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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Symposium #324
CE Offered: BACB
Steeped in Science: How Behavior Analysts Practice from a Scientific System
Sunday, May 26, 2019
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Swissôtel, Lucerne Ballroom Level, Lucerne 1/2
Area: PCH/DDA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jennifer Lynn Hammond (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis (CABA))
CE Instructor: Jennifer Lynn Hammond, Ph.D.

Applied behavior analysis is deeply rooted in the natural sciences – as a natural science, description, prediction, control, objective observation and data-based decision-making necessarily run paramount. The application of our technology to matters of social significance, albeit important, is not complete without consideration of the other aspects that make up a scientific system – namely, the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings that inform our methodology. Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) clearly laid out the dimensions of which our applied science should be comprised, while cautioning practitioners against several pitfalls – a critical one being the consideration that: “The differences between applied and basic research are not differences between that which ‘discovers’ and that which merely ‘applies’ what is already known. Both endeavors ask what controls the behavior under study.” As behavior analysts working in applied realms, area we continuing to operate within the foundations of our scientific system? This symposium will be comprised of three papers directly addressing this question.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Practitioners, students, basic and applied researchers

Learning Objectives: (1) Attendees will identify four components that make up a scientific system. (2) Attendees will describe how operating from a scientist-practitioner model may improve the provision of their services in practice. (3) Attendees will describe at least one method by which the application of behavior analytic services may be enhanced via consideration of our theoretical and philosophical underpinnings.

Got Science?: Science, It Does a Practitioner Good

HEIDI EILERS (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

A scientific system is comprised of four parts (a) philosophy, (b) theory, (c) methodology, and (d) technology. The strength of a scientific system can be evaluated by its ability to have increasingly organized statements that are consistent and cohesive and allow for depth and precision (Hayes, Hayes, & Reese, 1988; Pepper, 1942). With the recent increase in demand for applied behavior analytic services, an emphasis has been placed on training in technology with little emphasis on the philosophical and theoretical roots of behavior analysis. All four parts of a scientific system inform and influence each other. As such, it can be argued that not only is the scientific system weakened, but the technology being used and the methodology used to analyze the effectiveness of technology are also weakened by not developing scientist practitioners who have an understanding of the entire scientific system. This presentation will describe areas in which our ability to describe behavioral phenomenon with precision and scope has been deterred by the lack of training in philosophy and theory, and how this has also impacted the quality of our technology.

A Case for Matching as a Foundation for Practice
(Service Delivery)
BRITTNEY MICHAELS (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis ), Benjamin Thomas Heimann (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis), Rachel Taylor (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis ), Richard Colombo (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis), Jennifer Lynn Hammond (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis (CABA))
Abstract: Choice, or the allocation of responding under a concurrent-schedules arrangement, has been a topic of interest in applied behavior analysis since the earliest years of the field (Ferster & Skinner, 1957) and has been thoroughly explored in foundational research resulting in a quantifiable theory of response allocation, or matching (Herrnstein, 1961; 1974). This foundation of research has since been adapted to applied settings to address the treatment of problem behavior (Myerson & Hale, 1984; Fisher & Mazur, 1997) and has been documented as an explanatory framework for the choices of typical individuals, as well as those with developmental disabilities (Borrero & Vollmer, 2002; Vollmer & Bourret, 2000). Despite this body of established research, the use of the matching law is no longer identified as a necessary skill for practitioners as indicated by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB's) removal of it from the BCBA/BCaBAs Task List (BACB, 5th edition, 2017). The purpose of this presentation is to challenge this de-emphasis of established research – arguing that an understanding of choice, informed by matching, is not only an invaluable skill for any clinician but a foundational principle that will improve practice.
Rethinking Loss: Its Potential Effects on the Value of a Reinforcer
(Applied Research)
RICHARD COLOMBO (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis), Henry D. Schlinger (California State University, Los Angeles), Rachel Taylor (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis )
Abstract: Reinforcer value is a long-studied topic in behavior analysis. Previous researchers have examined the various conditions that produce reliable changes in reinforcer value. Recently, Miller, DeLeon, Toole, Lieving, and Allman (2016) found differences in the behavior of participants who were either exposed to a contingent (CD) or non-contingent (NCD) token-delivery condition that preceded a gambling task. Participants in the CD group (associated with more work) did not gamble as much and obtained more money in the end, relative to those in the NCD group, thereby demonstrating that contingent effort produced a beneficial change in behavior. The authors recommended that future researchers explore how other seemingly aversive events (effort, delay, loss) affect reinforcer value. The purpose of this investigation is to evaluate the role of loss contingencies by comparing progressive ratio breakpoints across two conditions: earn only and earn plus loss. This presentation will outline the literature regarding reinforcer value, discuss preliminary data on the topic of loss and reinforcer value, and propose how the application of reinforcement as an intervention might be enhanced through the consideration of specific aversive arrangements.



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