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 #181
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission "Who am I?" Relational Verbal Behavior and the Emergence and Divergence of Culture
Sunday, May 29, 2022
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156A
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Meredith Matthews (Missouri State University)
CE Instructor: Jordan Belisle, Ph.D.

“Who we are” operates at the intersection of relational verbal behavior about oneself and generational histories of cultural selection that affect members of communities and groups. Solving “who we are” is not only at the center of a radical (i.e., all encompassing) science of human behavior, but is necessary to solve important social challenges of our time. The first speaker will discuss the progression of a behavioral understanding of culture and community from Skinner to the present culturo-behavior science movement. This work will highlight the formation of ideology that can desensitize behavior to direct contingencies of reinforcement and define convergent and divergent values systems that influence individual behavior both within and between groups. The second speaker will propose a dynamic model of relational behavior, Relational Density Theory, as a way to interpret shared relational frames inherent within our culture that negatively impact communities with an emphasis on prejudice based on gender and race. Relational frames that maintain prejudice and discrimination are likely vastly complex and interwoven leading to extreme resistance to change and rejection of competing information. Our final speaker will discuss implications of relational verbal behavior for disability communities, both within and outside of these communities, that ultimately impact the quality of life of disabled persons. Influencing relational frames surrounding disability will take much more than person-first or disability-first language and may necessitate rethinking entirely how we frame disability within our communities. Taken together, this symposium attempts to redefine our view of culture, relational framing, and the role of behavior analysts therein, lest we fail to seize this opportunity to influence large scale social change.

Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): Community, Culture, Ideology, Relational Framing
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts, students, and faculty

Learning Objectives: (1) describe behavioral models of cultural selection and language; (2) describe how relations interact to produce bias and prejudice; (3) reconceptualize disability and disability culture in a contextual-behavioral way
Diversity submission 

Ideology: From Skinner to Culturo-Behavior Science by Way of Relational Frame Theory

THOMAS G. SZABO (Touro University)

In his seminal works, BF Skinner left a trail of breadcrumbs concerning the way that ideological conditioning desensitizes behavior to direct contingencies of reinforcement. This can have either desirable or disastrous results, depending on the circumstances. Skinner suggested that respondent, operant, and verbal conditioning all participate in the types of control that cultural agencies exert during ideological conditioning. Nevertheless, Skinner left analysis of the precise ways that such verbal conditioning emerges for future generations. RFT extends Skinner’s analysis by defining the behavior of valuing as verbal behavior that participates in a hierarchical network of verbal relations. In this talk, I contend that ideologies emerge as systems of values, a complex latticework of verbal relations that inhere within coherent verbal networks that are constructed over a lifetime, and which become increasingly inconspicuous as more relations get added. I trace the development of one such ideology and show how this results in a coherent sense of agentic self. Although ideological conditioning is valuable, situations in which it is over-extended abound. To this end, I discuss implications derived from an RFT analysis that pave the way to undermining unwanted ideological verbal relations. Lastly, I discuss implications for the emerging field of culturo-behavior science.

Diversity submission Relational Density Theory and Cultural Selection
JORDAN BELISLE (Missouri State University)
Abstract: Verbal behavior is the contact medium shared by members of different communities and different cultures, allowing for the passing of reasoning and modes of problem-solving from one generation to the next. Relational density theory (RDT) provides a series of models to interpret relatively stable patterns of verbal relational behavior within communities and groups. A fundamental assumption is that relational patterns are self-organizing and the result of several higher-level and lower-level events. In this paper, I will describe where RDT falls within a nested model of cultural contingencies that select patterns of relational behavior shared by groups. Whereas verbal relational patterns may be adaptive in some contexts within groups, this century has also revealed that this is not necessarily true for all groups, especially when dynamics exist that differentially weight contingency control of some groups over others. In this paper I will describe novel methods to model these relational frames and overview a series of translational experimental studies that demonstrate a complex interplay between relational behavior with an emphasis on social justice and change.
Diversity submission Dispelling Limitations of Disabled Persons
MARK R. DIXON (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Abstract: The present paper will provide both a conceptualization and empirical verification of how relational responding can serve as a vehicle to change peoples' opinions about individuals with disabilities. If real change in behavior is desired, such change will require more than person first or disability first language. Instead, it will require altering frames of relations around these people, abilities, and actual behavior. In this paper I describe procedures based on derived relational responding that can be utilized in schools when teaching young children about the differences amongst each other. Furthermore, I will provide cultural change interventions which can be implemented widescale as our society rethinks the abilities of those with disabilities and their contributions to their own care and life direction.



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