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 #368
CE Offered: BACB
Systems, Groups, and the Evolution of Behavior Science
Monday, May 29, 2023
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH/OBM; Domain: Theory
Chair: Mitch Fryling (California State University, Los Angeles)
Discussant: Genevieve M DeBernardis (University of Nevada, Reno)
CE Instructor: Mitch Fryling, Ph.D.
Abstract: This symposium focuses on the broad topic of systems, and in particular the conceptualization of sciences as systems. The first presentation, by Linda Hayes, considers the distinguishing features of groups or collectivities of individuals. In doing so, factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of collectivities are considered, as well as factors that diminish or threaten the group over time. The example of behavior analysis is provided, as a collectivity or group of individuals with a common focus (i.e., understanding behavior). The second paper, by Mitch Fryling, builds upon the first presentation by considering the evolution of scientific knowledge, and with it, scientific disciplines more generally. This topic is particularly important as the speed with which knowledge develops has increased substantially in recent times. This requires us to consider how we train behavior scientists, pursue continuing education/professional development, and more. Transdisciplinary science is described, including potential examples of transdisciplinary science involving behavior analysis. The symposium concludes with a discussion by Genevieve DeBernardis, who will connect these issues to the area of behavioral systems development, looking to draw parallels between systems thinking in behavioral development and systems thinking in the science of behavior more generally.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): interbehaviorism, science, systems, transdisciplinary
Target Audience: Basic understanding of behavioral principles and the various domains of behavior analysis.
Learning Objectives: 1-Describe factors that promote and threaten various collectivities 2-Explain factors that contribute to the evolution of behavior analysis as a scientific collectivity 3-Provide an example of a transdisciplinary science involving behavior analysis

The Road (Increasingly) Less Travelled

LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)

Behavior analysis, as a distinct psychological perspective, has had a relatively long career. It is argued that its longevity is owing, in part, to its revolutionary philosophical foundations. It was the road less travelled. Adherence to these foundations permitted the behavior analytic system to operate in relative isolation from competing groups, and to remain relatively stable by virtue of this circumstance. Over the past few decades though the behavior analytic system appears to have lost some of its most unique features, inviting instability and risking dissolution. Some of the factors that may have contributed to this outcome are addressed in this presentation. My aim in making this analysis is not to salvage the system of behavior analysis as it once was. This outcome is neither possible nor desirable. Rather, my aim is to consider how the field is evolving particularly as it engages with other disciplines, some of which foretell of new and important discoveries. And, regrettably, with some that were once rightly and ought still to be abandoned.

Transdisciplinary Science and the Evolution of Scientific Knowledge
MITCH FRYLING (California State University, Los Angeles)
Abstract: Scientific disciplines distinguish themselves from one another by their focus on a unique aspect of the natural world. The science of behavior, for example, distinguishes itself from other sciences by focusing on understanding functional relations among stimulation and responding. A great deal has been learned about our subject-matter, and yet still, there have always been calls to do more. At the same time, knowledge seems to be evolving faster than ever – across many professions and scientific disciplines. Indeed, what was considered contemporary at one period of time is outdated during another. Understanding this, the question is how do scientific disciplines evolve and change over time? What becomes of old knowledge? Does new knowledge simply replace it? Or do the older concepts simply have less of a center role in the evolving science? This presentation considers these issues and describes the growing interest in transdisciplinary science as a potential path to moving forward. The implications for behavior analytic training programs, professional development, and more, are considered.



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