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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Paper Session #246
Behavior Analysis of Compassion and Compassionate Care
Sunday, May 28, 2023
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Chair: Donna West (University of Nevada, Reno)

The Role of Language Processes in Lack of Compassion for Others: Insights From Relational Frame Theory

Domain: Theory
GREGORY S. SMITH (University of Dayton; University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine)

A core concept within Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is arbitrarily applicable relational responding (AARR), which describes the ability of verbally sophisticated humans to learn and respond in terms of relations among stimuli based on arbitrary cues applied to those stimuli, as opposed to being based on their formal, physical properties. Through conceptual analysis, this paper will argue the human capacity for AARR underlies many instances of how individuals justify the mistreatment of and lack of compassion toward a variety of living beings, both human and non-human. This phenomenon will first be demonstrated for the audience by incorporating their participation in absurd examples meant to clearly highlight the verbal processes of interest. From there, more subtle and nuanced examples drawn from contemporary culture will be considered, in order to draw attention to the seemingly “true” or “real” nature of our justifications for violence and lack of compassion toward others, while exposing them for the linguistic illusions they actually are. The implications for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts as well as potential remedies pointed up by the analysis will be discussed.

Conceptual Congruence of Compassionate Care, Cultural Humility, and Psychological Flexibility: Implications for Applied Behavior Analysis
Domain: Theory
DONNA WEST (University of Nevada, Reno), Kian Assemi (University of Nevada, Reno), Swathi Ragulan (University of Nevada, Reno), Ramona Houmanfar (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Taylor and colleagues (2019) recommended that applied behavior analysts develop more collaborative relationships with their clients' caregivers by researching, training, and providing compassionate care in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). A behavior analytic interpretation of compassionate care could support the development of such training and support collaborative relationships with not only caregivers, but all participants in ABA services (e.g., clients, stakeholders, providers, supervisors, and other professionals). The present paper will provide a Relational Frame Theory (RFT) perspective of compassionate care and discuss the possibility of expanding the concept of compassionate care by reviewing its conceptual congruence with cultural humility and psychological flexibility. This process includes an overview of ways that Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) may provide ABA with a viable and comprehensive means for training and practicing compassionate care among members of human service organizations. Finally, implications of this approach to practitioners, clients, and ABA as a whole will be discussed in conjunction with recommendations for future research and how ABA leadership can support the development and sustainability of compassionate care in ABA organizations.



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