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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #279
CE Offered: BACB
Moving Towards a Utopian World: Implicit Racial Biases, Mental Health Stigma and Behavior Analysis
Sunday, May 28, 2017
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Mineral Hall A-C
Area: CSS/VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Akeena Edwards (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: Nadia Bethley (University of Missouri)
CE Instructor: Chad Drake, Ph.D.

Addressing issues on stigma against races and mental health clients in the country is of paramount importance in the present climate, and behavior analysts are rising up to meet this challenge. The field of behavior analysis as a whole must organize the behavior of its members in such a way so as to influence peoples behavior to create a more peaceful world. The aim of this symposium is to discuss behavior analytic ways of measuring and influencing cognitive biases against mental health stigma and racial equality. The symposium includes diverse presentations, including behavior analytic assessments of biases against racial minorities and people assigned a mental illness diagnosis, risky sexual behaviors and discrimination against dating/sexual partners on the basis of their race, and finally, an evaluation of two treatment conditions at reducing behavior governed by negative racial bias rules. Results suggest that cognitive biases against racial minorities are common and influence daily behavior, including behavior in dating and sexual spheres of life. Strategies aimed at reducing biased behavior, both in the contexts of racism and mental illness stigma will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): intervention, racial bias, relational frame, stigma

True/Good/Bad/False: Manipulating Response Options With a Racial Evaluations IRAP

(Applied Research)
CHAD DRAKE (Southern Illinois University), Sunni Primeaux (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Lisa Logterman (Southern Illiniois University), Andrea Davidson (Southern Illinois University Cardondale), Ryan Kimball (Southern Illinois University)

The Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) has emerged as a viable behavior analytic alternative to mainstream methods of assessing cognitive biases. To date the IRAP has been used to assess derived relational responding with a variety of content domains, including for a broad range of social cognition topics. These IRAP studies often reveal more specific and nuanced social perceptions than is accessible with mainstream measures such as the Implicit Association Test. Nevertheless, a number of procedural variables have yet to be explored for their potential impact on response patterns, including the possible influence of the response options. The current study compared two types of response options with respect to racial evaluations. Both IRAPs contained trial-types combining black and white social categories with positive and negative evaluations, with response options differing between two conditions; one involved selections of either true or false, while the other represented a sentence-completion strategy, involving the selection of good or bad. The sample was composed of undergraduate volunteers. Preliminary analyses suggest marked differences among specific stimulus combinations of the IRAP. These data strongly suggest that the stimulus functions inherent to response options generate a significant source of variability on IRAP data.


Symptoms vs. Diagnoses: Comparing Stigmatizing Attitudes Toward Psychopathology With Explicit and Implicit Measures

(Applied Research)
JORDEN THOMAS (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Isaiah Thompson (Southern Illinois University), Tia M Richardson (Southern Illinois University - Carbondale), Sunni Primeaux (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)

People struggling with symptoms that merit a psychopathology diagnosis also may be confronted with derogatory social perceptions about their condition. Stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness have been revealed with both explicit and implicit instruments, including in respect to behavioral outcomes such as social distance. The current study utilized a task known as the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP), a measure derived from behavior analytic foundations, which can assess implicit cognitive biases. Unlike much of the literature on mental illness stigma, this study sought to compare implicit and explicit attitudes across three different diagnostic categories: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Schizophrenia. A collection of undergraduate students was randomly assigned to one of three conditions and read two vignettes of characters exhibiting symptoms of the same disorder, with a diagnosis being applied to only one of them. Subsequently participants completed a package of relevant self-reports and an IRAP. Clear differences were revealed between conditions for self-reports but not for the IRAP, although the IRAP did reveal noteworthy biases. The current data suggest that a number of procedural and methodological variables may be examined in future studies with the IRAP.


Please be White: Verbal Reports of Racial Preferences and Risky Sexual Behaviors

(Applied Research)
ADAM LOUIS LOUIS PAUL (University of Mississippi), Yash Bhambhani (University of Mississippi), Maureen Flynn (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Karen Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)

Racial issues are currently at the forefront of issues facing the country as a whole. Increasingly, racial disparities have penetrated systems, institutions, social lives, friendships and even dating/sexual spheres. People of color, especially Men of Color who have Sex with Men have almost a twice as high risk of contracting HIV than White Men who have Sex with Men. This study measured both White and Men of Color who have Sex with Mens verbal reports of racial preferences for dating/sexual partners. We also collected a heterosexual sample for comparison of results between groups. College undergraduates and a community sample of Men who have Sex with Men were recruited. Participants provided verbal reports of their preferences, inter-racial contact, and risky sexual behaviors. Results point to strong racial preferences in searching for romantic/sexual partners that are related to global racial repertoires. Both Whites and people of color displayed a preference for White dating/sexual partners. Impact of these verbal preferences on risky sexual behaviors will be discussed. Implications and strategies for reducing risky sexual behaviors in the vulnerable Men who have Sex with Men population will also be discussed.


Reducing Freshmen's Implicit Racism: Challenge and Change, or Accept and Act in Line With Values?

(Applied Research)
YASH BHAMBHANI (University of Mississippi), Karen Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)

Implicit biases or negative implicit learning histories about different races/ethnicities are common and permeate our society like smog. These negative verbal descriptions of contingencies about interactions with different races, rather than explicit racism, are at the heart of countless social problems in the world today, including police shooting and mass incarceration of Black men. This study used verbal behavior, in the form of an educational lecture given to freshmen classes, to reduce rule governed behavior towards people of races different than themselves. Two experimental conditions were tested in one condition, a challenge-your-biases-and-change-them strategy was expounded, and in the other condition, an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy consistent strategy of accepting your biases, giving up an attempt to change them and acting in line with your values was used. These lectures were given to freshmen at a large Southern university as part of the freshmen experience class. Forty students participated in the first condition, and forty-five in the second. Results are displayed in the figures below. Implications on reducing negative rule governed behavior will be discussed.




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