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; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Special Event #18
CE Offered: BACB
Opening Event and Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis Award Ceremony
Saturday, May 23, 2020
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Chair: Mark A. Mattaini (Jane Addams College of Social Work-University of Illinois at Chicago)
CE Instructor: Mark A. Mattaini, Ph.D.

SABA Award for Distinguished Service: The Social Tissue and the Salamander’s Tail


What makes us human? That is an old question, much older than the modern division of science. Today anthropogeny tries to explain the origin of humans with a multidisciplinary approach. To answer that question one first has to define culture. For some biology researchers, “culture is information that is capable of affecting individuals’ behaviour, which they acquire from other individuals through teaching, imitation and other forms of social learning. Here, ‘information’ includes knowledge, beliefs, values and skills.”. In behavior analysis, Skinner has shown a definition that can cover all of the meanings of previous attempts, with the advantage of specifying what and how it is learned; in his own words, “the usefulness of any lawful relation depends on the sharpness of reference of the terms in which it is stated.” In behavioral terms, culture is the set of conditional relations, or contingencies, which regulates the power to reinforce or punish members of a group. Large groups usually have some controlling agencies for different kinds of behavior.

This award will be accepted by Julia Todorov-Thomsen on behalf of João Todorov.

JOÃO TODOROV (Universidade de Brasilia)
Dr. Todorov received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University. He held faculty positions at the University of Virginia at Fredericksburg and the University of São Paulo at Riberiao Preto before his appointment at the University of Brasília in 1973, where he has spent most of his career. Retired since 200o, he is professor emeritus and also still serves as a researcher. From 2000–2009, he was a professor at the Catholic University of Goiás. Dr. Todorov’s career as a behavior analyst includes a remarkable range of achievements in research, education, and service to his discipline and his country. At Brasília, Dr. Todorov served variously as department chair, dean of graduate studies and research, vice-president, and president of the university, all while leading generations of Brazilians to behavior analytic research and academic careers that continue his legacy, and helping to secure a place for behavior analysis in the nation’s academic governance. His scholarly contributions span important basic research topics (e.g., multiple and concurrent schedules, avoidance, and pharmacology), applications to the solution of societal problems—his more recent focus, and dissemination of behavior analysis to the public (with more than 150 articles in the Brazilian media). Dr. Todorov’s many contributions have been widely recognized—by the Brazilian government with the Cross of the Ordem de Rio Branco, by SABA with the Award for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis, and by an award from the Ibero-American Federation of Psychological Associations.

SABA Award for Scientific Translation: On the Complexity of Discounting (and People)


Although steep delay discounting is associated with various behavioral problems (e.g., substance abuse), it is best not conceived of as a character flaw such as impulsivity. Such a view, while part of a centuries-old tradition, does not distinguish between actions whose outcomes involve gains and losses, or between delayed outcomes and probabilistic outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that how steeply an individual discounts one of these kinds of outcome often is independent of how steeply they discount other kinds. Therefore, consistent with a behavior-analytic view, we advocate an approach that does not require making judgments about the character of the individual. We show that when drug- (i.e., cocaine, nicotine) dependent individuals are compared with controls, a substantial number of the drug-dependent individuals discount delayed monetary rewards less steeply than the average (median) member of the control group. Moreover, a substantial number of the controls discount more steeply than the average drug-dependent individual. Finally, many everyday choice situations differ from those studied in most discounting experiments in that they involve both gains and losses as well as qualitatively different outcomes that may be both delayed and probabilistic. Past research on discounting that focused on simpler choice situations has provided a solid foundation, but research on more complicated situations is needed. The principles revealed by such research both inform the choices of treatment providers and improve our understanding of the complicated decisions that people face every day.

LEONARD GREEN (Washington University in St. Louis)

Len Green received his undergraduate degree from the City College of New York (CCNY) and his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. After completing post-doctoral research, he ventured west of the Mississippi (despite thinking he still would remain east of the river) where he is Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences and Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Director of Undergraduate Studies. His research concerns choice and decision-making in rats, pigeons, and people, with a particular interest in models of self-control, impulsivity, and choice and decision-making. He is one of the developers of ‘behavioral economics,’ a transdisciplinary field that combines the experimental methodology of psychology with the theoretical constructs of economics. He is co-author of the book Economic Choice Theory: An Experimental Analysis of Animal Behavior, and editor of Advances in Behavioral Economics, the third volume of which is subtitled Substance Use and Abuse. His research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Aging, and the McDonnell Center for Higher Brain Function. He served on the Executive Board of the Society for the Quantitative Analysis of Behavior (SQAB), was President of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (SEAB), and was Editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB). He is a Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), and was President of Division 25 (Behavior Analysis) of the American Psychological Association. He received the Victor G. Laties Award for Lifetime Service from the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior in 2018.


SABA Award for Dissemination: Embracing Challenges and Abolishing Stereotypes to Support the Growth of Behaviour Analysis in the United Kingdom


When I arrived at the University of South Wales (then the University of Glamorgan) in 2008, I was the sole behaviour analyst in a department comprised mainly of cognitive and health psychologists. Hired to lead an undergraduate programme in child development, I immediately began the task of infusing behaviour analysis into any space I could find or create. Since that time, I have worked with a team of incredible colleagues to build undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in behaviour analysis, develop the first university-based behaviour analysis clinic in Europe, and capitalise on opportunities to demonstrate the breadth and power of behaviour analysis across underserved populations and settings. In this presentation, I will share some of the outcomes of these endeavours and analyse the contingencies that generated them.

JENNIFER AUSTIN (University of South Wales)

Jennifer L. Austin received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Florida State University, where she had the privilege of studying under the supervision of Dr. Jon Bailey. For over 20 years, she has worked as a behaviour analytic researcher and clinician, whilst also playing a key role in the development of behaviour analysis programmes in the United States and the United Kingdom. She currently serves as Professor of Psychology and Head of Behaviour Analysis at the University of South Wales, where directs the MSc Behaviour Analysis and Therapy and PgDip Behaviour Analysis Supervised Practice programmes. She also serves as the Clinical Director of the USW Behaviour Analysis Clinic, which is the only university-based behaviour analysis clinic in Europe. Dr. Austin’s research and clinical interests have focussed primarily on behaviour analytic applications in mainstream education, as well as applying our science to populations that are relatively underserved by the field, including children who have experienced trauma and prisoners. She has been a key driver in the development of the UK Society for Behaviour Analysis, which seeks to protect consumers of behaviour analysis, whilst also working toward professional recognition of behaviour analysts in the UK. Dr. Austin has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and is a former associate editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavior Analysis in Practice, and Education and Treatment of Children.


SABA Award for Dissemination: Behaviour Analysis in Ireland: Sustained Growth From Small Beginnings


Serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. So, it was serendipitous that Jock Millenson, a Columbia PhD in operant conditioning, moved to London in the 1960’s, because this led to the beginnings of behaviour analysis in Ireland in the 1970’s. By the late ‘60’s Jock had a research position at Oxford University and in a brief time window he taught me at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and introduced me to Leo Baker who was in a faculty position at Trinity College Dublin. When I moved to Northern Ireland in the mid-70’s, Leo and I established a small group to support behaviour analysis in Ireland. This began as entirely concerned with EAB but gradually became more involved with ABA. To help deal with applied and professional issues it morphed into the Division of Behaviour Analysis of the Psychological Society of Ireland around 15 years ago. Now, behaviour analysis is taught in most of the universities in Ireland, North and “South”, and there are three well-established ABA Masters programs. Masters and Doctoral graduates from Irish programs are in teaching and professional roles across the world, including a group of Ulster graduates in the Middle East. Researchers trained in this Irish network have contributed substantially in both basic and applied fields. It has been a great pleasure to witness this growth which I am sure will continue.

JULIAN LESLIE (Ulster University)

I obtained my doctorate in Experimental Psychology from Oxford University in 1974 since when I have been in academic posts in Northern Ireland where I have been a full professor since 1986. I published textbooks on behaviour analysis in 1979, 1996, 2000, 2002. As well as teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses, I have successfully supervised 48 students who have obtained PhDs in fields including, experimental analysis of behaviour, applied behaviour analysis, psychopharmacology, behavioural neuroscience, experimental psychology, applied psychology. Three PhD’s were concerned with behavioural strategies to address environmental issues. In 1977 I was co-founder of the group, Behaviour Analysis in Ireland which became a chapter of ABAI. In 2004, the group became the Division of Behaviour Analysis of the Psychological Society of Ireland, and I am currently the Division chair. I organised the Third European Meeting for the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour in Dublin, Ireland 1999, and have co-organised 13 annual conferences of the Division of Behaviour Analysis from 2007 to 2019, variously in Dublin, Galway and Athlone. I have been a keynote speaker at the European Association for Behaviour Analysis in Milan in 2006, in Crete, Greece in 2010, at the Brazilian Association for Behaviour Analysis, Salvador 2011, and at the 30th International Conference of the Spanish Society for Comparative Psychology 2018, and at the 10th International Conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis International in Stockholm, September 2019.


SABA Award for Programmatic Contributions: Bettering the World: Creating Population-Level Change Using Behavior Analysis


In 1968, Baer, Wolf and Risley wrote: “Better applications [of behavioral science], it is hoped, will lead to a better state of society, to whatever extent the behavior of its members can contribute to the goodness of a society.” I grew up with that idea and passion—even before I was their student, but they had the practical science. Only a few things from ABA have been brought to population-level scale—with measured population-level benefits. My talk is how my colleagues and I have achieved population-level impact on violence, mental health, addictions and academics using ABA and other proven science. The driving example in this talk, and paper, uses the Good Behavior Game, because it was the first ABA publication on a whole classroom implementation of ABA. Scaling up and scaling out GBG is a function having worked with Sesame Street, implementing my national child-safety effort in NZ, implementing an ABA tobacco control strategy, and understanding and building a business based on sales rather than grants. Achieving population-level benefits with ABA is unlikely to happen as a direct result of an NIH grant. The contingencies are not aligned. Both the Good Behavior Game at micro level and as our international prevention-science company involve selection by consequences to achieve the vision that Baer, Wolf and Risley envisioned. My talk lays a step-by-step pathway to population-level impact of ABA informed prevention science that Don, Mont and Todd foresaw 50 years ago, but did not live to see. From these lessons, we might succeed in bettering the world they predicted.


Dennis D. Embry received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, focused on using ABA for population-level efforts with Sesame Street and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety—ultimately implementing that work throughout New Zealand. Dr. Embry is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson, and co-investigator at both Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.  Founded in 1998, PAXIS Institute is an international prevention science company, focused on preventing mental, emotional, behavioral and related physical disorders at population-level. He is a SAMHSA/CMHS National Advisory Council member, the board of the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, and the scientific advisory board of the Children’s Mental Health Network. In the 1990s, he implemented the first RCT at population-level to reduce youth violence (PeaceBuilders) using ABA principles. In 1999, he began replicating the longitudinal Hopkin’s studies of the Good Behavior Game. Today Dr. Embry’s prevention efforts affecting more than one million children in 38 states, multiple provinces of Canada, and EU countries with multiple studies showing population-level reduction of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders using PAX GBG and evidence-base kernels. As grad student, Dr. Baer (his advisor) asked Dennis why he wanted to study ABA having a political and history background, the answer: “I want to use science to make our world a better place for children.”


SABA Award for Effective Presentation in the Mass Media: Expanding the Frame of Behavior Analysis and Communicating With the Media


A fortunate part of my early academic environment was exposure to behavior analysis, which has been critical to my investigation of drugs, addiction, risk behavior, and therapeutic pharmacology. One topic is behavioral economic demand analysis, which I have used to examine the relations among tobacco products, such as traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and the effects of a potential cigarette nicotine-reduction policy. Another topic within the realm of behavioral economics is delay discounting. I have conducted studies helping to identify delay discounting as a fundamental behavioral process underlying addiction across a variety of drugs. My research has applied delay discounting to understand risky sexual behavior in the form of condom use decisions. My drug administration studies show that cocaine and alcohol acutely increase sexual risk behavior by decreasing likelihood of condom use through a delay discounting mechanism. I have conducted drug administration studies with drugs from nearly all drug classes, investigating abuse liability and behavioral effects. These have included first-in-humans studies and studies of novel or atypical drugs such as salvinorin A, the active agent in Salvia divinorum. Finally, I have conducted extensive research with the psychedelic drug psilocybin, including studies showing large long-term reductions in depression and anxiety in cancer patients, and high smoking cessation success rates in treatment-resistant smokers. Overall, my research has provided me the opportunity to speak to the media about a larger number of topics such as: the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs; novel psychoactive drugs largely unknown to the public; the risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and other drugs; the effects of drugs on sex and sexual risk, and the changing landscape of tobacco/nicotine and cannabis products. My behavior analytic background has not only been instrumental in conducting my research, but also in responsibly communicating about these topics to the public.

MATTHEW JOHNSON (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)

Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., has broad expertise on psychoactive drugs, addiction, and risk behavior. Early contributions include research contributing to the recognition that delay discounting, or the devaluation of future consequences, is a fundamental behavioral process broadly relevant to addiction. His early research also validated methods and developed analytic techniques that have since become widely adopted in delay discounting research. He has conducted tobacco/nicotine research throughout his career, determining the role of nicotine and nonpharmacological factors in tobacco use and addiction. This includes recent research on e-cigarettes and current research funded by the Food and Drug Administration using behavioral economics to evaluate cigarettes with potentially modified risk. Applying behavioral economics to sexual risk behavior, Matt has conducted seminal research implicating delay discounting in condom use decisions. He published the first human research determining the effects of cocaine administration on sexual decision making and risk, providing important information for addressing the high rates of HIV among cocaine users. Matt is also a leading expert on the effects of psychedelic drugs and has conducted seminal work that has expanded basic and therapeutic interest in these compounds, including research suggesting potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin in cancer-related psychiatric distress and smoking cessation. He has conducted studies administering nearly all classes of psychoactive drugs. Matt has published 119 articles and chapters including studies on cocaine, tobacco/nicotine, methamphetamine, alcohol, psilocybin, dextromethorphan, salvinorin A, GHB, cannabis, opioids, benzodiazepines, and cathinone-like compounds (“bath salts”). He has been internationally sought as a science communicator on psychoactive drugs and addiction, being interviewed by the CBS 60 Minutes, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Show, Fox Business News, BBC, National Public Radio including Morning Edition and the Kojo Nnamdi Show, Labyrint (a public television show in the Netherlands), the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, the Daily Mail, USA Today, CBS News, the Baltimore Sun, the Atlantic, the Washingtonian, Psychology Today, Scientific American, and Nature, among others. Matt was quoted and his research was described in Michael Pollan’s best-selling book How to Change Your Mind: How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.




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