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 #247
CE Offered: BACB
Conceptual Behavior Science in the Context of Scientific Work
Sunday, May 30, 2021
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Area: PCH/TBA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Timothy C. Fuller (Fit Learning)
CE Instructor: Timothy C. Fuller, Ph.D.
Abstract: Scientific work is diverse in setting, phenomena of interest, and methods and assumptions employed to orient to these phenomena. The degree to which scientific workers remain oriented to the operative assumptions contributing to their orientation is equally diverse. The conceptual subdomain of behavior sciences seeks to organize, refine, and bring clarity to the assumptions we have about our subject matter. This symposium presents three papers that comment on the benefits afforded to experimental and applied behavior scientists when conceptual behavior science is thoroughly incorporated in their work. The first paper outlines the fundamental role that theory plays when non-human experimental work is used to model phenomena related to human affairs. The second paper provides a framework for applied behavior scientists interested in integrating theory into their efforts and the communication benefits that can result. Finally, the third paper focuses on the experimental analysis of behavior and how theory plays an inseparable role in empirical efforts.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Professionals, Academics, Graduate Students
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) articulate the importance of theory in the context of translational research, (2) outline the role conceptual and experimental behavior science can play in practice settings, and (3) describe the benefits of an aligned theoretical orientation in the context of experimental work.

Lost in Translation: The Importance of Theory in Translational Research With Nonhuman Organisms

MATTHEW LEWON (University of Nevada, Reno)

The source of motivation for the time, energy, and resources poured into basic research is the assumption that what is observed in the contrived circumstances of the laboratory will be relevant and applicable to problems of importance in the “real world.” In psychology, the problems deemed to be of sufficient importance for the allocation of resources to basic research are primarily related to human behavior. However, much basic research in psychology is conducted with nonhuman animals. Modeling human phenomena with nonhumans is fraught with threats to validity that are frequently overlooked or ignored in the work of researchers in the fields of behavioral genetics, neuroscience, and even the experimental analysis of behavior. The thesis of this presentation is that the most significant act of “translation” from basic nonhuman research to human affairs occurs at the level of theory when modeling phenomena for study. The importance of theory in this regard will be considered in the context of several current nonhuman models of human psychological phenomena.


Balancing Applied Behavior Science With Conceptual and Experimental Work

TIMOTHY C. FULLER (Fit Learning)

Behavior Science’s three interrelated domains of conceptual, experimental, and applied work represents an earnest effort by adherents of this science to participate in and work toward, a comprehensive science of behavior. Though the lion’s share of conceptual and experimental work occurs in the context of universities there are efforts in the applied domain to remain oriented to, and participate in, the refinement of both experimental and conceptual work. This paper provides examples of these efforts as well as outlines a framework for interested applied behavior scientists to adopt a balance of the three pillars of behavior science. The benefits of adopting such a framework are exemplified with particular attention paid to advantages when communicating with non-technical audiences.

Closing the Gap Between Philosophy and Basic Research
CHRISTINA M. PETERS (Brock University)
Abstract: Within behavior science, there has been a renewed emphasis on closing the gap between basic research and application. As a result of these efforts, both domains have benefited. Clinicians, and the clients they serve, have benefited from increased access to evidence-based approaches to intervention. Likewise, basic scientists have enjoyed renewed interest in their work, enhanced opportunities for support and new outlets for publication. However, while the relationship between the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB) and application appears to be strengthening, the relationship between theory and EAB appears to be floundering. Some have even posited that at present EAB is insufficient when it comes to theory (Killeen, 2018). This paper will explore the potential benefits of closing the gap between theory and philosophy and EAB. Specific emphasis will be placed on the importance of theory with respect to methodological and interpretive aspects of research endeavors as applicable both to the production and consumption of basic operant research.



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