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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #206
CE Offered: BACB — 
Stranger Things® - The Upside Down of Ethics
Sunday, May 28, 2023
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Convention Center 401/402
Area: TBA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College)
CE Instructor: Tim Caldwell, Ph.D.

Behavior analytic practitioners live within two different dimensions. Most of the time, treatment is provided with only straightforward ethical issues, but sometimes situations seem to turn our practice upside down. This alternate dimension of unethical behavior is not often discussed, yet it threatens the existence of our ABA, science-based world. Thankfully, behavior analysts can be taught the tools to fight against unethical monsters without needing psychic powers. This symposium will provide behavior analysts with methods to fight the ethical upside down by reviewing a script for instructing how to confront unethical behavior, methods to combat the invasion of pseudoscience, and ways to vanquish the barriers to conducting experimental analysis in clinical practice.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): ethics, experimental analysis, pseudoscience, teaching ethics
Target Audience:

The target audience will have prerequisite knowledge in the BACB Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts, the science-based application of behavior change interventions, as well as the ethical use of experimentation in clinical practice.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Teach students or BCBAs how to effectively confront unethical behavior in the field (2) Identify the barriers to using experimental analysis in clinical practice (3) Identify ways to overcome the barriers to using experimental analysis in clinical practice (4) Identify pseudoscientific interventions that are utilized in practice and how to avoid them
Confronting Dr. Brenner (Papa): How to Teach Students to Confront Unethical Behavior
JONATHAN W. IVY (The Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg ), Kimberly A. Schreck (The Pennsylvania State University - Harrisburg), Thomas L. Zane (University of Kansas)
Abstract: The discipline of applied behavior analysis has an established Ethics Code (Behavior Analysis Certification Board, 2020), requirements for instructing ethics content within a Verified Course Sequence, and the mandate that behavior analysts address unethical behavior of others. However, no evidence-based practice exists for how to specifically teach student the ethics code or the skills for addressing unethical behavior. This research evaluated the effects of an instructional intervention package on number of script steps independently completed by graduate students to address violations of the ethics code. The script described eight steps to confront and address an ethical concern. The components of the instructional intervention package included gamification, in-class simulations, and behavioral skills training. Graduate students from three university programs participated in the study. A multiple baseline across groups (university programs) was used to evaluate the effects of the instructional intervention package. The results indicated that the instructional package resulted in significantly improved student independence in addressing unethical behavior. The implication of this approach to teach students how to address ethical concerns as well as considerations for implementation will be discussed.

Breaking Through the Barriers of the Hive Mind: Identifying and Fighting the Barriers to the Ethical Use of Experimental Analysis in Clinical Practice or Avoiding the Use of Formulaic Interventions

TIM CALDWELL (Behavior Interventions Inc.), Kimberly A. Schreck (Penn State Harrisburg)

The foundations of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and its subsequent ethical codes necessitate the use of experimentation to determine relationships among behavior and environmental variables as an underlying principle. Behavior analysts may be experiencing barriers to using experimental analysis (EA) in clinical practice. This paper included two questionnaire studies investigating behavior analysts’ (Study 1 N=293; Study 2 N =324) current use and barriers to ethical implementation of EA in clinical practice. Results aggregated from both studies indicated that approximately 1/3rd of behavior analysts did not use EA in clinical practice. Across the studies, lack of resources ranked as the most significant barrier, while reimbursement for services was ranked as the least influential barrier to using EA in clinical practice. These studies suggested possible general and specific barriers to implementation of EA in clinical practice, which may have significant ethical implications for appropriate treatment for clients.


The Strangest Thing: Trends in Behavior Analysts’ Use of Treatments for Individuals with Autism

KIMBERLY MARSHALL (University of Oregon), Kristin Bowman (Endicott College), Lisa Tereshko (Endicott College), Victoria Suarez (Endicott College), Kimberly A. Schreck (Penn State Harrisburg), Thomas L. Zane (University of Kansas), Justin B. Leaf (Endicott College; Autism Partnership Foundation)

Behavior analysts have a responsibility to provide their clients with interventions that are based on scientific evidence. Nevertheless, in a survey identifying certified behavior analysts’ use and variables influencing their use of autism treatments, only between 78% and 95% of participants (N=921) at each certification level (BCBA-Ds, BCBAs, BCaBAs, and RBTs) reported current use of applied behavior analysis (ABA). Furthermore, with the exception of bleach therapy, all treatments, including ineffective/harmful interventions (e.g., facilitated communication), were reportedly used by at least one participant. Participants frequently cited persuasion by others as an influence for their treatment selections. A comparison with previous findings (Schreck et al., 2016) identified a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of certificants at each level (i.e., BCBA-Ds, BCBAs, and BCaBAs) using ABA compared to five years ago. Significant decreases in the use of two unestablished treatments were also found; however, there was no change in the reported use of all other pseudoscientific treatments. Since behavior analysts’ use of unestablished treatments may be detrimental to client outcomes and the reputation and success of the field of ABA, it is essential to discuss these findings and to identify methods for increasing behavior analysts’ use of empirically supported treatments.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh