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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Invited Paper Session #369
CE Offered: BACB
Conceptual Issues in Behavior Analysis: Do We Need to Tweak Them, or Is a Major Overhaul Required?
Monday, May 29, 2023
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 2/3
Area: SCI; Domain: Theory
Chair: Suzanne H. Mitchell (Oregon Health & Science University)
CE Instructor: Julian Leslie, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: JULIAN LESLIE (Ulster University)

Some of the most basic tenets of behavior analysis are that the explanation of all behaviour should be in terms of interactions with the environment, that behavior is changed by its consequences in the ways specified by a modern version of the law of effect, that those behavior changes contribute a great deal to the behavioral repertoire that is observed, and that these principles apply to the behavior of many animal species including humans, whose covert and verbal behavior is also determined by the same principles. Various areas of recent empirical and theoretical development may threaten some of these tenets. Consequent questions discussed in this paper will include: Is there evidence that response strengthening doesn’t occur, and does this have implications for the ubiquity of the law of effect? Can we maintain a strong version of phylogenetic continuity of learning principles given the evidence from animal cognition studies on the one hand, and relational frame theory on the other? And do studies of observational learning in human development suggest that we have overestimated the role of the law of effect?

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Those who have taken postgraduate course in behavior analysis

Learning Objectives: After attending this session, attendees shall: (1) be able to identify some basic tenets of behavior analysis; (2) be aware of the centrality of the law of effect to both experimental and applied behavior analysis; (3) be informed of some contemporary areas of research and theory that seem to modify the law of effect and challenge its breadth of application.
JULIAN LESLIE (Ulster University)
I obtained my doctorate from Oxford University in 1974, supervised in part by Jock Millenson who had been trained in operant conditioning at Columbia University, New York. Since then I have been in academic posts in Northern Ireland and have been a full professor since 1986. I published textbooks on behaviour analysis from 1979 to 2002, and some of these remain in print. As well as teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses, I have successfully supervised 50 students who have obtained PhDs in fields including, experimental analysis of behaviour, applied behaviour analysis, psychopharmacology, behavioural neuroscience, experimental psychology, applied psychology. Three PhD’s were concerned with behavioural strategies to address environmental issues. In 1977 I was co-founder of the group, Behaviour Analysis in Ireland which became a chapter of ABAI. In 2004, the group became the Division of Behaviour Analysis of the Psychological Society of Ireland, and I was the Division chair from 2009 to 2020. I organised the Third European Meeting for the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour in Dublin, Ireland 1999, and have co-organised 15 annual conferences of the Division of Behaviour Analysis from 2007 to 2023. I was on the program committee for the ABAI 11th International conference, Dublin 2022. In 2014, I was awarded a Doctorate of Science by Ulster University for career research on the experimental analysis of behaviour. In 2018 I was appointed as a Fellow, Association for Behavior Analysis International. From 2014 to 2023, I have given a series of papers on conceptual issues in behaviour analysis (including behavioural accounts of consciousness and the metaphysical basis of behaviour analysis). Recent empirical work is mostly on the application of behavior analysis in mainstream education.



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