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 #525
CE Offered: BACB
Teaching Students to Think Like Behavior Analysts: A Discussion on Teaching Philosophy, Theory, and Conceptual Issues to Students of Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 27, 2019
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Fairmont, Second Level, International Ballroom
Area: TBA/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Bethany P. Contreras Young (Middle Tennessee State University )
Discussant: Bethany P. Contreras Young (Middle Tennessee State University )
CE Instructor: Bethany P. Contreras Young, Ph.D.

It is important for students of behavior analysis to demonstrate a broad understanding of the underlying philosophy, theory, and concepts that will ultimately guide their decision making. This symposium will present a series of discussions on teaching philosophy, theory, and conceptual issues to graduate students pursuing training in behavior analysis. The general goal of this symposium is to discuss the importance of teaching philosophy and theory at the master’s level, and to identify topics that should be included in master’s coursework. Timothy Slocum will discuss teaching philosophy in the context of applied behavior analysis coursework; Andy Lattal will discuss teaching concepts and philosophy in the context of experimental analysis of behavior coursework; Claudia Drossel will discuss the importance of understanding the philosophy of behavior analysis for clinical practitioners; and Anthony Biglan will discuss functional contextualism as a framework for organizing behavioral science and practice. Bethany Contreras will then end the symposium by identifying information from the four presentations to include in a tentative outline for a master’s level course on philosophy, theory, and conceptual issues that will prepare students to “think like a behavior analyst.”

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behaviorism, functional contextualism, radical behaviorism
Target Audience:

The target audience is PhD level behavior analysts who are involved in teaching and training both master's and doctoral level students.

Learning Objectives: 1.) Identify and define important philosophical and theoretical issues 2.) Discuss the importance of including philosophical and theoretical issues in master's level training 3.) Discuss methods for incorporating philosophical and theoretical issues into mater's level coursework and clinical training
Teaching Philosophy in the Context of Applied Behavior Analysis
TIMOTHY A. SLOCUM (Utah State University)
Abstract: Radical Behaviorism provides a powerful philosophical foundation for developing a science focused on the prediction and control of behavior in applied contexts. Teaching the tenets and application of radical behaviorism to graduate students in the context of a program in applied behavior analysis entails two broad tasks: (a) Teaching students to apply the philosophy effectively to a wide range of situations that are within the current scope of behavior analysis and to communicate effectively with behavior analysts, and (b) teaching students to use radical behaviorism as tool for reaching out – to communicate with diverse audiences that are not radical behaviorists and to understand behavior that has not previously been analyzed in behavioral terms. This second task is concerned with whether radical behaviorism has the effect of broadening or narrowing the scope of curiosity, flexibility of the analysis, and the ability to find value in concepts and procedures that are not framed behaviorally.

"The Pigeon Was Able to Discriminate": Conceptual Opportunities and Challenges in Teaching Experimental Analysis of Behavior

KENNON ANDY LATTAL (West Virginia University)

As in teaching other topics in behavior analysis, conceptual opportunities and challenges abound in material related to the basic science. The overriding opportunity/challenge with some students is that of persuading them to suspend the belief system/conceptual framework that they bring with them to the material and open up to what for them is a totally different way of looking at their world. For other students, it is to help refine an already-developing world view. The content of basic science courses lends itself readily to discussions of radical behaviorism’s approach to scientific practices, with such topics as observation and objectivity, data collection and analysis, determinism and causation, and the definitions and use of theory. The scientific content of EAB lends itself equally well to other, perhaps more general, conceptual issues such as mechanism, contextualism, selectionism, agency, intention, privacy, and research ethics. Both the issues and methods for bringing them into focus when teaching EAB, in both the classroom and laboratory, will be the topic of this presentation.


Clinical Behavior Analysis and the Importance of Philosophy

CLAUDIA DROSSEL (Eastern Michigan University)

Eastern Michigan University’s clinical behavior analysis (CB) master’s program prepares students for both the psychology limited license and the board certification in behavior analysis. In preparation for clinical work with general presentations such as mood or stress disorders, students learn about behavior therapies, such as acceptance and commitment therapy, behavioral activation, or dialectical behavior therapy. Later, they receive practical training and supervision. Becoming a clinical behavior analyst requires that students maintain a behavior analytic stance while entering the vernacular language realm. In session, clinicians dual-task: On the one hand, they explicitly coach the client in the active use of behavior change principles, with practice carried out by the client in between-session assignments. On the other hand, there is the context in which this coaching is taking place, particularly the reciprocal interaction of trainee and client. The trainee’s contingent responding in this interaction, taking a behavior analytic long view and considering the case conceptualization, is most difficult to train and to acquire. Video examples will illustrate that a thorough understanding of philosophy and the flexible application of behavior analytic conceptualizations within one’s own interactions are critical in training.



ERIN B. RASMUSSEN (Idaho State University)





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