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 #508
CE Offered: BACB
A Complete Behavior Analyst: Remembering the Life and Work of Maria R. Ruiz (1950–2017)
Monday, May 28, 2018
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Grand Ballroom 10-13
Area: PCH/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Chata A. Dickson (New England Center for Children; Western New England University)
Discussant: Cristina M. Whitehouse (Florida Autism Center)
CE Instructor: Chata A. Dickson, Ph.D.

In this symposium, we celebrate the work of our mentor, Dr. Maria R. Ruiz. Maria's work balanced her commitment to the experimental analysis of behavior, to radical behaviorism, and to the application of behavior analysis in service to individual consumers and humanity at large. Sharing the science, philosophy, and practice of behavior analysis with others was one of the great joys of her life. Presentations will focus on (a) her graduate training and early translational research; (b) her study of social prejudice and discrimination through the lens of derived relational responding; (c) her theoretical and conceptual contributions, particularly with respect to contextualism, radical behaviorism, and feminist theory; and (d) her commitment to empowering her students not only by teaching them about behavior analysis, but also by encouraging perspective taking and critical thinking. In the last minutes of the symposium, an opportunity will be provided for attendees who choose to do so to share their memories of Maria.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Feminism, IRAP, Mentorship, Pragmatic Values
Target Audience:

College graduates and above with training in behavior analysis.

Learning Objectives: Following their attendance at this symposium, if asked to do so, attendees would accurately: 1. Describe pragmatism as a philosophical assumption underlying the science of behavior analysis 2. Describe the problem of stimulus control that is characterized by the term, stimulus overselectivity 3. Describe and provide an example of derived stimulus relations

Pragmatic and Humanistic Values in the Education and Treatment of Individuals With Developmental Disabilities: Contributions and Lessons From Maria Ruiz

(Applied Research)
CHATA A. DICKSON (New England Center for Children; Western New England University)

Maria Ruiz was mentored by Hank Pennypacker at the University of Florida and trained in the experimental analysis of behavior. During her time in graduate school, she conducted translational research addressing problems of learning and behavior in individuals with developmental disabilities. She continued to apply behavior analysis in her work to improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families throughout her career. This presentation will include a description of Dr. Ruiz's research in self-injury and stimulus overselectivity, and a discussion of the pragmatic and humanistic values that were the basis of Dr. Ruiz's approach to educating children with autism.


Maria Ruiz's Contributions to the Science of Prejudice and Discrimination

(Basic Research)
CHRISTEINE M. TERRY (Private Practice)

Maria Ruiz was a tireless advocate for groups who experience prejudice and discrimination. Her dedication in this area is reflected in her work on a behaviorist conceptualization of the development of implicit prejudice and discrimination. Working in collaboration with Bryan Roche and his colleagues, she demonstrated that implicit prejudice (i.e., verbal relations that may not be readily tacted by individuals) could be created in the laboratory using a derived relational responding task involving arbitrary stimuli (Gavin, Roche, & Ruiz, 2008). Expanding on their work, Maria and her colleagues developed the Function Acquisition Speed Test (FAST) as a behavioral alternative to implicit measures (e.g., the Implicit Association Test). The FAST is both a method of training stimulus equivalence classes and a tool for assessing the emergence of non-reinforced (i.e., derived) relations among stimuli. Providing a behavioral measure and understanding of implicit prejudice and discrimination avoids the difficulties inherent in mentalistic ontologies and points toward possible methods of changing discriminatory behaviors. This talk will examine Marias work in implicit prejudice and discrimination, as well as potential future directions and implications.


Revisiting the Alliance Between Feminism and Behavior Analysis: The Conceptual Work of Maria R. Ruiz


In this presentation, the evolution of Maria Ruiz's (1950–2017) conceptual writings on the alliance between feminist epistemology and radical behaviorism will be revisited. Over 20 years ago, Ruiz's (1995) groundbreaking paper on the points of contact in feminist and behavior analytic theories appeared in Psychology of Women Quarterly. Written primarily for a feminist audience, Ruiz argued that radical behaviorism's appeal to a contextual understanding of human behavior was similar in kind to a feminist epistemology grounded in the experiences of women and other marginalized groups. Behavior analysis also offers feminism an understanding of human behavior that rejects the personal pathologization of behavior that feminists agree have environmental determinants in oppressive sociopolitical systems. Further, behavior analytic principles have the potential to enhance acts of resistance, the means by which we increase the likelihood that cultural practices are designed for the good of all. While the alliance between feminism and behavior analysis has long had the potential to strengthen both disciplines, it has yet to be fully realized by either community. As behavior analysts look to broaden their impact on social issues, Ruiz's call to action has taken on renewed urgency during this particularly volatile time in our cultural history.


Maria Ruiz and Her Legacy of Feminist Pedagogy at Rollins College

KIMBERLY NIX BERENS (Fit Learning: New York)

Maria Ruiz will be remembered for many contributions to our field—theory, philosophy, science, application. However, her pedagogical contributions may prove to be paramount. Over her 36 years as a professor in the psychology department at Rollins College, Dr. Ruiz created distinctions for her students that allowed them to find their own voices and question traditional cultural practices—within and outside of psychology. Her feminist pedagogy led to the development of sophisticated critical thinking skills and empowerment for the many students she mentored. The current paper will illustrate the importance of Dr. Ruiz's unique pedagogical practices with respect to the advancement of our science and our ability to impact the world.




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