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

Previous Page


Symposium #26
Q Methodology for the Study of Operant Subjectivity in Behavior Science
Saturday, May 27, 2023
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH/EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Kenneth W. Jacobs (Salem State University)
Discussant: Benjamin N. Witts (St. Cloud State University)
Abstract: Subjectivity is in our behavior whenever we think, feel, or communicate our perspectives on a topic. Regardless of their subjective status, these behaviors are operant. Our varying perspectives can be functionally categorized, shaped, and maintained. While the volume of things we can communicate about is overwhelming, from entertainment to politics, it is analyzable with Q methodology. This methodology is an organized collection of techniques for probing the subjective behavior of humans under different circumstances. The purpose of this symposium is to introduce Q methodology as a tool for behavior scientists to use when studying individual thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. If it can be communicated, then it can be studied with Q methodology. The first paper will introduce Q methodology for its potential to capture the development of beliefs in real time. The second paper will provide an example of Q methodology applied to viewpoints about cybersecurity and cyberbehaviors more broadly.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): cybersecurity, interdisciplinary collaboration, operant subjectivity, Q methodology

How to Measure Our Subjective Beliefs in Real Time

KENNETH W. JACOBS (Salem State University), Nickolas Servideo (Salem State University)

Measuring our thoughts and feelings is like catching lightning in a bottle. Thoughts come and go while feelings hit differently under different circumstances. Additionally, these thoughts and feelings are subjective. They are open to dispute but nevertheless real. Skinner (1974) made it the mission of radical behaviorism to study these subjective phenomena as more behavior to be explained. Similarly, Stephenson (1953) set out to study what he called operant subjectivity. Those thoughts and feelings are operant, and they can be functionally identified with Q methodology. Q methodology is a systematic approach to studying our thoughts and feelings on an impressive range of topics: From art and science to political and social life. The purpose of this paper is to (1) introduce the Q methodological approach and (2) describe a novel Q-technique for capturing operant subjectivity in real time. This second purpose presents the issue of how our beliefs are formed and fixed over time.

Behavior Scientific Account of Human-Computer Interactions Using Q Methodology
RITA OLLA (University of Nevada, Reno), Ramona Houmanfar (University of Nevada, Reno), Kian Assemi (University of Nevada, Reno), Shamik Sengupta (University of Nevada, Reno), Emily Hand (University of Nevada, Reno), Sushil Louis (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Cybersecurity is defined as “the organization and collection of resources, processes, and structures used to protect cyberspace and cyberspace-enabled systems from occurrences that misalign the perceived from the actual property”. This collection of factors includes interactions between people, between hard technological systems, and between people and such systems. Behavior scientific interventions aimed at educating people on how they can discriminate between safe and unsafe interactions need to be based on assessment results. Assessment procedures should detect the current viewpoints of internet users with respect to their cyberbehaviors, and the security provided by their institutions. Stephenson developed Q methodology to capture individual perspectives on any cultural topic, and identify shared perspectives among people belonging to the same community. The understanding of such shared viewpoints can facilitate more effective leaders’ communication and educational trainings aimed, in this case, to promote cyber-safe behaviors. This study used Q Methodology to identify different perspectives about cybersecurity. We analyzed the responses of an expert in cybersecurity and a group of senior students with a major in computer science or psychology. Four perspectives were identified and analyzed: Viewpoint # 1 – Concerned Educated Learners, Viewpoint # 2 – Concerned Educated Distrustful, Viewpoint # 3 – Confident users, and Viewpoint # 4 – Feared users. Implications for interdisciplinary research will be discussed.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh