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

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Symposium #41
The Rise of Behavioral Economics in Relation to Behavior Analysis: Nudging and the Skinnerian Tradition
Saturday, May 26, 2018
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom G
Area: CSS/EAB; Domain: Translational

Behavioral Economics (BE) and nudging studies have been characterized by increasing interest in the last years, and the Nobel Memorial Prize awarded to Richard Thaler represents a recent example of the rise of this multidisciplinary and relatively young field. Nevertheless, Behavior Analysis (BA) is rarely, if at all, mentioned among its contributing sciences. Therefore, this symposium has the aim of strengthening, meaningful conceptual and empirical contributions between the two fields and feeding further the developments of behavioral insights (BI). The first paper introduces the selectionist perspective and the notion of reinforcement into the field of BE; furthermore, it discusses single-subject research and serves as the overarching framework for the following presentations. The second paper focuses more closely on the mutual conceptual contributions between BA and nudging: definitions, functional relationships in the three-term contingency and group vs. individual design of nudging interventions represent the three main topics of discussion. Finally, the third paper provides a nudging field experiment meant to increase hand sanitization in a Norwegian hospital. This sets the occasion for discussing further context analysis and the adaptability of nudges for maximum effect retention. Following nudging and BI studies may benefit from the findings of BA and vice versa.

Instruction Level: Basic

Contributions of Behavior Analysis to Behavioral Economics

ELISE FURREBOE (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway), Ingunn Sandaker (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway)

Behavior Analysis may contribute in the understanding of Behavioral Economic issues. Behavior principles have successfully been used to interpret consumption behavior (Foxall, 2001). Similarly, other areas may profit from a closer collaboration between the two fields. Yet, economics and cognitive psychology remain the main influences within the broader field of Behavioral Economics. This paper will discuss three features of behavior analysis that are relevant for the development and further understanding of behavioral economics phenomena. These features include (i) the selection perspective, (ii) the generic principle of reinforcement, and (iii) single-subject research. The selection perspective implies that the consequences of behavior and not the intentions of the individual are responsible for an organism’s behavior. Whereas a reward refers to an inherent property of an event, reinforcement refers to the selection of an act among other acts, and thus becomes a generic concept and an important part of the ontogenic selection. Single-subject research provides the means of finding the cause of the behavior by treating behavior as the dependent variable. The focus on the behavior – environment relation has great advantages in the study of behavioral economic issues.


Feeding the Behavioral Revolution: Contributions of Behavior Analysis to Nudging Individuals and Groups

MARCO TAGLIABUE (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway), Carsta Simon (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway)

In the rise of a "behavioral revolution," initiated conventionally by Thaler and Sunstein's publication of Nudge in 2008, governmental leaders and international organizations call for a stronger and more unified behavioral scientific approach, to tackle efficiently social problems and global issues. This article debates the relation between the nudging concept and its underlying principles from a behavior analytic viewpoint. We discuss possible reasons of why the science of behavior analysis, which may appear designated to play a central role in the rise of nudging techniques, has evolved largely unnoticed to scholars examining nudging. Furthermore, we acknowledge the contributions of nudging research from other disciplines, such as behavioral economics and public policy analysis, which benefit behavior analytic research practices. We build on the definitions by exploring the need for nudging in light of retaining positive individual consequences and showing how nudges can be contextualized to meet the variability naturally occurring in populations and integrating behavior analytic concepts in the design of nudging field experiments. We conclude with the conceptual validity and feasibility of scaling up nudging studies, and argue whether groups can be nudged in more effective ways, other than as a collection of individuals belonging to the same group.


Nudging Joint Responsibility in Infection Prevention: A Field Experiment

(Applied Research)
HILDE MOBEKK (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway), Laila Stokke (Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway)

Infections are a costly matter to both individuals and society as a whole, and improving hygienic behavior is therefore of great importance. Despite decades of evidence based recommendations, getting people to comply with guidelines for infection prevention in hospitals are still challenging. To improve visitors’ compliance with infection prevention the insights from behavioral economics and behavior analysis were used. Three different nudges were developed and tested to increase the use of hand sanitizers at Rikshospitalet in Norway. The three nudges were placement (nudge 1), placement including a red sign with a short descriptive text (nudge 2), and placement including a red sign with an expanded descriptive text (nudge 3). The study comprises of 300 individual choice situations with 100 observations of each nudge. The result shows that the number of visitors using the hand sanitizers were 7% (nudge 1), 46% (nudge 2) and 40% (nudge 3). It is important to analyze the context and adjust the nudge to optimize the effect.




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