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 #366
Towards an Integration of Social Behavior, Metacontingencies and Systems Analysis: Theoretical, Research, and Applied Implications
Sunday, May 26, 2019
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom A
Area: OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Tete Kobla Agbota (Oslo Metropolitan University)

Numerous behavioral researchers have made explicit connections between metacontingencies and behavior systems analysis (see, for example, Abernathy, 2009; Glenn & Malott, 2004; Malott, 2003), emphasizing common theoretical underpinnings based on systems theory. There are some distinctions between these two approaches. Behavior systems analysis has primarily focused on organizational contexts, while research into metacontingencies has often transcended organizational boundaries to examine social behavior and cultural practices in a broader context. In the present symposium, three papers (one theory based, one research based, and one application based) will explore the link between metacontingencies and systems, and the social and organizational contexts within which recurring interactions, jointly maintained by shared consequences, may take place. These interactions may be engineered, as is often the case in formal, organizational contexts, but are also often spontaneous and self-organized in the broader, cultural context. Further, the shared consequences are often inequitably distributed among participants in the chain of interlocking contingencies, leading to suboptimal functioning at individual and/or systems level. Identification and resolution of such inequities is often a key leverage point in creating positive organizational and cultural change.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): metacontigencies, social behavior, system analysis

Basic Concepts in Behavioral System Analysis and Beyond

INGUNN SANDAKER (Oslo Metropolitan University), Kalliu Carvalho Couto (Oslo Metropolitan University), Lucas Couto de Carvalho (Universidade Federal de São Carlos)

Within organized interactions, whether organisms, physical elements or whole eco systems, there are three fundamental properties for defining those interactions as a system. There is the (overall) function, the processes underlining the function, and there is a structure by which the coordinated channels of the processes may be traced (Sandaker, 2009). We may say that the function of a system is its raison d’être. In much the same way, the relation between aggregate product and receiving system in a metacontingency describes its function. The interlocking behavioral contingencies (IBCs) are the processes that maintain the functioning of l, or its overall function. The structure of the system will, to a certain degree, tell us which type of contingencies members exposed to. Structure will therefore be essential to analyze which pattern of behavior and social dynamics contingencies will maintain. We define two kinds of structures based on the work of Todorov (2013); Conservative and Transformative. In the Conservative, links in the IBCs are well established, with little or no room for variation. In the Transformative, patterns of IBCs are more flexible and variable. Conservative structures may become recurrent in highly stables environments or became transformative as environmental demands changes. This presentation will make a parallel between metacontingencies and the three fundamental properties to define it as a system; Function, Process and Structure, focusing on the rules of structures for understanding and changing systems overall function.


Previous Social Interactions With Advantageous Inequity Influence on Aversion to Disadvantageous Inequity

(Basic Research)
KAREN M. LIONELLO-DENOLF (Assumption College), Marcelo Frota Lobato Benvenuti (Universidade de São Paulo)

Cultural and Behavior Systems Analysis demand a strong interface with studies about social behavior. Recent data show that humans and animals may present an aversion to disadvantageous or advantageous distributions of gains. Advantageous inequity (AI) aversion may be more dependent on social and cultural cues than disadvantageous inequity (DI) aversion. Our focus was on how interactions within a dyad may modulate inequity aversion, with attention to the way in which local experience with AI constrains aversion to DI. The experimental procedures involved two phases. In Phase I, we manipulated confederate behavior in a game task (i.e., helpful on 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, or 0% of trials). In Phase II, participants could allow or not allow DI. The data suggest an aversion to inequity: participants did not allow themselves to gain more points in Phase I and were unlikely to let the confederate gain more in Phase II, regardless of how helpful the confederate was in Phase I (see Figure 1). This procedure permitted us to test social influence on DI, which may be important for providing a psychological explanation of cultural differences in aversion to DI. We discuss some theoretical implications of these results.

Behavior Systems Analysis and Metacontingent Self-Organization: A Case Study Demonstrating Synergy Between Two “Paradoxical” Approaches
(Service Delivery)
JONATHAN KRISPIN (Valdosta State University)
Abstract: Abernathy (2009) asserted that the external metacontingencies of an organization must be re-engineered to produce “optimal and sustainable behavior changes” (p. 177). However, Mattaini (2006) suggested that such interventions may have limited efficacy due to self-organizing dynamics present in the extended cultural environment. In the present paper, the apparent paradox that exists between attempts to (re)engineer behavioral systems and the limiting effects of self-organization that are ubiquitous in cultural systems is examined within the context of a large manufacturing plant. Principles of self-organization in metacontingencies will be compared with assumptions of Behavior Systems Analysis, highlighting areas of potential synergy, then the application of these principles will be illustrated via organizational interventions. Prior to intervention, the plant experienced the tension between efforts to “engineer” improvements using process improvement methods and the sub-optimization of these efforts stemming from a management structure based on self-directed/managed work teams. These tensions were addressed and resolved via the implementation of a comprehensive, behavior-based positive reinforcement process built on peer observations and a restructuring of the performance-based incentive plan for the plant, resulting in an organization that was ‘managed without supervision (Abernathy, 2000) and in the achievement of significant performance improvements.



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