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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #232
Discrimination, Microaggressions, and Perpetrator Blame: Behavioral Conceptualizations of Problematic Interpersonal Behavior from Social Psychology
Sunday, May 24, 2020
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Level M4, Liberty N-P
Area: CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Eva Lieberman (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Some of the most compelling interpersonal behaviors are those that cause harm to ourselves, others, and the group, but are highly probable in most cultures. These problematic interpersonal behaviors have typically been approached from a social psychology perspective, which has offered little progress in explaining these behaviors in a way that directly implicates ways to reduce them. This group of papers take phenomena typically studied from a social psychology lens and apply a behavior analytic perspective. Social psychologists examine discrimination, microaggression, and blame as phenomena that groups engage in, and explain these behaviors by offering group-based explanations. Behavior analysis takes into account each person, their learning histories, and the function that the behavior has for them. In order to best understand how and why individuals engage in these behaviors that have such negative effects on others, it is important to study them as we would any other behavior. Through operationally defining these behaviors, examining manipulable controlling contexts, and ultimately determining the functions of these behaviors, the authors hope to conceptualize discrimination, microaggression, and perpetrator blame in a way that provides a foundation for behavioral approaches to research and intervention.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Discrimination, Microaggression, Perpetrator Blame
A Behavioral Conceptualization of Discrimination in the Workplace
KRISTEN BLACK (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (70503), Manyu Li (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Social discrimination is a longstanding issue in the United States that has become increasingly problematic of late. Discrimination is often associated with negative effects for the person discriminated against including harm to physical health, psychological well-being, and work-related outcomes. With recent surges in hate incidents and discrimination complaints, discrimination is a timely social concern that must not be overlooked. And yet, most analyses of discrimination do little to identify factors that can be directly manipulated to decrease discrimination. In this way, a conceptual behavioral analysis of social discrimination provides insight into the contingencies under which discriminatory behaviors occur, and thus, potential means of intervention to reduce such behavior. The current body of work provides a preliminary behavioral conceptual analysis of social discrimination, using the specific example of workplace discrimination. This paper will define social discrimination as a functional operant class, discuss uniquely behavioral research directions, and propose possible contextual manipulations for decreasing the frequency of discrimination in the workplace.
A Behavioral Conceptualization of Racial Microaggressions
NIA JACKSON (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (70503)
Abstract: Racism in today’s social climate often takes a more hidden and indirect form, particularly as racial microaggressions. Racial microaggressions are every day, subtle, indirect and discriminatory behavior directed towards a racial and/or ethnic person or people. Microaggressions have been shown to have detrimental effects on people of color, ranging from poorer psychological health to poorer academic achievement and unproductivity in the workplace. Despite increasing awareness of microaggressions, the scientific literature has been limited with respect to exploring the functions of microagressions and producing empirically supported interventions for reducing them. It may be that a behavioral conceptualization of microagressions could promote scientific progress on both of these fronts. In this behavioral conceptual analysis of racial microaggressions, the term will be defined with examples from higher education and discussed through the lens of operant behavior. Lastly, possible contextual behavioral interventions will be offered that might minimize racial microaggressions, along with a proposal for a program of applied behavior analytic research that could serve to support the development of such interventions.
A Behavioral Conceptualization of Perpetrator Blame
EVA LIEBERMAN (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (70503)
Abstract: The way that blame is attributed to both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence has been a point of contention in the United States. This has become more prominent and has been emphasized by the media in several well publicized cases, including People v. Brock Turner (2016) and more recently, the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the subsequent appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Blame attribution has typically been studied through a social psychology lens, but to further understand how and why these inappropriate and harmful misattributions occur, it is important to investigate this phenomenon from a behavioral perspective. This paper will conceptualize perpetrator blame from a behavioral approach. The paper will address the current body of work around perpetrator blame and its background in social psychology, as well as the contexts in which perpetrator blame is examined. This paper will also take steps to describe perpetrator blame in behavioral terms and make recommendations for future research on perpetrator blame from a behavior analytic perspective.



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