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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #403
Interbehaviorism and the Cause and Effect and Behavior and Response Continua
Monday, May 26, 2014
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
W175b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Benjamin N. Witts (St. Cloud State University)
Discussant: Todd A. Ward (University of North Texas)

This symposium aims to address two fundamental assumptions and potential confusions underlying the behavioral sciences, as it pertains to interbehaviorism. Founded by J. R. Kantor, interbehaviorism stands apart from traditional forms of behaviorism in that a field analysis is endorsed, which considers events and participants to be co-evolving rather than as being discrete entities. Witts addresses the issue of the cause and effect continuum as it relates to the metaphor of selectionism (e.g., Darwinian natural selection). An analysis of the use of metaphor in science is followed by an interpretation of cause and effect from a field-theoretical approach to behavior. Delprato offers a re-analysis of behavior and response, giving special attention to methods of delineation between the two terms. This delineation rests firmly upon an understanding of constructs and events, which has proven to be a point of confusion. Finally Ward summarizes and comments upon these two talks as they relate to the development of behavior analysis in general.

Keyword(s): cause effect, construct, interbehaviorism, philosophy
Selection by Consequences (Skinner, 1981) Revisited: Biology, Environment, and the Cause and Effect Continuum
BENJAMIN N. WITTS (St. Cloud State University)
Abstract: Skinner (1981) offers selection by consequences as a means by which biological, behavioral, and cultural sciences can find common ground. Skinner is clear to explain that some behavior can be consigned directly to the genetic level, but that operant conditioning, selected through the phylogeny, allows the present environment to overcome such genetic restraints and permit flexibility in the topography of the response over the lifespan of the individual organism. Causal explanations, in any science, require the artificial differentiation of objects and events such that one thing is then capable of causing the other, which is the case in operant analyses of behavior. Further delineation is required in the setting of boundaries between objects and events in an effort to give them a serial position in the causal sequence. However, field-theories do away with cause and effect chains, opting instead for an analysis of co-evolving participants in an ever evolving field. This paper aims to address 1) the metaphor of selection and its utility, and 2) the difficulty in endorsing a causal analysis of behavior at the philosophical level.

Observed and Inferred Behavior in Behavior Analysis

DENNIS J. DELPRATO (Eastern Michigan University)

Behavior analysts insist that behavior is the specialty’s subject matter and that they observe, measure, and assess behavior. For the most part, basic and applied behavior analysts seem to be rather comfortable with the behavior construct. However, a critical reading of the literature reveals a noticeable lack of agreement regarding the referents to behavior. What distinguishes between behavior and response? Is behavior as bodily movement in space of primary concern or is behavior analysis focused on conduct, action, or purpose? If something such as the latter, what activates recording instruments? Behavior? If so, how is behavior the discipline’s subject matter? In clinical functional analysis, is the fundamental three-term contingency antecedent-behavior-consequence with behavior the behaver’s contribution that analysts relate to antecedents and consequences? Or is behavior inferred from observed and measured relations involving the three terms? This presentation applies interbehaviorism and radical behaviorism in a proposal to clarify the status of behavior using behavior assessment as a target subfield. The solution is grounded on the distinction between events and constructs that reveals two different classes of behavior, hence two distinct tasks of behavior assessment: assessing target responses (behavior-1) and functional analysis (the outcome of which yields behavior-2).




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