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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #330
CE Offered: BACB
Creating Caring and Sustainable Communities: Large-Scale Applications of an Active Caring Approach
Monday, May 25, 2015
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
204A (CC)
Area: CSE; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas)
Discussant: E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
CE Instructor: Richard G. Smith, Ph.D.

Societal-level challenges, including wasteful and dangerous personal and cultural practices and the erosion of caring and compassion, demand solutions that promote positive and widespread changes in behavior. Applied behavioral science (ABS) offers a promising foundation from which to address important societal issues such as excessive resource consumption, unsafe personal and workplace behaviors, and a generalized increase in the coarseness of human interactions. Importantly, interventions to improve these cultural-level problems require large-scale applications. Furthermore, successful and sustainable changes in cultural practices require the establishment of self-perpetuating systems that promote the spread of prosocial behavior change by incorporating processes that encourage members of the culture to not only engage in prosocial behavior but to recognize and reinforce the prosocial behavior of others. An example of this type of programmatic approach to large-scale behavior change is the Actively-Caring-for-People (AC4P) movement, which incorporates antecedent, consequential, and self-management strategies encourage, maintain, and generalize prosocial behavior. This symposium will presents four examples of behavioral interventions designed to improve behavior in the areas of: bicycle safety, environmental sustainability, and the spread of compassionate and caring behaviors throughout entire communities. Each presentation incorporates a large-scale AC4P perspective, which has the potential to impact large numbers of people worldwide.

Keyword(s): community, sustainability

A Community-Wide Program of Actively Caring for People: Spreading Prosocial Behavior One Bracelet at a Time

KELLY HO (The University of North Texas), Benjamin Libman (University of North Texas), Stephanie Holder (University of North Texas), Richard G. Smith (University of North Texas)

The Actively Caring for People Movement (AC4P) aims to apply principles derived from behavioral science to increase and maintain acts of kindness on a large scale. Although behavior change occurs at the level of the individual, widespread application and adoption across many individuals is necessary for a cultural-level impact of programmatic approaches to prosocial behavior. The current project evaluated dissemination of AC4P in a university campus and the local community. A community forum was held, at which the principles underling AC4P were presented and the AC4P program was described. Approximately 600 people attended the forum, and each received either one or two individually-numbered AC4P bracelets and was encouraged to register their bracelet number on the AC4P website and pass it on to someone engaging in kind acts. Bracelet numbers, as well as AC4P stories, were recorded and tracked on the AC4P website. Bracelet registration continues to evaluate the effects of subsequent contacts with forum attendees as well as additional organized, community-based activities at which bracelets will be distributed.

The Road to Bicycle Safety: From Baseline Observations to an AC4P Intervention
MICAH ROEDIGER (Virginia Tech), Taylor Jones (Virginia Tech University), Angela Suraci (Virginia Tech University), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
Abstract: Bicycle helmets are critical in preventing injuries during a crash. Bicycle helmet use and possible demographic determinants of helmet use were investigated with systematic field observations on the Virginia Tech (VT) campus. Field observations were conducted by 59 research assistants trained to observe bicycling behavior. A total of 14,412 independent observations collected over one academic year were used for data analysis. Reliability observations were conducted on nearly one third of all observations (32.5%) with all inter-rater reliability values exceeding 95%. As depicted in the Table, the number of individuals observed wearing a bicycle helmet was less than 20%, and significantly lower for males than females. These data inspired the development and application of a campus-wide intervention to increase the use of bicycle helmets among VT students. This intervention (which is currently in progress) consists of the following: 1) Various groups of students are informed of the AC4P Movement and offered a 50%-price-reduction coupon to purchase a bike helmet (n>1000), 2) Students are required to give this coupon to a bicyclist observed without a helmet, and 3) These students document their interactions with bicyclists. The impact of this large-scale intervention on bike-helmet purchase and use will be systematically assessed and presented.
Exploring the Impact of a Website to Promote Prosocial Behavior: A case study of AC4P
SARA E. VALENTINO (Virginia Tech), Lindsey Futrell (Virginia Tech University), Tara Fialkow (Virginia Tech University), Samuel Robinson (Virginia Tech University)
Abstract: The idea that simple acts of kindness can inspire significant social change has piqued the public’s attention. Virtual social networks dedicated to inspiring self-reinforcing cycles of prosociality have sprung up all across the country (see,, These networks attempt to leverage natural social dynamics to perpetuate the spread of prosocial behavior from person to person. In the present study, we calculated several network-level metrics for one such network: 1.) average degree, the number of ties coming from each person, (1.82), 2.) density, the proportion of ties in the network, (.009), and 3.) transitivity, the extent to which two of a person’s friends are friends with each other, (.435). See Table xx for a graphic representation of the AC4P network connections. Guided by social network research, we show how these metrics influence individual and group processes and how the information contained in this analysis can be applied to enhance the reach of prosocial networks. encourages members to recognize and reinforce others for prosocial acts by passing wristbands embossed with the AC4P logo and to publicly post stories of prosocial interactions on the AC4P website. Over seven years of data has been compiled on wristband dissemination and online-interactions between members. To develop a deeper understanding of the social dynamics that shape online-prosocial-networks, further analyses will include a longitudinal analysis of network change, a time series of wristband purchases and stories posted, as well as a content analysis of the 3,000+ AC4P stories investigating the nature of prosocial behavior (e.g. person-based, behavior-based, or environment-based) diffused along network ties.
Developing a Sustainability Institute with an Interdisciplinary Team
CRISS WILHITE (California State University, Fresno), Mara Brady (California State University Fresno), Beth Weinman (California State University Fresno), Steven W. Payne (Melmark)
Abstract: Solving complex cultural problems such as climate change cannot be accomplished without scientific understanding, evidence-based technical solutions, and behavioral implementation of those solutions. This requires integration of activities of consumers, producers, scientists, educators, policy makers and policy implementers. Houmanfar, Rodrigues and Ward’s (2010) five- term contingency model of cultural change has been used by the Fresno State Sustainability Project to effect change on our campus. The group is comprised of behavior analysts, geologists, biologists, students from 8 departments and plant operations personnel. We have received grants and honors from the university system and have completed a variety of educational programs and applied projects. Because we have found the numerous projects on campus and in the community have very little interaction, we proposed a sustainability institute. Fresno State’s top tier administrators have committed to developing the Fresno State Sustainability Institute. With their support, the Sustainability Summit held in the fall of 2014 paved the way to enhancing ongoing activity, promoting research and coordinating university and community stakeholders relative to sustainability in the Central San Joaquin Valley. We are currently developing organizational infrastructure and pursuing additional funding.



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