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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #420
Behavior Analytic Interpretive and Philosophical Considerations
Monday, May 31, 2021
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Genevieve M DeBernardis (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Mitch Fryling (California State University, Los Angeles)

Radical behaviorism has served as the primary philosophical foundation for behavior analysis. This foundation has helped behavior analysts to avoid mentalism and focus on objective behavior-environment relations. A focus on the environment, rather than hypothetical constructs, has been conducive to the prediction and control of experimental variables and successful applications of basic principles to socially significant problems. Indeed, radical behaviorism has been a helpful guide for behavior analysts, but the lack of an explicit and comprehensive systemization of postulations has also led to inconsistencies and confusions. Additionally, the overemphasis on prediction and control has resulted in the narrowing of psychological investigation and a reliance on the premise that causes of behavior can be found in the future or past. The radical behaviorist may be correct in his argument that such concerns have not prevented the successful application of behavior analytic principles. However, one may retort that given these concerns, the logical coherence and continued effectiveness in novel areas of behavior analysis are questionable. As such, it is worthwhile to highlight logical issues pertaining to our philosophy and suggest potential alternatives.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Interbehaviorism, Philosophy, Radical Behaviorism
A Rejection of Ineffable Causalities
STAHELI MEYER (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Causes are abundant in the principles and concepts of radical behaviorism. A cause in behaviorism would require separation between stimulation and responding and for one to be held as the cause of the other. Such a separation is problematic as the cause of the event is held to reside in the event itself. This concern is indicative of an inherent issue with the logical assumption of the science. Contextual Behavior Science has rested squarely upon the tenets of radical behaviorism, and thus subsumes the same issues. The question then arises as to whether these causalities are genuine appeals or residual linguistic artifacts? When viewed as archaic, causal constructs can be rejected at the postulational level and ways of speaking can be coherently and logically assembled within a comprehensive system. To this end, Interbehaviorism is offered as a possible philosophical system for reassembly and reconciliation. It is acknowledged that the inclusion of causal determiners is understandably prominent in the investigative and applied sub-domains. This is due in part to the specific aims of prediction and control, and the necessity to simplify happenings for analysis. Thus, the addition of permissible temporary violations to the postulates of Interbehaviorism, in service of the aims of the subdomains, are suggested and outlined. It is critical that findings from the investigative and applied subdomains be coherently reassembled with the postulates adopted from Interbehaviorism.
Expanding the Goals of Behavior Analysis
KIAN ASSEMI (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: The goals of a scientific domain play a significant role in the trajectory of progress the domain will attain. With the goals of prediction and control, behavior analysis has emphasized empirical procedures using operational and predictive criteria. As a result, the goal of understanding has been neglected. Ironically, while the neglect of understanding in favor of prediction and control may seem to be a benefit to applied subsystems, it may result in the eventual stagnation of progress for both the basic and applied sides of behavior analysis. The neglect of understanding as a goal has set the context for confusions between constructs and events, a limited scope of psychological investigation, and appeals to causality based on events occurring in the future or past. Prediction and control are undeniably highly valuable goals, but they are insufficient for a comprehensive and natural science of behavior. Moreover, understanding plays an important role in the attainment of prediction and control. This presentation will make the case that embracing the goal of understanding will not only help behavior analysis progress as a natural science, but a more comprehensive version of prediction and control may be better demonstrated in the long term.



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