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 #213
CE Offered: BACB
Enhancing Applied Practice With Basic Concepts, Contextualism, and Rejection of Blind Rule-Following
Sunday, May 27, 2018
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom C
Area: PRA/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Diana J. Walker (Trinity Services; Illinois Crisis Prevention Network; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Discussant: Traci M. Cihon (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Diana J. Walker, Ph.D.

This symposium will describe how behavior emitted by practitioners and their clients follows fundamental laws of behavior discovered in the basic laboratory. The presenters take a radical-behaviorist approach to explaining interesting behavior of their clients, as well as of themselves and other practitioners, in the context of applied practice. The purpose of this symposium is to illustrate the utility of conceptualizing behavior in terms of basic concepts, and of applying those concepts in conceptually systematic ways to applied problems. Such practices can lead to more efficient treatment and better outcomes for clients, yet many practitioners do not follow this approach. Instead, they use techniques based on topography and function, without necessarily considering the context in which behavior occurs, or they follow rules about techniques they should and should not use, such as differential reinforcement and punishment, respectively. Many practitioners are fluent in function-based approaches but do not consider behavioral concepts that are less salient for them, such as the Matching Law, conditioned motivating operations, complex schedules of reinforcement, adjunctive behavior, response generalization, and Skinner's (1953) analysis of emotion. Specific conceptualizations, applications, and case studies will be presented, and implications of a contextual, fundamental approach to practice will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): applied practice, basic concepts, contextualism, radical behaviorism
Target Audience:

Masters-level and doctoral-level behavior analysts who are applied practitioners or who are interested in how basic concepts apply to human behavior; behavior analysts interested in basic, applied, and translational research; radical behaviorists

Learning Objectives: 1. Attendees will state one example of how basic behavioral principles discovered in the nonhuman laboratory can inform applied practice. 2. Attendees will state one example of a complex schedule of reinforcement operating in applied practice. 3. Attendees will state one reason why excluding punishment from their applied practice might be more harmful than keeping it as an option. 4. Attendees will define conditioned motivating operation and state how motivating operations might affect problem behavior of a human.

The Analysis of Behavior in Applied Behavior Analysis: Perspectives of an Experimental, Radical-Behaviorist Practitioner

(Service Delivery)
DIANA J. WALKER (Trinity Services; Illinois Crisis Prevention Network; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

In 1960 Isaacs, Thomas, and Goldiamond used behavior-analytic techniques and chewing gum to get two "psychotic" patients to speak after 14 and 19 years of not speaking at all. The report was amazing, yet one behavior analyst reader reacted that there were a lot of limitations: there was no preference assessment or functional analysis or control over other variables in the environment. The authors had effected socially significant behavior change using behavioral techniques and gum, that likely improved the patients' lives immeasurably, yet the reader was concerned that they did not follow the rules that this reader had been taught to follow. This presentation will argue that going back to basics, to basic laboratory findings and to the early days of behavior modification, can significantly improve the practice of applied behavior analysis. Interesting behavior that is difficult to explain in a technological and conceptually systematic way will be conceptualized in terms of basic behavioral processes, and effective treatments based on that interpretation will be presented. The take-home point is that unexpected, inexplicable behavior is simple—it follows the laws of behavior. Sometimes it follows obscure laws and sometimes lots of them at the same time, but it is lawful nonetheless.

Schedules of Reinforcement in Applied Settings: Micro- and Macro-Contingencies
(Service Delivery)
KYOSUKE KAZAOKA (Illinois Crisis Prevention Network)
Abstract: This presentation will discuss the importance of schedules of reinforcement in applied settings, from simple schedules maintaining individual behavior to complex schedules at a macrocontingency level, such as obtaining funding for increased support. In the field of developmental /intellectual disability, behavior analysts are typically called in to decrease the frequency and intensity of challenging behaviors, as well as to establish or increase adaptive behavior. Typically, behavior analysts start by developing a measurement system to track the challenging behavior, assess the functions of the behavior, conduct preference assessments, develop function-based interventions, and train clients’ caregivers to implement interventions. While training caregivers, behavior analysts often discuss the importance of using a fixed-ratio (FR) 1 schedule to establish a new behavioral repertoire and the use of intermittent schedules to maintain it. They also address the dangers of intermittent schedules of reinforcement, such as a variable-ratio (VR) schedule, for challenging behavior. This presentation will extend this discussion to other types of schedules of reinforcement that might be in effect in the applied setting, such as variable-interval (VI) and complex schedules, using actual cases that this presenter has encountered in microcontingencies (e.g., client – family interactions) and macrocontingencies (e.g., funding agencies).
The Avoidance of Punishment in Applied Behavior Analysis: More Unethical Than Punishment Itself?
(Service Delivery)
Abstract: Basic and applied research has shown that response-contingent punishment can lead to a rapid decrease in the frequency of punished behavior and in some cases complete response suppression (Lerman & Vorndran, 2002). Despite advantages to utilizing punishment to decrease severe challenging behaviors, the applied field continues to avoid using this evidence-based approach. Instead, practitioners utilize positive reinforcement procedures, such as differential reinforcement, noncontingent reinforcement, and token economies. Such procedures have been used even when behaviors are dangerous and have potentially fatal outcomes, such as self-injurious behavior, elopement, and physical aggression. The time it takes to see a treatment effect on dangerous behavior using positive reinforcement procedures is a concern. In the time it takes to reinforce safe alternative behaviors, significant damage can be done. Positive reinforcement procedures are also commonly combined with psychotropic medications to treat severe challenging behaviors, even though side effects of the medications are known to be harmful. Lerman and Vorndran argued fifteen years ago for further research on punishment. This presentation will argue that eliminating punishment from one’s repertoire of behavior-change techniques is unethical, and in some cases, punishment of dangerous behavior may be more ethical than reinforcement-based procedures.
Beyond Screws and Screwdrivers: The Conditioned Motivating Operation and You
(Service Delivery)
SHANNON ORMANDY (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: Now discussed as “motivating operations” (MOs), these antecedent variables are defined as those that increase or decrease the value of a consequence and the probability of behavior that has been followed by that consequence in the past (Laraway, Snycerski, Michael, & Poling, 2003). Although the precise terminological framework has been subject to multiple revisions and absent for much of our field’s existence, the conceptual framework has been with our field from its inception. In his landmark book, Science and Human Behavior, Skinner (1953) asserted that the proverbial horse could indeed be made to drink water and discussed emotions as environmental variables that alter the value of a consequence. However, without a precise terminological framework for much of our field’s existence, many early and basic examples of MOs have been overlooked or miscategorized. This presentation will give an overview of MOs, including the three types of conditioned MOs, and discuss some previously overlooked early basic research examples as well as contemporary, applied examples. The importance of conditioned MOs in the applied setting will be discussed, including implications for treatment and problems that may arise from a failure to recognize the role of conditioned MOs in problematic and adaptive behavior.



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