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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Symposium #444
Applications of Cultural Analytic Science to Social Change
Monday, May 26, 2008
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Area: CSE/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Mark A. Mattaini (Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago)
Discussant: Anthony Biglan (Oregon Research Institute)
Abstract: Many behavior analysts entered the field because they wanted to have an impact on institutional, structural, and professional arrangements in ways that would contribute to social change. Behavior analysis and the science of cultural analysis has much to offer in terms of analyzing and changing socially important cultural practices. In this symposium, the presenters will offer data-supported conceptual analyses of conservatism vs. liberalism in American politics as exemplified by the capital punishment debate, the use of consequence analysis procedures to increase flexibility of verbal behavior related to substance abuse treatment procedures, and the development of a rigorous science of nonviolent social action. The analyses presented draw from equivalence and relational frame theory, analyses of interlocking contingencies and metacontingencies, principles of cultural design, Rachlin’s teleological behaviorism, and Guerin’s analyses of social behavior. Collectively, they suggest that behavior and cultural analytic science has substantial potential to contribute to social change and social justice.
Behavior Analytic Understanding of Conservatism versus Liberalism in American Politics: The Example of Capital Punishment.
RICHARD F. RAKOS (Cleveland State University)
Abstract: Jost (2006, American Psychologist) presents a cognitive-motivational analysis of “conservatism” and “liberalism” that uncovers and substantiates many important overt and covert behavioral differences between adherents to the two major American political ideologies. However, Jost’s analysis relies primarily on attitudinal and personality factors and genetic predispositions to understand the observed behavioral differences; situational factors are of importance only to the extent that they arouse fear or threat and thereby cause a shift in ideology (e.g., 9/11). An alternative approach is to examine the ideological positions through behavior analytic concepts, including meta-contingencies, contingency-shaped versus rule-governed behavior, sensitivity to aversive stimuli, types of consequences, schedules of reinforcement, complexity of behavioral repertoires, ability to respond to complex discriminative stimuli, and range of reinforcing stimuli. Concepts from evolutionary psychology and traditional personality theory (Horney, Erikson, Rogers, Freud) are employed to strengthen the behavioral analysis. The value of the behavioral analysis is then demonstrated by applying it to the issue of capital punishment. Finally, several implications for cultural design suggested by the analysis, particularly in terms of child-rearing, are discussed and future research questions identified.
Stimulus Relations, Consequence Analysis, and Social Change.
SARAH K. MOORE (National Development and Research Institute), Mark A. Mattaini (Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago)
Abstract: Many socially important behaviors involve derived stimulus relations including equivalence relations as elaborated by Sidman. Further, Relational Frame Theory has demonstrated that a stimulus can acquire new functions on the basis of a derived relation other than equivalence. This paper will provide a behavioral account of equivalence and relational frame mechanisms hypothesized to underlie the effectiveness of consequence analysis technology, as originally developed by Sanford and Fawcett, for facilitating noncoercive shifts in socially important verbal behavior. Data from our recent consequence analysis study will be used to highlight these mechanisms. In that study, after consequence analysis intervention (designed to shape more flexible approaches to substance use treatment, including harm reduction approaches), a sample of social work students derived relations of opposition between traditional abstinence-oriented approaches to treatment and what they consider effective social work. For many, the pre-intervention preference for the traditional model acquired aversive functions. Implications for the use of consequence analysis as a means of non-violent social change will also be presented.
The Science of Nonviolent Social Action II: Strategic Action.
MARK A. MATTAINI (Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago)
Abstract: Gandhi and other nonviolent theorists have often asserted that nonviolence is a science. Enormous financial and human resources have been dedicated to elaborating the science and practice of collective coercion and killing—at appalling collective cost. By contrast, vanishingly few resources have been dedicated to elaborating a practical, rigorous science of nonviolence. Both collective violence and nonviolent social action emerge from sets of interlocking cultural practices; however, so analyses of both violence and nonviolent alternatives are possible. The findings of such investigations might then contribute to identifying and strengthening more effective and less costly nonviolent alternatives to violence—a collective analogue to differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) arrangements. One strategy for this research, similar to that used in other sciences in which the phenomena of interest extend broadly over space and time (e.g., astrophysics and some forms of historical research), is to analyze available data from multiple, well-documented cases, develop hypotheses from those examples, and then test and refine those hypotheses with additional cases. Historical analysis of case exemplars will be emphasized in this paper, drawing on emerging perspectives from cultural analytic science, Rachlin’s teleological behaviorism, and Guerin’s analyses of social behavior.



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