Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis InternationalĀ® (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 #84
CE Offered: BACB
Advancing the Field of Behavior Analysis Through Social Justice and Compassion
Saturday, May 27, 2023
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom D
Area: PCH/CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Ilene S. Schwartz (University of Washington)
Discussant: Ilene S. Schwartz (University of Washington)
CE Instructor: Ashley Penney, Ph.D.

As criticism of the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) increases in intensity, there have been growing calls for reform. In response to these criticisms, the field has also seen an increase in discussions of social justice and compassion. In this symposium we will discuss how social justice and compassion are vital to fostering human dignity and quality of life for our consumers. The first presentation will discuss current criticisms and the rationale for growth and evolution within the field of ABA. Building on the original seven dimensions of ABA and incorporating lessons learned from more than 50 years of practice within our field, we propose compassion as the eighth dimension of ABA. The second presentation will cover social justice as a core tenet of applied behavior analysis. We will present social validity and social invalidity as measures of quality of life. This presentation will conclude with suggestions for behavior analysts to engage in meaningful actions towards transformation.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): compassion, reform, social justice, social validity
Target Audience:

Intermediate. Audience members should have a basic understanding of theory and philosophy of behavior analysis and have an understanding of the seven dimensions and their application.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Name and discuss compassion as the new dimension for applied behavior analysis (2) Define social validity and social invalidity and describe their role in improving quality of life (3) Discuss actionable implications for practice with peers and colleagues

Compassion: The Eighth Dimension of Applied Behavior Analysis

ASHLEY PENNEY (University of Washington Autism Center), Katherine Bateman (University of Washington), Yevgeniya Veverka (University of Washington), Adriana Luna (University of Washington), Ilene S. Schwartz (University of Washington)

The goal of Applied Behavior Analysis has always been to help our clients achieve the goals that are important to them and improve their lives in ways that they choose. Over more than half a century, this approach has proven successful in changing lives. But we are now hearing growing criticism that behavior analysts have lost sight of this objective through problematic application of strategies and procedures and ignoring the science and analysis —sometimes to the detriment of clients’ needs and concerns. In this paper, we propose a reconceptualization of the practice of ABA, adding compassion to the current dimensions that have represented our field for several decades, to help behavior analysts find their way back to implementing interventions in a compassionate, responsive, and humble manner that includes working with our consumers and our critics, and listening to perspectives that can help us improve our practice.

Social Invalidity as a Catalyst to Inform Contingency Analyses and Socially Valid Outcomes
MALIKA N. PRITCHETT (University of Kansas), Jamaun Willis (Positive Enlightenment)
Abstract: Social justice is inherent in the spirit of the science of applied behavior analysis. For applied science, measures of social validity and social invalidity are critical features that provide insight on the impact of scientific endeavors that are dedicated to understanding the betterment of quality of life for individuals and for humanity as a whole. As contemporary discourses continue, public outcries of rejection, refusal, repulsion, and similar sentiments continue to emerge. Some of these are cased within objections to science, others in response to scientific practices, and others to violations of human rights. Applied behavior analysts are part of these discussions. Behavior analysts can better understand and participate in these discourses through conducting dynamic and ongoing contingency analyses that are aimed toward reimagining current practices. This presentation will end with a discussion about every day, small yet transformative changes that have the potential to unite scientists and society toward collective well-being of all humanity.



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