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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #339
CE Offered: BACB
Training and Tools for Addressing Social Issues Using a Behavior Analytic Perspective: Some Curricular Considerations
Sunday, May 27, 2018
5:00 PM–6:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom D
Area: CSS/TBA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Courtney Moore (University of Kansas)
Discussant: Richard F. Rakos (Cleveland State University)
CE Instructor: Traci M. Cihon, Ph.D.

Behavior analysts have long argued that we can and should be doing more to contribute solutions to the world's most pressing problems. Most social issues involve human behavior; therefore, the natural science of behavior has much to offer. Despite an increase in university-based training programs in the last decade, there is still limited application of our science to address broad and diverse social issues. Through the MATRIX Project, the Behaviorists for Social Responsibility Special Interest Group is identifying barriers to involving various societal sectors in applying behavior analysis to address social and global issues. The MATRIX Project seeks to identify practices that support the utilization of behavior analytic and behavioral systems approaches. This symposium focuses on exploring feasible practices identified for both university-based training programs and faculty including: incorporating coursework and lectures around applications of behavior analysis to social issues; including cultural/behavioral systems level content particularly with emphasis on social issues in curricula; and encouraging students to enroll in related coursework in other disciplines. Each presentation in this symposium provides an example of how social issues have been incorporated into coursework and training in an effort to expand the reach and impact of our science.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): college teaching, curriculum design, social issues, systems
Target Audience:

University faculty

Introducing Students to Behavior Analysis and Social Issues in Basic Principles and Ethics Courses
(Applied Research)
TRACI M. CIHON (University of North Texas; Behaviorists for Social Responsibility )
Abstract: The number of university-based training programs for behavior analysts has increased in the last ten years perhaps as a function of applications of behavior analysis with individuals affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and the growing need for well-trained service providers in this area. Simultaneously, more and more behavior analysts have argued for increased diversity within the application of our science, frequently referencing Skinner’s (1982/1987) paper, Why We Are Not Acting to Save the World? Some (have argued that one reason behavior analysts have not been successful working in more diverse areas is a lack of coursework focused on areas outside of the application of behavior analysis to ASDs. The purpose of this presentation is to provide two examples of how course instructors can introduce students to applications of behavior analysis to social issues in their courses. Fortunately, most graduate training programs in behavior analysis share a common set of courses, particularly those training programs that house a verified course sequence by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Course units introducing students to behavior analysis and social issues in two courses common to BACB verified course sequences: Basic Principles and Ethics will be described.

Can a Behavior Change Project Help to Save the World?

(Applied Research)
CARLOS LOPEZ (University of North Texas), Brennan Patrick Armshaw (University of North Texas), Michaela Smith (University of North Texas), Traci M. Cihon (University of North Texas)

Rittel and Webber (1973) outlined 10 characteristics of "wicked problems". Some might argue that 40 years later these problems have shown an exponential shift toward the worst rather than improving on any measurable dimension. As society falters and people become exasperated with the problems facing them daily, we might ask if behavior analysts are well positioned to work toward the development of solutions for "wicked problems." Further, we might begin to wonder if there are enough behavior analysts to make a cultural shift. Undergraduate studies, for many students, are a time of mass exploration. Introducing undergraduate students to the philosophy of radical behaviorism could prove particularly impactful. In this study, experimenters explored the effects of a behavior change project on undergraduates' identification of functional relations and behavior analytic explanations of their behavior over the course of three semesters. The results suggest that the behavior change project was successful at assisting undergraduates in adopting a behavior analytic worldview. The results are discussed in the context of how behavior change projects might encourage undergraduate students to adopt the philosophy of radical behaviorism. More adopters of this philosophy may prove influential in the quest toward applying behavior analysis to improve the human condition.


CANCELED: Using the Community Tool Box Approach in Resolving Social Issues

(Applied Research)

Drawing upon decades of research in the experimental analysis of behavior and applied behavior analysis, and integrating concepts from the fields of community psychology and community health promotion, this presentation will focus on the use of an Internet-based resource in training and support for community engagement in resolving social problems. The Community Tool Box ( includes training materials on every aspect of intervention development and implementation. It also includes more advanced tools based on implementation science, that range from data collection and analysis (the Community Check Box evaluation system), to an expert systems approach to problem identification and resolution (the CTB Troubleshooting Guide). These tools are used by communities throughout the world to build the capacity of people locally to take effective action in resolving problems of great concern to them. Examples will be shared from a variety of initiatives that include partnerships with local and state governments, federal agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, the World Health Organization, and other partners in community improvement.


Integrating a Multidisciplinary Perspective to Address Large-Scale Social Issues and Action through Behavioral Coursework

(Applied Research)
DARYL E. STEWART (University of Kansas), Jomella Watson-Thompson (University of Kansas)

A multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach may contribute to solving problems of societal importance by modifying environmental and social conditions that support widespread behavior change and improvements across a range of outcomes (e.g., youth development, substance abuse, public safety, income inequality) (Fawcett, Schultz, Watson-Thompson, Fox, & Bremby, 2010). Training in behavior-analytic educational programs and courses may promote behavioral research and action that advances student learning by occasioning conditions for students to contact rewarding multidisciplinary experiences through course activities including community engagement and service-learning opportunities. The presentation shares a gradient of feasible activities for university staff and behavior analysis programs interested in starting or expanding current practices to address societal issues through course and program activities. Examples of undergraduate, graduate, and university-level educational practices will be provided to integrate a behavior analytic perspective for training students to address population-level social issues. A guiding framework will be presented to support a process for providing training in addressing social issues through the use of resources including the Community Tool Box ( To produce students and future community-behavior analytic researchers and practitioners working to solve issues of societal importance, conditions can be created for multidisciplinary and service-learning contingencies from the classroom to the community.




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