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 #70
Cultural Selection, Sustainability, and Interdisciplinary: Metacontingency as a Conceptual Tool
Saturday, May 27, 2017
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Mineral Hall A-C
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Ingunn Sandaker (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)

Behavior analysts have shown increasing interest towards the study of cultural phenomena, ranging from basic and applied research to theoretical works. The present symposium is composed of three discussions of theoretical aspects regarding topics of interest in Behavioral Analysis of Culture. The first paper presents a discussion of different levels of complexity in the selection of cultures, with the authors proposing an expansion of cultural analysis within a behavior analytic approach by looking at selection of cultural settings (settings of contingencies) as a different phenomenon than selection of interlocking behavioral contingencies and aggregated products. The second paper discusses the possibilities of the conceptual development of the metacontingency for behavior analysts to analyze and synthesize cultural phenomena and, thus, make contributions to the interdisciplinary field of cultural studies. The third paper presents a literature review on the concepts of sustainability and sustainable behavior aiming to evaluate how authors use the terms and to identify measures and variables that can help basic and applied researchers who work on the topic to conduct research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): cultural analysis, cultural selection, metacontingencies, theoretical reaserch

Cultural Selection and Behavior Analysis: An Opportunity to Syntheses of Behavioral Principles


The use of tools from experimental analysis of behavior to deal with cultural problems makes us face the challenge of using two repertoires of the scientist: the ability to make analysis and synthesis. Behavioral principles result essentially from the analysis of our subject matter, the behavior. It allows us to go from simple to complex and, at each time (with no rush), achieve more and more complex phenomena that are socially important. If analysis has provided us with conceptual and methodological tools, we are ready to make synthesis Metacontingencies can be a useful tool to delineate and understand cultural changes. The notion offers a standing point to new possibilities in the field of culture and cultural selection. A behavioral synthesis involving the known effects of reinforcement and punishment in social relationships can help identify some additional and idiosyncratic effects of cultural change and reaffirm the need for a background in behavioral sciences to deal with the multidisciplinary field of culture and society.


Selection of Cultures at Different Levels of Complexity: What is There for Behavior Analysts?

KALLIU CARVALHO COUTO (oslo and akershus university college), Ingunn Sandaker (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)

Originally, behavior analysis emerged as a science of individual behavior (operant as unit of analysis). With the expansion of its conceptual framework and application of its methodology to subjects matters previously considered as part of other disciplines (e.g. psychopharmacology and anthropology), behavior analysts have reach new areas of study. Even though Skinner (1938, 1948) dealt with cultural issues since his earlier writings, his works often referred to the use of operant contingencies to explain cultural phenomena. Glenn (1986) presents the metacontingency concept as a way to describe selection at the third level (cultural) in its own right. It can be described as a functional relation between interlocking behavioral contingencies (IBCs), and their aggregate products (APs), with a selecting environment. Thus, metacontingency is a conceptual tool that enables analysis of cultural phenomena from a different perspective: Outside the conflict between individual vs. society (Todorov, 2006). We have recently proposed an expansion of cultural analysis within a behavior analytic approach by looking at selection of cultural settings (settings of contingencies) as a different phenomenon than selection of IBCs and APs (Couto & Sandaker, 2016). Here we attempt to refine the conceptual discussion and its implication for behavior analysts aiming at studying the selection of and the evolution of cultural practices.


The Use of the Concepts "Sustainability" and "Sustainable Behavior" in Behavior-Analytic Literature

FELIPE L. LUSTOSA LEITE (University of Fortaleza / Imagine Behavioral Technology), Felícia Glaber Lucena (University of Fortaleza)

Behavior analysts, mainly those involved in the study of cultural practices, have shown interest on topics related to sustainability and sustainable development. However, no clear definition of terms such as sustainability or sustainable behavior is found in behavioral analytic terminology, which can make it difficult for basic and applied researchers to clearly determine which behaviors to measure and what outcomes do expect from research in such field. Thus, the present paper reviews the uses of the terms sustainability and sustainable behavior in papers published in behavior-analytic journals. The database search found 41 papers on the topic. Although most authors mention the Brundtland Commission definition, with focus on three dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social sustainability), the papers found here almost exclusively focus on the environmental dimension (20), generaly using sustainable behavior as a synomym of ecological behavior, although not clearly specifying this. Most of the research found were theoritical or interpretive, but empirical research (4 applied, 3 quasi-experimental and 3 experimental) were also found. We conclude that behavior-analytic research on the topic could benefit from seeking more approximation form advances made in other fields and from investing more effort in empirical research in order to better produce intervention technologies.




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