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; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #246
Behavior Analysis and Social Structures
Sunday, May 24, 2020
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Area: OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Kalliu Carvalho Couto (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Discussant: Tete Kobla Agbota (Oslo Metropolitan University)

Developments in complexity science have highlighted the importance of social structures in explaining behavior. In network science, structures are understood as emergent webs of interactions within organizations and social groups. Different conceptual perspectives such as behavioral systems analysis and metacontingencies have attempted to bring a system perspective to behavior analysis. Although Skinner and Catania (in Catania & Harnad, 1988) recognized the value of considering structure when explaining behavior in the context of complex social interactions, such analysis is not often adopted in behavioral analysis. Understanding social structures opens for a behavior analytic investigation of variety of phenomena studied by complexity sciences (i.e., social contagion; how behavior spread in social groups as functions of webs of social reinforcement). On the other hand, complexity scientists may benefit from a better understanding of the behavioral processes taking place during social interactions (i.e., mutual reinforcement; contingencies in which two or more individuals behavior produce reinforces to each other). The present symposium invites for a reflection about conceptual models, experimental opportunities and applied interventions in network structures from a behavior analytic perspective.

A Network Analytic Perspective to Safety Culture and Behavior Change in Shipyards
FABIO BENTO (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: Shipyards are remarkably dangerous work environments where employees are at risk of severe injuries related to falls, contact with hazardous materials, and strenuous work conditions among other factors. There is a recognition that shipyard safety cannot be addressed only in the terms of technological developments, but also in the realm of organizational contingencies of safe behavior. In this regard, most organizational efforts have consisted of providing training programs and information about safety procedures. However, there is a recognition of the limitations of such approaches. The goal of this paper is to present results of an ongoing organizational intervention deriving from a network analytic perspective towards learning. The intervention aims at promoting “social contagion” (Centola, 2018) of safe behavior by altering the structure of interactions among shipyard workers. The intervention starts with a network analysis in order to understand the structural position of individuals in a complex system, followed by different initiatives aimed at facilitating interaction and information flow over a three-months period. This project provides the opportunity to investigate processes of social reinforcement related to the spread of behavior in complex systems. Understanding the structure of communications and interdependencies may contribute to a deeper understanding of underlying contingencies of reinforcement.
Rules, Consequences, and Feedback Dynamics: Putting Principles of Behavioral Systems Analysis and Complexity to Work in Designing Adaptable Organizations
JONATHAN KRISPIN (Valdosta State University)
Abstract: The world is changing more rapidly than it ever has in the past, and the rate of change is accelerating. In business, the criteria that must be met in order to succeed are changing because of changing customer preferences, changing competitor practices, and changes in technologies available to address these criteria. Abernathy (2009) asserted that optimizing organizational performance requires optimization of organizational system contingencies and external metacontingencies. Couto (2019) observed that many organizations attempt to align their execution interlocking behavioral contingencies (eIBCs) with external metacontingent requirements with controlling interlocking behavioral contingencies (cIBCs) in a manner closely resembling Abernathy’s assertion. In the present paper, the dynamics that this governance approach may create are analyzed in terms of rule-governed behavior, specifically how pliance rules and consequences may create very different feedback dynamics within organizations than tracking rules and consequences. Inappropriate applications of rules and associated consequences may artificially limit the degrees of freedom available to – that is limit the complexity of – the organization, thus limiting its capacity to adapt to changing external system metacontingencies. Proper application of rules and associated consequences can have the opposite effect, increasing the capacity of an organization to adapt and respond, potentially creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

Nested Interlocking Behavioral Contingencies

INGUNN SANDAKER (Oslo Metropolitan University/ OsloMet)

A behavioral approach to large scale behaviors must be compatible with other scientific efforts to describe and explain behavioral phenomena. Behavior analysis is about the functional relation between behaviors and the environment. When focusing on how large- scale behaviors are established, maintained or get extinct, the concept of metacontingencies (Glenn and Mallott) add value to operant behavior analysis. The behavioral processes, (interlocking behavioral contingencies IBCs), maintain the functional relation to the environment. The result of the joint effort may be called an aggregate product which may or may not be selected by the environment. Hence, we have a parallel to a generic systems approach with the exception of the evolving structure. To capture the lineage in a metacontingency we will add structure, or the way the IBCs are nested together; the nIBCs. The way IBCs are nested together may give important information about the position and hence the contingencies responsible for establishing, maintaining or extinct interaction among members of the system.

Bridging Organizational Silos: A Scoping Review
MARCO TAGLIABUE (Oslo Metropolitan University)
Abstract: The present study rests on a raising concern about the formation of organizational silos and structural barriers to communication across the formal and informal network structures of a system. In addition to structure, two additional properties characterize general systems theory (Von Bertalanffy, 1968): function and process. There are at least two approaches to organizational silos and network clusters. The first maintains that they represent structures that hinder collaboration among members or departments of an organization. Conversely, the second approach maintains that they are spaces of social reinforcement, from which new knowledge may emerge. They are usually regarded as a problem, inasmuch as they limit the sharing and transmission of knowledge and practices across people and business units. Thus, we performed a scoping review of interventions that bridge network clusters resorting to social network analysis. Structure is regarded as the independent variable of study. Function and process are regarded as the dependent variables. According to our hypothesis, structure, function and process may be mutually interdependent. The discussion explores these properties in a broader frame of behavioral systems analysis. Finally, tentative indications are provided to translate the present work into applied settings.



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