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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Paper Session #377
Contingencies and Metacontingencies
Monday, May 25, 2015
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
007C (CC)
Area: TPC
Keyword(s): Contingencies
Chair: Diego Zilio (State University of São Paulo)

The Biggest Matching Law Study You Never Heard Of: A Behavior Analytic Appreciation of Barker and Wright's Lost Classic, Midwest and Its Children

Domain: Theory
JAMES T. TODD (Eastern Michigan University)

The history of behavior analysis is primarily one of keen attention given to the discrete responses of individual organisms under carefully controlled conditions. From this, we aspire to deal effectively with the totality of behavior under ordinary, undesigned conditions. One of our great advancements in getting to this goal is the matching law, which tells us that various measures of responding are proportional to various measures of reinforcement. This we usually ascribe to Herrnsteins basic experimental work in the early 1960s. Nowadays, however, when we want to prove the general worth of the matching law, we sometimes use it to explain scoring attempts in sports or the behavior of individual children in reasonably typical settings. However, more than half a century ago, in the early 1950s, the Ecological Psychologists were already attempting to relate rates of socially relevant classes of objectively measured behaviorin everyone in an entire cityto various objectively measured aspects of the physical environmentacross an entire city. One of the results of this effort was an anticipation of a matching-type analysis of the participation every inhabitant in a city in all of its response opportunities, as described in Roger Barker and Herbert Wright's lost classic, Midwest and Its Children (1954). The complexity and sophistication of this massive effort, and the attempts of Barker and Wright to graphically and mathematically organize the data, can serve as a lesson to behavior analysts looking to expand the relevance of their work from discrete responses in the lab to everyday behavior of great general import.


Homogenous and/or Pragmatic Reductionism: Comments on the Relation Between Contingency and Metacontingency

Domain: Theory
DIEGO ZILIO (State University of São Paulo), Kester Carrara (State University of São Paulo)

One of the main arguments for the defense of metacontingency as a model for explaining social phenomena is that it embraces another kind of selection (cultural selection) beyond natural and operant selection which, despite being emergent on operant processes, would not be reducible to operant selection. Therefore, for being in another level of analysis, cultural selection demands a conceptual framework of its own, hence the metacontingency. Our goal here is to discuss the argument of irreducibility through two models of reductionism: (a) Ernest Nagel's homogeneous reduction, according to which reduction is established when it's possible to derivate the reduced theory from the reductive theory without needing bridge laws; and (b) what we have called pragmatic reduction, which occurs when a theory situated at a lower level of analysis presents more parsimonious explanations as well as better conditions for prediction and control of phenomena supposedly occurring at a higher (emergent) level. Having these two models of reduction as our analytical framework, we will analyze the relations between two dyads present in the discussions regarding cultural selection: (a) individual social behavior and culture; and (b) contingency and metacontingency. We will suggest that although metacontingency seems to be reducible to contingency (and that we can explain social behavior in terms of operant behavior), from that does not necessarily follows that culture is reducible to individual social behavior.

Bridging the Gap Between a Science of Individual Behavior and a Science of Cultural Practices: From Social Behavior to Metacontingency
Domain: Theory
KALLIU COUTO (Oslo and Akershus University College), Ingunn Sandaker (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences)
Abstract: Just as explanations of individual behavior based on three-term contingency benefit from knowledge of other levels of analysis (e.g. inter- and intra-species particularities), explanation of cultural practices also may benefit by incorporating knowledge from other levels. Behavior analysts adopt a selectionist approach when explaining behavior of human and nonhuman organisms. For human beings this selection process can be conceptually divided into three levels: phylogenetic, ontogenetic and cultural (Skinner, 1981). Although all levels of selection interact to determine human behavior, the focus of the field of behavior analysis has been on ontogenesis. The formulation of the metacontingency concept (Glenn, 1986, 1988; Glenn & Malott, 2004; Malott & Glenn, 2006) brought a tangible way of studying selection on the third level. However, as Mattaini (2006) postulates, the metacontingency concept might not capture all aspects of cultural selection. On the other hand, the three-term contingency concept on its own also may not capture all aspects of individual selection. It will be argued here that an alternative approach may be carried out by bridging the gap between science of individual behavior and science of cultural practices through better integration of knowledge from behavioural contingencies and interlocking contingencies into metacontingency.
Keyword(s): Contingencies



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