dysfunctional and Deadly Organizational Practices.
Domain: Applied Research
THOMAS C. MAWHINNEY (University of Detroit Mercy)
Abstract: It is possible to define an organization’s culture in terms of its dominant behavioral practices and their molar consequences, from the shop floor to the executive suite (Redmon & Mason, 2001). Dysfunctional and potentially deadly practices (for the organization as a whole) can be “latent.” They often go undetected until their dramatic consequences are overtly manifested. For example, leadership of Alaska Airlines appeared to have had no idea how dangerous their aircraft maintenance practices were prior to the notorious crash of Alaska Airlines’ Flight 261 (Mawhinney, 2007, NTSB, 2002) in which 88 people perished. Similarly, the leadership of Barings Bank either had no idea that their “fair haired” or “hot shot” trader in Singapore, Nick Leeson, was about to kill the company until the deed was done (Leeson, 1996). This was in spite of the fact that some of the managers above Leeson turned a “blind eye” to their responsibilities to limit the bank’s financial risks. The concepts of latent dysfunctional and latent deadly practices are developed in ways that can guide behavior systems analysts interested in identifying and replacing such practices with functional practices.
When Good Pigeons (and People) Do Bad Things: Synthesizing the Literatures on Sunk Costs.
Domain: Applied Research
BESS J PUVATHINGAL (Temple University), Donald A. Hantula (Temple University)
Abstract: Sunk costs are defined as any prior investment that is unrecoverable, regardless of the final outcome. Because sunk costs cannot be recovered, rational thinking suggests they should not influence future decisions. Theoretical discussions of the sunk cost effect abound and general opinion sees being too much invested to quit as common; however, empirical support for the sunk cost effect in the literature is equivocal. We suggest that in order to understand the sunk cost effect in humans, it would behoove us to turn to experimental literature on sunk costs. For example, Navarro & Fantino (2005) developed an experimental model of the sunk cost effect in pigeons, primarily manipulating reinforcement schedules, suggesting that we may better understand this effect in humans through the conceptual lens of the experimental analysis of behavior. Our overarching goal is to understand the sunk cost effect in humans. In order to do so, we will synthesize both experimental and applied literature in the area of sunk cost with the aim of elucidating the functioning variables maintaining the sunk cost effect. Implications for applied research and behavioral strategies for executive decision-making will be discussed.



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