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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.

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36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Special Event #472
Presidential Address
Monday, May 31, 2010
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Ballroom A (CC)
Presidential Address: Steps to Take and Missteps to Avoid on the Quest for Mainstream Relevance
PATRICK C. FRIMAN (Father Flanagan's Girls and Boys Town)
Dr. Patrick C. Friman received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas under the mentorship of Edward R. Christophersen and the late Montrose Wolf. He is the current Director of the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska School of Medicine. He was formerly on the faculties of Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, and Creighton Schools of Medicine. He was also formerly the Director of the Clinical Psychology Program at University of Nevada as well as the Associate Chairman of the Department of Psychology. He is the former Editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and the incoming President of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. He is also on the editorial boards of nine peer reviewed journals. He has published more than 180 scientific articles and chapters and three books. The primary focus of his scientific and clinical work in is in the area of Behavioral Pediatrics and Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Friman’s work in behavioral pediatrics has concentrated on the gap between primary medical care for children on one side, and referral-based clinical child psychological and psychiatric care, on the other. He also specializes in consultation regarding workplace issues such as motivation, dealing with difficult people, change, and pathways to success. As an example of the impact of his work, following the publication on sleep problems a few years ago, the American Medical Association invited him to headline a press conference in New York City where he was presented to the press by the Surgeon General of the United States.
Abstract: Behavior analysis is a generic science and Skinner's vision was for it to become a mainstream science relevant to most, if not all, human concerns, both major and minor. Clearly, his vision has not been realized, despite the fact that behavioral analysis has produced numerous extraordinary findings in both basic and applied domains. Those outside the field continue to view its general relevance to basic or applied knowledge of human affairs as very limited. The behavior analytic approach to human behavior, however sexy and satisfying it may be to its few adherents (recall Skinner's lament, "We happy few, but why so few?"), is simply not sexy or satisfying to everyone else. Among the many plausible reasons for this state of affairs is that its best known basic science findings have been obtained from studying rats and pigeons and its best known applied science findings from studying persons with developmental disabilities. But there are multiple other possibilities. Behavior analysis employs an arcane language even when discussing mundane subjects. Furthermore, although that language is eminently capable of capturing the dynamics of behavior—its primordial subject matter—it seems completely incapable of capturing the aesthetics of that subject matter. Its adherents exhibit a deep mistrust of, and even contempt for, the treasured concepts used by the masses to discuss and explain their lives. Although behavior analysts eschew mentalism, many engage in it when talking about or to their critics. There are still other possibilities that explain behavior analysis’s lack of prominence, but space limitations and reader patience bid me stop. In my presidential address I will suggest some steps to take and missteps to avoid as we happy few slowly, but inexorably, trudge forward in our quest for mainstream relevance, the rightful context for the extraordinary science of behavior analysis.
 
 

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