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.


10th International Conference; Stockholm, Sweden; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #106
God, Love, and the Central Nervous System: Tricky Issues in Behavior Analysis
Monday, September 30, 2019
4:30 PM–5:20 PM
Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Level 2, C3
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Karen A. Toussaint (University of North Texas)

The purpose of this symposium is to explore the malleability of the current boundaries of the science of behavior. The first presentation will focus on a radical-behaviorist account of religion and religious behaviors, targeting not only the external variables that maintain “acting religious”, but also the internal factors that exert control over “being religious”. The second presentation will discuss the theoretical, experimental, and applied implications of a more comprehensive analysis of private events, nearly 75-years after B.F. Skinner’s publication of, The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms. The symposium will end with a discussion on the mechanisms that allow plant species to respond to the external environment, as well as evidence that might render it appropriate to include plants into the class of organisms that are capable of learning. Each presentation will additionally discuss the implications of the theme (i.e., religion, private events, and plant learning), as it relates to both the present and the future of a behavior-analytic science.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Plant Learning, Private Events, Religion
On the Distinction Between Acting and Being Religious: The Radical Behaviorist Perspective
SETAREH MOSLEMI (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Analyzing the function of religion and religious behaviors can be exceedingly complicated when it comes to understanding their controlling variables. Most behavioral accounts of religion and religious behaviors have focused on external factors. One study argued that religious behaviors are social behaviors which are learned and maintained through interactions with groups and communities. Another study identified these behaviors as schedule induced as a result of monumental life events. One other analysis indicated that religion functions as an escape from the anxiety of the unknown in the world by providing answers. However, all of these examinations in behavior analysis mainly focus on “acting religious” and not “being religious”. Acting religious is based on all the external factors that could be observed by the community and being religious is based on personal religious experiences. The variables that are involved in the inner feelings that one gets when practicing religious behaviors may be independent of external variables and may require a different sort of analysis. This paper asks if the radical behaviorist perspective is capable of analyzing the variables involved in being religious as much as it analyzes the variables involved in acting religious.
Are We Doing Enough with Private Events?
BRENNAN PATRICK ARMSHAW (University of North Texas), Manish Vaidya (University of North Texas)
Abstract: In 1945 B.F Skinner published The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms, and since then the concept of private events has been amongst the most popular of conceptual conversations in the field of Behavior Analysis. However, despite the vast discussion about the topic, little in our understanding and approach regarding private events has changed. This is despite the progress that has been made in understanding verbal relations and behavior-environment interactions in general as well as our ability to ask pointed questions about the underlying physiology. This paper explores some of the reasons for these limitations and asks what an effective analysis of private events would look like. How would our ability to predict and control human behavior be impacted? What might some of the technologies based on this understanding look like? In this paper, we explore the possibility that Behavior Analysis can provide a naturalistic description of the first-person psychological report. We conclude with the suggestion that there is much room for improvement in the behavioral analysis of private events.
Growing a Science: The Incorporation of Plants into an Analysis of Learning
ELIZABETH MCKAY SANSING (University of North Texas)
Abstract: The framework supplied by the Experimental Analysis of Behavior allows one to talk about behavior-environment interactions generically – without regard to particular details about the kinds of responses involved or the specific nature of the environmental feedback. This framework allows a great deal of prowess in applied and experimental domains. However, do the boundaries of what constitutes an “organism”, a “behaver”, and a “learner” stop here? It might initially seem unconventional to suggest that other living organisms, such as plants, could be capable of learning. It is commonly presumed that animals detect and respond to their environment in unique ways. However, some plant species possess sensory-input mechanisms that parallel those found in the animal kingdom. This paper explores the topic of learning in plants and presents evidence of ontogenetic changes in plant behavior based on environmental input. The paper then explores the implications, for the discipline, of expanding our domain to include organisms without central nervous systems. Perhaps the addition of plant learning into the evolutionary path of behavior science might demonstrate just how universal the principles that govern behavior truly are.



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