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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #438
Illusions of Abnormality: A Behavioral Conceptualization of "Deviant" Behavior in Context
Monday, May 30, 2022
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156C
Area: PCH/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Abbey Warren (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Meta-contingencies are evident, in part, in what behaviors are treated as normal and acceptable. To reduce the probability of behavior that deviates from a group’s recognized social norm, unacceptable behaviors are consequated with socially mediated punishment or by restricting access to shared resources. In addition, the verbal behavior used to describe these “deviant” behaviors are often rooted in mentalistic origins. Early conceptualizations of substance use recovery, for example, accentuated the role “will-power” had in changing substance use behavior. Likewise, antisocial thoughts and attitudes are theorized to cause criminal behavior, and sexual sadism is considered in some literature as a pathological personality characteristic predictive of dysfunction or danger. The first paper in this symposium will present on historical conceptualizations of substance use followed by a clinical behavior analytic description of this functional class. In the second paper, the author will introduce the concept of criminal thinking in correctional populations and provide an alternative framework for understanding these behaviors. Finally, the third presenter will discuss sexual sadism in terms of how sexual and relational learning histories intersect with immediate contingencies to foster others’ pain having pleasurable functions. These papers are intended to facilitate open discussions about stigmatized behaviors that can be more readily understood and intervened upon from a contextual perspective.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Behaviorism, Clinical, Conceptual, Stigmatized Behaviors
Clinical Behavior Analysis and the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder
MATTHEW ANDERSLAND (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Thomas B. Sease (Texas Christian University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), David R R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: In 2018, there were approximately 19.3 million people in the United States who met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder. Individuals experiencing difficulties with substance use are at risk for overdose, physical and mental health consequences, and reductions in quality of life. Given the negative consequences associated with substance use, interventions that effectively modify problematic substance use behavior are paramount to reducing this major public health concern. Behaviorally-oriented interventions such as contingency management approaches positively reinforce abstinence or treatment attendance with vouchers, tokens within a token economy or the opportunity to win prizes. Such interventions use the principles of operant conditioning to increase the availability of alternative reinforcers. Based on modern accounts of human language and cognition (i.e., Relational Frame Theory), Clinical Behavior Analysis emerged as a language-based therapeutic approach rooted in a functional contextual worldview. The present paper will discuss a clinical behavior analytic approach to substance use. We will argue that by targeting behaviors within the same response class as substance use behavior, which we conceptualize is primarily under aversive control, clinical behavior analysis may be effective in treating substance use disorders by expanding a client’s behavioral repertoire.
An Alternative Model to Understanding Criminal Thinking (Behavior) in Correctional Contexts
THOMAS B. SEASE (Texas Christian University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette), David R R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: National reports have estimated that approximately 9 million people cycle in and out of jail and more than 600,000 people are released from prison each year. As a result, a fundamental aim of the criminal justice system is to provide evidence-based services that mitigate clients’ risk for recidivism. Criminal thinking—maladaptive cognitive processes supportive of criminal involvement—is one such criminogenic risk factor consistently associated with recidivism. Historical conceptualizations of criminal thinking have naturally placed the mechanism of change inside the client, which in turn has informed how practitioners target these behaviors in practice. That is, extant models of criminal thinking assume that attenuating antisocial thoughts is a viable means of decreasing rates of reoffending. This approach contrasts laboratory research suggesting rule-governed behavior (i.e., “don’t experience this thought”) counterintuitively fosters behavioral insensitivity. In response, the purpose of this paper is to provide an alternative theoretical framework to understanding criminal thinking using the foundations of behavioral psychology. This will include a particular emphasis on the practical implications imparted to correctional staff and treatment providers from a behavioral conceptualization of criminogenic thought processes.
Things We Do in the Dark: Reconceptualizing Sexual Sadism in a New Light
MAKENSEY SANDERS (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Janani Vaidya (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group ), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana Lafayette)
Abstract: Sadism involves the experience of pleasure, typically sexual, through the infliction of pain on others. Sadism is generally discussed from a mentalistic perspective as a personality trait. For example, sadism has been related by some to the Dark Triad (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy), thought to be indicative of a fundamental malevolence in character. Sadism has also been approached as psychopathology, and is diagnosable as a paraphilia when it causes substantial harm and/or dysfunction to self or others. Conceptualizing sadism as an evil or pathological trait disregards benefits of consensual sexual practices within BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism) orientations and communities. For example, BDSM practitioners tend to have more secure relationships and lower anxiety than the general population. This talk will discuss sadism from a contextual behavioral perspective, including conditions under which sadism is under appetitive control (e.g., consensual BDSM practices) versus aversive control (e.g., harmful and/or dysfunctional behaviors). Further, it will highlight the impacts of stigma around BDSM on the repertoires of those for whom engagement in sadistic behaviors in a risk-aware, consensual, safe manner is reinforcing. Finally, this paper will discuss the intersections of sadism with other minoritized identities.



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