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.

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47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

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

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Symposium #42
CE Offered: BACB — 
Ethics
Behaving Ethically Takes More Than Learning the Rules: Toward a Selectionist Account of Ethical Training
Saturday, May 29, 2021
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Online
Area: CSS; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Thomas G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology)
Discussant: Thomas G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology)
CE Instructor: Thomas G. Szabo, Ph.D.
Abstract:

The likelihood of engaging in ethical behavior when confronted with a moral dilemma often involves the presence competing contingencies: behaving for the good of oneself versus the good of the commonwealth. The BACB Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts is a set of standards that serves as a guide for decision-making that impacts consumers, the practitioner, and other certificants. However, familiarity with these standards alone may not impact the behavior of a practitioner when confronted with an ethical problem. Phylogeny and ontogeny prepare individuals to act in their personal, short-term self-interest, but ethical matters require behaving with respect to the needs of the group. In ethically challenging scenarios, direct control exerted by the immediate contingencies is likely to be stronger than the control exerted by a person's history of rule-adherence, especially when doing so would disadvantage them. In this talk, we propose that influencing ethical behavior requires programing environmental contingencies at the cultural level of selection. Ethical conduct guidelines specify general precepts, but groups applying these precepts must actively and ongoingly discuss situations in which they are to be applied, scaled, abandoned, or synthesized. Additionally, we suggest that groups consider the cultural function of ethical conduct rules in adversely controlling the behavior of minority and intersectionally marginalized individuals within their ranks. In short, attention must be afforded to balancing the needs of the individual and those of several concentric levels of the collective in order to assure ethical behavior in any given instance. A comprehensive, naturalistic analysis of the conditions under which cooperative behaviors are selected may be crucial to the design of organizations and communities that produce reinforcement for behaving for the good of all.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

BCBA, BCaBA

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) state three controlling variables that predict and control ethical/unethical behavior; (2) identify ways in which rules promote or weaken ethical behavior; (3) articulate the selection processes in phylogeny and ontogeny that account for ethical behavior in groups, organizations, and cultures.
 
I’ve Memorized the Ethical Conduct Code. Why Can’t I Behave Ethically? Toward a Selectionist Account of Ethical Training #1
DIANA M. DELGADO (University of Memphis)
Abstract: Enhancing compliance with ethical guidelines is one of the ways in which we can help disseminate our field as one that is fundamentally oriented towards the well-being of others. While we are committed to adhere to these guidelines, data show that ethics violations may be occurring more often than desired. One of the reasons for this is that an ethical dilemma is a circumstance where variables other than a history of rule following are likely to be at play. In this context, behaving ethically is analyzed as a choice made in the presence of competing contingencies of reinforcement, which involve behaving for the good of oneself regardless of the potential harmful effects for others, or behaving for the good of all while forgoing immediate individual benefits. Points of convergence between the literature on cooperative behavior, evolutionary sociobiology and the Prosocial approach suggest that focusing on the group as a unit of selection, may be a key component in the design of environments that value behaving for the good of all.
 
I’ve Memorized the Ethical Conduct Code. Why Can’t I Behave Ethically? Toward a Selectionist Account of Ethical Training #2
THOMAS G. SZABO (Florida Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Skinner (1956) conceptualized ethical conduct as that which furthers the survival of the group, not that which is “good” or “right.” He identified ways in which contingencies at times favor cooperation in a group but more often support behavior that helps the individual to the detriment of the group. The most common practices groups use to control ethical conduct are aversive and, in the end, do more harm than good. In this talk, I present data from outside the field of behavior analysis that support Skinner’s multilevel selectionist account of group design. These data suggest that bringing group members together to construct rules and evaluate competing contingencies improves ethical conduct. This account is consistent with Skinner’s suggestion that using positive reinforcement is superior to negative reinforcement and punishment when teaching others how to be ethical. The approach, known as Prosocial, combines “flat management” training and organizational behavior management to balance the needs of the individual and the group in order to promote ethical conduct. In short, a comprehensive, naturalistic analysis of the conditions under which cooperative behaviors are selected may be crucial to the design of organizations and communities that produce reinforcement for behaving for the good of all.
 

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