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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #213

Don Baer Lecture: A Better Mousetrap is Not Enough: Rethinking the Dissemination of Behavior Analysis

Sunday, May 26, 2019
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom EF
Area: PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Ronnie Detrich, Ph.D.
Chair: Mark D. Shriver (Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center)
RONNIE DETRICH (Detrich and Associates)

Ronnie Detrich has been providing behavior analytic services for over 50 years. His work can be characterized as thorough-going behavior analysis drawing from the conceptual, experimental, and applied branches of our discipline. From 1970-1977, he worked at a pioneering Family Service Agency in Flint, Michigan providing behavior analytic services for anyone requesting help. Later, he developed and was the director of a state-wide educational and residential program for school-aged children with autism in South Dakota. In the 1980s, Ronnie was the director of a residential program based on the Teaching Family Model for adjudicated juvenile offenders in West Virginia. From 1986-2004, he was the clinical director for a large non-public school in the San Francisco Bay Area serving children with intellectual disabilities and serious behavior challenges. In addition, he also co-directed a public-school consultation project supporting students with academic and behavioral challenges. From 2004-2018, Ronnie was a Senior Fellow at the Wing Institute, an education policy think tank that focuses on the implementation of evidence-based practices in public schools. Currently, he is the proprietor of Detrich and Associates, a consulting project based in Logan, Utah. He also holds an appointment as adjunct faculty at Utah State University.

In recent years, Ronnie’s work has focused on the challenges of achieving adequate levels of treatment integrity in large systems, the role of the evidence-based practice movement in behavior analysis, and the large-scale implementation of effective practices in public schools. He is a trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and is on the editorial boards of Perspectives in Behavior Science and Exceptional Children. He serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Positive Behavior Intervention. Ronnie has also served on the editorial board of Behavior Analysis in Practice and was the Coordinator of ABAI’s Practice Board.


One of the ambitions of behavior analysis is “better living through behaviorism.” Many scholars in behavior analysis have been concerned about the slow adoption rate of effective behavior analytic practices. Perhaps the problem lies not in our practices but in our dissemination efforts. There are two aspects to disseminating our practices. The first is when we are working with families, educators, or businesses and we have identified an intervention to be implemented. In many instances, even though our services have been sought out, the individuals responsible for implementing the intervention do not do so with sufficient integrity to yield benefit. This represents a limited dissemination effort and the failure to achieve promised gains has the potential to harm the reputation of the individual behavior analyst, the organization providing the service, and the discipline of applied behavior analysis.

The second aspect of dissemination is the effort to increase broad scale adoption of the science and technology of behavior analysis. It is often the case that our dissemination efforts, such as publication in journals and presentations at conferences, at this level are passive. We have a 60-year baseline suggesting that these approaches have been largely unsuccessful. A re-thinking of our dissemination strategies may be warranted. Behavior analysis is the science of social influence and dissemination is a social rather than a technical challenge. It involves, at a minimum, someone disseminating and someone adopting what is being disseminated. It may be worthwhile to frame dissemination as a speaker-listener relation and more closely analyze the variables that influence both the speaker and listener.

A first step in doing this requires that we move away from our topographical definition of dissemination to a functional one. The ultimate criterion for judging dissemination is that a practice is adopted. Without adoption, there is no dissemination. Drawing from our own literature as well as the literature from implementation science and dissemination, an approach will be proposed that has the potential to increase the adoption rate of our practices.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) provide a functional definition of dissemination; (2) describe two levels of dissemination; (3) describe how treatment integrity can influence dissemination; (4) describe the limitations of publications and conferences presentations as dissemination strategies.



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Modifed by Eddie Soh