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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Paper Session #398
Behavior of International Importance: Prejudice and Torture
Monday, May 29, 2017
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Mineral Hall A-C
Area: CSS
Instruction Level: Basic
Chair: Katie DeKraker Ward (Firefly Autism)

Understanding Prejudices and Stereotypes Through the Concept of Categorization and Stimulus Equivalence

Domain: Theory
SUZZANNA JAVED (Teachers College, Columbia University)

The purpose of the paper is to examine the process of learning during the formation of stimulus equivalence and categorization. Categorization is a basic idea; Humans tend to categorize their ideas, perceptions, actions and language (Lakoff, 1987). Responses of similar events and objects are selected and reinforced in different ways. These ways are equivalent to prior learning and this learning can be attributed to similar future events. The responses mastered in different ways are assigned to a response class, which tends to hold many characteristics from prior events and tends to transfer them to future events which ultimately conform to the same class or category (Zentall, Galizio, & Critchfield 2002). Findings of Ackerman (2010) confirmed that learning trials of match to sample across all 5 senses for acquisition of sameness, ultimately led to capacity of sameness with novel stimuli thus demonstrating a process of categorization. Wilkinson and McIlvane (2001) intended to resolve formation of categorization through distinguishing between the symbolic linguistic and rote-learned relations. Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, and Roche (2001) findings also demonstrated a bias for individuals not met before, during the process of the formation of stimulus equivalence and categorization. Trends in behavior analysis have been set to empirically analyze to understand bias in human behavior and language. Will educational methods reduce prejudice once bias have been formed through formation of categorization? Has the constant reinforcement of stereotypes in culture strengthened bias derived relational responding? Is there a correlation between the suppression of prejudice and disturbing thoughts over a span of time?

When Bad Behaviorists Go to War: A Study on United States Interrogation Techniques
Domain: Theory
Abstract: Previous interrogation techniques implemented by the United States military have historically valued the use of aversive procedures, including but not limited to: waterboarding, forced nudity and torture. From 2002 to 2009, psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell were hired by the CIA to design and carry out these enhanced interrogation techniques. Their $81 million project has since been extensively covered by the media, outlining their blatant ethics violations not just within their field of psychology, but to the moral code of humanity. From Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, the recommendations implemented by Jessen and Mitchell have not just been damaging to the integrity of our government, but have proven to be overall ineffective when measuring terrorist compliance. This paper examines our nation’s use of interrogation over the past few decades, and how the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, particularly the use of positive reinforcement, not only improve our nation’s overall reputation from an ethical standpoint, but additionally produce desired behavior change within interrogation sessions.



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