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.


11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #138
CE Offered: BACB
Context: Toward Defining the Ineffable
Saturday, September 3, 2022
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Wicklow Hall 2B
Area: PCH/EDC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Matthew Lewon (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Matthew Lewon, Ph.D.
Abstract: Few behavior scientists would disagree with the general statement that behavior is sensitive to and dependent upon context. Determinism of this sort is a fundamental assumption of behavior analysis, and the study of relations between behavior and context represents its subject matter. However, disagreements among behavior scientists are likely to arise when it comes to how the term context ought to be defined (i.e., what constitutes context) or the ways in which its relations to behavior are best described. Among behavioristic approaches, there appears to be an ongoing shift towards broader conceptualizations of context in the control of behavior, from S-R and S-O-R beginnings to Skinner’s three-term contingency to contemporary four-term contingency and multi-factored field accounts. As definitions of context broaden, however, the concept runs the risk of becoming so broad that its descriptive value is compromised. The aim of this symposium is to consider the attempts to provide circumscribed definitions of context in psychology and the implications of this fundamental conceptual issue to work in the applied and basic/translational domains.
Instruction Level: Advanced
Keyword(s): context, contextual control, determinism, radical behaviorism
Target Audience: Some familiarity with behavior analytic theory and philosophy.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: 1) Describe some conceptual approaches to defining context and describing its relation to behavior; 2) Describe the relevance of the concept of context to instructional design/education; 3) Distinguish between learning processes and outcomes and discuss the relevance of context to both.
A Contextual Analysis for Instructional Environments
TIMOTHY C. FULLER (Central Reach)
Abstract: Radical behaviorism is understood to be a contextual account of psychological events. Context in this case is the environing circumstances, learning history of the organism, and an adherence to environmental determinism by those aligned to Skinnerian psychology. Context used in this way can be considered a placeholder for the previous three constructs. Contextualism is often used as an opponent to mentalistic and or organocentric views, but there are differing perspectives on contextualism. Some of these differences are not always made clear when the term is used in behavior analysis. This paper explores the use of the term context/contextual in behavior analysis as well as how using the term context has both served and hindered our general understanding of behavior-environment relations. Furthermore, this paper outlines how contextualism has contributed to the design of instructional environments and materials. Praise and criticism of these contributions will be outlined along with suggestions for contemporary behavior analysis to consider in their attempts to create instructional spaces.
Context in Learning: Processes and Outcomes
MATTHEW LEWON (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Learning describes changes in the behavior of organisms that are coordinated with regularities in relations between the various types of stimulus events they experience. From this perspective, context may be taken to describe the configuration of all the stimulus events that affect the behavior of organisms at any given moment. For analytic purposes, a common practice is to divide the continuously evolving relationship between behavior and context into what will be described as learning processes and outcomes. Learning processes refer to the conditions under which organisms experience relations between the various stimulus events that comprise the context. Learning outcomes refer to the nature of the changes in behavior-context relations that occur due to these experiences. In some cases, context may prevent evidence of learning outcomes from being observed. Several examples illustrating the importance of relations between contextual circumstances during learning processes and those prevailing when outcomes are assessed on subsequent occasions will be reviewed. It will be suggested that further research aimed at characterizing the role of context in learning processes and outcomes will elucidate some intractable conceptual issues and have significant translational relevance to application, where generalization and maintenance of behavior change outside of treatment/training contexts are major concerns.



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