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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #34
CE Offered: BACB
Make the World Sustainable Again: Behavior Analysis and Climate Change
Saturday, May 26, 2018
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom F
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Richard Wayne Fuqua (Western Michigan University)
Discussant: Robert Gifford (University of Victoria)
CE Instructor: Richard Wayne Fuqua, Ph.D.

Evidence of climate change is abundant and persuasive, from rising global temperatures, to shrinking snow cover and sea ice, to the increasing frequency and intensity of weather events related to climate change. Evidence that human activities, especially the emission of greenhouse gases, are important contributors to global warming is also persuasive. The founding principles of applied behavior analysis emphasis the importance of behavioral issues that are important to society and the development of effective strategies to manage behaviors that improve quality of life. It is difficult to imagine a behavioral challenge with more far-reaching consequences than climate change yet behavior analysts have been relatively slow to adopt climate change as a focus of research and theory. In this symposium, we will review some of the conceptual and practical contributions, both at the individual and systems level, that behavior analysts (and other social scientists and policy makers) can make to developing an effective strategy and research agenda to address climate change.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): climate change, conceptual analysis, public policy, sustainability
Target Audience:

This presentation is appropriate for behavior analysts with interest in social issues, climate change, sustainability, evidence based public policy and organizational behavior management. This presentation will cover: a) conceptual issues, such as behavioral economics, b) practical interventions at the individual and system level as well as c) dissemination of behavior analysis to the public and other professionals.

Learning Objectives: 1. Identify the behavioral practices and patterns contributing to climate change. 2. Identify the behavioral processes that contribute to the persistence of behaviors that impact environmental sustainability. 3. Identify the contributions of behavioral economics and behavior analytic concepts to the development of evidence-based public policy to address climate change.

Understanding Climate Change Denial and Inaction: Does Behavior Analysis Have Anything to Add?

CYNTHIA J. PIETRAS (Western Michigan University)

A growing proportion of Americans are acknowledging the danger posed by a warming climate, few are worried that climate change will threaten them personally, and few are taking direct action.��Scholars from various disciplines have explored the psychological processes -- including verbal processes -- that contribute to climate change denial and inaction, and at least three books have been recently published on the topic (Marshall�s�Don�t even think about it: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change, Stoknes��What we think about when we try not to think about global warming,�and Hoffman�s�How culture shapes the climate change debate).��These works examine reasons for climate inaction/denial from an eclectic perspective (e.g., cognitive, social, and evolutionary psychology) and offer suggestions for how to change people�s opinions and induce sustainable actions.��Some behavior analysts have researched ways to increase sustainable behavior, but such efforts have been relatively limited.��Furthermore, behavior analysts have offered little in the way of conceptual analyses of verbal behavior related to climate change.��The purpose of this talk is to review these books with the goal of identifying ways in which behavior analysis might contribute to this discussion.


Can Games Save the World From Global Warming?

JOHN W. ESCH (Esch Behavior Consultants, Inc.)

The United Nation’s 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2014 that global warming due to increases in greenhouse gases (GHG) caused largely by human activities threatens world populations and requires immediate world action (IPPC, 2014). The report recommended several governmental adaptation and mitigation policies, e.g., building seawalls, reducing GHG. Most world governments have responded positively, whereas the US government has done little and recently denied the existence of any danger. Several books have described this inaction in cognitive terms suggesting ways to change one’s thinking so that people can make more appropriate responses to global warming. An alternate approach is to change behavior directly. Behavior analysis has been quite successful at changing behavior irrespective of verbal behavior. This talk will consider the behavior analytic use of current technology, specifically, gamification to change behavior with respect to climate warming. Recently an increasing number of apps and serious games have been developed to change health and fitness behaviors and to teach language (e.g., Fitbit, Duolingo). However, few apps have been developed to save the planet from GHG. We will suggest possible independent variables (Michie et al. 20??) needed for such an app and dependent variables recommendations to reduce GHG (Hawken, 2008).


Influencing Cultural Selection: Evidence-Based Policy and Behavior Analysis

BRANDON MARTINEZ-ONSTOTT (Western Michigan University )

Why should Behavior Analysts get involved in changing policy, creating evidence-based policy, and how does policy influence responding of both the individual and the group? Our society evolves when social values and corresponding response patterns, "contribute to the success of the practicing group in solving its problems" (Skinner, 1981). Evidence-based policy, is policy that is empirically supported, and is also sensitive to social concerns. How better to improve society, then to influence policy through applied behavior analytic research, and evidence-based practice? "Better applications, it is hoped, will lead to a better state of society, to whatever extent the behavior of its members can contribute to the goodness of a society" (Baer, Wolf, Risley, 1968). Climate change is a real problem that needs all scientists to contribute to forming policy that best supports our culture's survival. It is hypothesized that policy restricts responding of the group and potentiates certain response classes, likened to that of an instructional stimulus SDi, increasing the probability of certain responses occurring within the context of an individual analysis of behavior. By changing the environment in which our culture responds in, through the establishment of evidence-based policy, behavior analysts may have a significant impact on the survival of our culture and our species.

Behavioral Economics as a Framework for Empirical Public Policy on Climate Change
STEVEN R. HURSH (Institutes for Behavior Resources, Inc.)
Abstract: Behavioral economics provides an empirical framework for evaluating how individual human behavior is affected by policy decisions and how policy should be adjusted to recognize important functional relationships centered on human behavior and choice. I will approach this topic from the larger perspective of “empirical public policy” – that is, how policy can be formulated to be responsive to data, especially data on how people behave. I will describe how two agencies – the FDA and the FAA – currently use data on human behavior to adjust policy, and how, in general, behavioral economics can be the conduit for empirical public policy for other agencies, such the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy relative to climate change. I will illustrate how data at the micro-level derived from research using hypothetical demand curves can be extrapolated to more macro-level implications for public policy.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh