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 #224
CE Offered: BACB
Romantic Love, Altruism, and the Self in Behavior Analytic Perspective
Sunday, May 27, 2018
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Grand Ballroom 10-13
Area: PCH/CBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Genevieve M. DeBernardis (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University)
CE Instructor: Ruth Anne Rehfeldt, Ph.D.

While behavior analysts have focused their attention on a variety of socially important topics over the years, relatively less attention has been given to other topics, especially those which involve what may be considered complex human behavior. The first presentation focuses on one intersection of some of these topics, and addresses the topics altruism, selfishness, and the self. In particular, the first presentation aims to re-conceptualize the common distinction between altruistic and selfish behavior as well as the more general distinction between the self and others. While many topics are avoided because of their complexity, other topics may even be seen as beyond the scope of what a science of behavior could possibly address. The second presentation focuses on one such topic, that of Romantic Love. Indeed, while the topic may seem to be too difficult, complex, or in some way beyond that which the science of behavior could address, the second paper provides an alternative view. The discussant will provide commentary, identify common themes, and point to additional research needed such that an increasingly comprehensive natural science of behavior may continue to develop.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Advanced graduate students, BCBAs interested in complex behavior, researchers, teachers, etc.

Altruism, Selfishness, and Finding Your Self
MITCH FRYLING (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: While definitions of altruism vary, altruistic behavior may be broadly defined as behaving for the benefit of others, with no apparent benefit to the individual engaging in the altruistic act. The notion that behavior might occur in the absence of a clear reinforcer (i.e., without “benefit to the individual”) is contrary to behavioral thinking, however, especially that derived from common operant paradigms. The present presentation considers definitions of altruism and reviews behavior analytic treatments of the topic. In doing so, behavior that is engaged in for the benefit of one’s own self, selfish behavior, is also considered. Finally, as both of these topics pertain to the broad construct of the self, specific attention is given to the conceptualization of the self in behavior analytic perspective. In particular, the distinction between one’s self and others is considered, called into question, and reconstructed. In providing this alternative construction of the self the distinction between both altruistic and selfish behavior is also reconsidered.
Romantic Love in Scientific Perspective
LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Complex psychological events, particularly those with substantial emotional components such as love, grief and rage, have received relatively little analytic attention from behavior scientists. This lack of attention is defended on several grounds. First, emotional actions are too poorly conceptualized as to make their incorporation into the analyses of complex problems profitable. Other legitimate difficulties arise from the need to find suitable units of analysis and useful metrics given both the complexity of such circumstances and the fact that more than one person’s behavior is typically at issue. Some reasons for the neglect of such events are without merit, however. For example, behavior scientists have claimed that the pattern of behavior we call love, while subject to scientific analysis, is nonetheless shrouded in mystery – a mystery that cannot be dispelled and is best left alone. The aim of this paper is to take issue with this argument, and to do so through a scientific examination of romantic love.



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