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 #373
CE Offered: BACB
Narrow, Rigid, and Verbally-Maintained: Exploring Derived Avoidance and Conditioned Suppression
Monday, May 29, 2017
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Capitol Ballroom 4
Area: CBM/EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Jonah David McManus (University of Louisiana in Lafayette)
Discussant: Chad Drake (Southern Illinois University)
CE Instructor: Chad Drake, Ph.D.
Abstract: Current conceptualizations of human psychopathology are increasingly including verbally-established avoidance and conditioned suppression as normative, but problematic, processes. It seems that private events like sadness or anxiety are not in-kind pathological. Rather, the human tendency to attempt to manage these experiences is what causes dysfunction. Relational Frame Theory offers an explanation for how, through derived relational responding, novel or previously neutral events can come to exert aversive control, narrowing the repertoire such that avoidance dominates. Continued progress in the development of clinical behavior analytic interventions for human suffering will depend on expanding our understanding of these processes. This symposium includes two presentations exploring facets of aversive control in humans. The first presentation will review a series of studies that serve to demonstrate conditioned suppression in humans. The second presentation will focus on establishing some boundary conditions of derived avoidance. Both papers will include a discussion of methodological and clinical implications of their data. A general discussion will follow.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Avoidance, Conditioned Suppression, DRR, RFT

When Repertoires Narrow: Examinations of Conditioned Suppression in Humans

ALYSON GIESEMANN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Nolan Williams (University of North Texas ), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Michael Bordieri (Murray State University)

Aversive control has been implicated in clinical behavior analytic conceptualizations of psychopathology in a number of different forms. Aversive control involves both avoidance and conditioned suppression. Conditioned suppression is when a repertoire narrows under aversive control, such that avoidant behaviors dominate and an organisms positively reinforced behaviors decrease. Likewise, psychopathology is characterized by not only a range of avoidant behaviors, but also a disruption of goal-directed behavior, such that clinical behavior analysis tends to focus on shifting control from aversive to appetitive conditions. Conditioned suppression literature, however, has been directly examined primarily in animal behavior, and has not considered how derived relational responding might allow for transfer of suppression functions. The current paper will present data from a series of studies examining conditioned suppression in humans. Data supports both direct and derived conditioned suppression effects associated with aversive control with humans. Implications for assessment and treatment of psychopathology will be discussed.


Simple, Not Easy: An Exploration of the Boundary Conditions of Derived Transfer of Avoidance Functions

REBECCA TACKE (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Nolan Williams (University of North Texas ), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Michael Bordieri (Murray State University)

Fear and avoidance characterize psychopathology in a number of different forms. This is purportedly attributable to how readily fear and avoidance functions are arbitrarily transferred to neutral or novel stimuli. In fact, several models within clinical behavior analysis emphasize aversive control through derived relational responding as pivotal in the development and maintenance of problematic behaviors. The clinical assumption that this is readily demonstrated by humans in therapy rooms does not mean, however, that it is easily reproduced in the lab. Multiple studies have demonstrated the transfer of avoidance functions across relational networks. The conditions under which transfer of avoidance functions does and does not occur, however, are not well understood. This paper will describe a series of studies which explore, in an iterative fashion, the boundary conditions of derived transfer of avoidance functions, along with a final successful demonstration of derivation of avoidance functions with apparent experimental control. Implications for continued scientific progress in understanding avoidance-based psychopathology are discussed.




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