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.


30th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2004

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #195
CE Offered: None

"The Inertia of Affluence"

Sunday, May 30, 2004
1:30 PM–2:20 PM
Beacon H
Area: CSE; Domain: Applied Research
CE Instructor: Christine T. Lowery, Psy.D.
Chair: Christine T. Lowery (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
JOHN A. NEVIN (University of New Hampshire, Emeritus)
Dr. John A. Nevin, known as Tony, has tried to combine his concerns about war and weapons of mass destruction with his academic work. During his graduate school years at Columbia, he attended regular discussions of nuclear disarmament (with five other students – it was like a little antinuclear cell). While teaching at Swarthmore College, he joined the small but growing movement against US involvement in Vietnam, and served as a draft counselor when he returned to Columbia as a professor. At the University of New Hampshire, he offered an interdisciplinary course entitled “Nuclear War” when his departmental teaching schedule permitted, and this year he went back to UNH after seven years of retirement to teach a comprehensive course on “War and Peace” (including material on behavioral processes). He enjoys his reverse sabbatical and hopes his students will find their own ways to oppose war.

In the 1980s, Skinner spoke several times on Why we are not acting to save the world. He suggested that the lack of action resulted from the fact that behavior cannot be controlled by future events, and that advice or warnings about the future may not be heeded unless the source is highly reliable and the predicted events are imminent. The problem is related to self-control. For example, the immediate and certain economic advantages of resource exploitation for a few outweigh its apparently remote, uncertain and distributed ecological consequences. Another reason for inaction is the inertia of affluence (McKibben, The End of Nature). Research has shown repeatedly that behavior is more resistant to change in situations with high overall reinforcer rates, regardless of whether all reinforcers are contingent on the target behavior. Thus, in the affluent society of the US, behavioral patterns will be highly persistent even when they are counterproductive in the long run. Potent disrupters are needed to alter behavior in a reinforcer-rich environment. I will consider the disruptive effects of 9/11 on some behavioral patterns that, if unchanged, may bring humankind to a premature end.




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