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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #48
CE Offered: BACB — 
A Flat Earth or Behavioral Full Worldview: The Need for Behavior Analysts to Rely Upon the Fundamentals of Our Science
Saturday, May 23, 2020
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M1, University of D.C. / Catholic University
Area: PCH/TBA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jonathan W. Ivy (The Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg )
Discussant: Shawn P. Quigley (Melmark)
CE Instructor: Jonathan W. Ivy, Ph.D.

As access to information increases with internet searches and almost instantaneous global communication, behavior analysts become exposed to a wide-variety of perspectives and strategies for treatment implementation. This exposure can cause behavior analysts’ worldview to shift from applying the theoretical foundations of behavioral science to incorporating other worldviews (e.g., mentalistic, non-scientifically supported theories) into their clinical practice. Some behavior analysts have confused the technologies of behavior analysis (e.g., curricula, assessments, etc.) for behavior analysis itself or have not adopted a behavioral worldview. “If this were a theoretical issue only, we should have no cause for alarm; but theories affect practice… Confusion in theory means confusion in practice” (Skinner, p. 9, 1968). This symposium, which includes four presentations and a discussion, will examine the variables that impact the shift to or away from a behavior analytic "worldview", the necessity for incorporating a behavioral worldview into ethical practice, and the impact for not utilizing a behavioral worldview.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral philosophy, behaviorism, ethics, theory gap
Target Audience:

Practicing behavior analysts, students of behavior analysis, clinical supervisors.

Learning Objectives: 1) Define worldview and adequately describe the behavioral worldview. 2) State the impact of philosophical coursework on the evolution of worldview. 3) Differentiate between a “point-and-click behaviorist” and a “world view behaviorist”. 4) Differentiate between an open and closed worldview, and why the former is more likely to lead to scientific advancement than the latter.

One Worldview to Rule Them All

(Service Delivery)
RONALD LEAF (Autism Partnership), Thomas L. Zane (University of Kansas), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), Justin B. Leaf (Autism Partnership Foundation), Joseph H. Cihon (Autism Partnership Foundation; Endicott College)

A worldview is the lens through which we look and make sense of the world. A worldview constructs the foundation of what we believe, and dictates how we explain, assess, and deal with the phenomena of interest. Behavior analysts, through their training, are exposed to and supposedly embrace the worldview of behaviorism and all that that means, such as adherence to scientific attitude and practice, that informs our assessment and treatment of behavior. However, there is accumulating evidence that behavior analysts are using and supporting treatments and interventions that are not based upon the behavior-analytic worldview or conceptualization of behavior. Such practice hurts consumers, hurts our field, and demonstrates ethical disarray on the part of the behavior analyst. Behavior analysts have an ethical and practical responsibility to adhere only to behaviorism as their worldview and behave according to only its tenets and philosophy.

Can a Science of Teaching Teach a Scientific Worldview?
KIMBERLY MARSHALL (CCSN: Center for Independence; Endicott College)
Abstract: It is evident that the concepts and principles of behavior analysis are well defined. However, it is less evident that behavior analysts have a thorough understanding of the philosophy of their science. Despite the wealth of resources available and coursework requirements in philosophy, it has been demonstrated that many behavior analysts do not hold a behavior analytic worldview (Bailey & Burch, 2016; Oliver, Pratt, & Normand, 2015; Schreck, Karunaratne, Zane, & Wilford, 2016). A worldview, the standpoint through which one interprets their environment, influences treatment choice and the quality of intervention that clients receive. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board®, has announced upcoming changes that will hopefully improve adherence to a behavior analytic worldview, including revised course content requirements to include 90 hours on the philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis with the implementation of the 5th Edition Task List in 2022 (BACB, 2017b). Consequently, research into the effectiveness of coursework targeted at teaching the philosophical underpinnings of applied behavior analysis in teaching a behavior analytic worldview grounded in a philosophy of science is necessary and timely. Preliminary data will be presented on the impact of philosophical coursework on the evolution of worldview in students of behavior analysis, and the results will be discussed with regard to additional training interventions.

The Point-and-Click Behaviorist or a Behavioral World View Behaviorist: Where is Our Field Heading?

(Service Delivery)
KIMBERLY A. SCHRECK (Penn State Harrisburg), Jonathan W. Ivy (The Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg )

Despite ethical requirements that behavior analysts function under a behavioral world view, it appears that some behavior analysts have adapted more of a conspiracy theory – flat earth world view not based upon our science. In fact, evidence indicates that some behavior analysts believe that the behavioral world view only applies to specific populations and age groups – not the full earth. This may be due to a lack of understanding and application of the fundamental philosophy of the science or an over-reliance on marketing behavioral analysis to specific populations and commercialized guides as easy to use as a point-and-click google search. Marketing may have been appropriately conducted to disseminate to the public behavior analysis’ effectiveness for specific populations, it may have marketed too well – changing behavior analysts’ world view. Although curriculum and guides initially may have been appropriately developed to assist behavior analysts, but not replace the fundamental applications of the science, the over reliance on their simplicity may be replacing the comprehensive understanding and use of the behavioral world view and application of such. Without a thorough understanding and application of a comprehensive behavioral worldview, behavior analysts may evolve into superficial and unethical, point-and-click behavioral technicians and not analysts.

If You Want to Have a Worldview, You Probably Should Get Out to See the World
(Service Delivery)
JAMES T. TODD (Eastern Michigan University)
Abstract: Until recently, it would have been typical to find behavior analysts trained in or at least heavily exposed to other fields of psychology, and other fields altogether. Because they had seen other things they had good reason to understand the conceptual advantages of the radical behaviorist worldview. Now we have behavior analysts trained entirely in dedicated applied behavior analysis programs, increasingly taught by people with similar training, using a largely proscribed syllabus, seeing little or nothing apart from what will be helpful for successfully remediating a fairly narrow range of behavior problems in a fairly narrow range of the population. That is, they might know a lot about certain kinds of contingencies, but they probably do not know about behavior as a general matter, its range and richness, full of things we cannot begin to explain (and hardly ever try to). That is, their worldview will not be so much about behavior generally, but about those things that their contingencies can encompass and do something about. Radical behaviorism, the philosophy of a science, will be replaced by “radical proceduralism,” the philosophy of a profession. An open worldview designed to broaden inquiry risks being replaced by a closed worldview, one focused on just those things it can deal with, falsely confident it has all the answers because it only knows to ask certain kinds of questions.



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