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 #130
CE Offered: BACB
Persisting and Thriving: Recent Research on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis
Saturday, May 26, 2018
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, America's Cup A-D
Area: CBM/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Megan St. Clair (Halo Behavioral Health)
CE Instructor: Megan St. Clair, M.A.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a behavior analytic approach to intervening on complex verbal behavior, with the goal of disrupting maladaptive control by rules, leading to socially meaningful overt behavior change. The functional analyses that form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are broadly applicable and provide a set of analytical tools that can be used to understand adaptive and maladaptive behavior across a variety of settings and repertoires. This symposium brings together three presentations that adapt conceptual and practical analyses from the ACT literature to novel areas. The first paper, by Megan St. Clair, consists of a behavioral conceptual analysis of "grit." The second paper, by Lauren Servellon, consists of a research review and behavioral conceptual analysis of "resilience." The third paper, by Dr. Thomas Szabo, evaluates an ACT-based treatment program for gender-based violence in Sierra Leone.

Keyword(s): ACT, Grit, Resilience
Target Audience:

Board Certified Behavior Analysts


No Room to Quit When You've Built Up Your Grit: A Behavioral Conceptual Analysis of Grit and Implications for Functional Assessment and Treatment

MEGAN ST. CLAIR (Halo Behavioral Health), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

Across the social sciences, grit can collectively be described as demonstrating single-minded persistence in pursuit of a goal, in spite of various forms of interference such as adversity, plateaus in progress, and even failure. While the construct of grit has received robust empirical attention in mainstream psychology within recent years, it has primarily been regarded as a stable personality characteristic, trait, or disposition which an individual either possesses or does not. This perception is limiting; however, when considering that it does not pave the way for effective behavioral acquisition. Unfortunately, thus far, the behavioral literature has contributed little to the understanding of grit as a behavioral phenomenon by functionally analyzing the behavioral mechanisms involved. This is concerning when considering that related traditional psychological research has widely documented that grit is highly correlated with positive outcomes in academic achievement, professional advancement, and personal ambitions that correspond to one's principal life objectives. Fortunately, a behavior analytic conceptualization supported by relational frame theory (RFT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) would alternatively regard grit as yet another behavior to be explained in terms of its functional, behavior-environment relations. As such, within this context, grit is perceived as a complex behavior that has the potential to be built within one's repertoire by applying the principles of the science of behavior in functional analytic procedures that inform treatment methodology. This presentation will review the strengths and limitations of research on grit, with an emphasis on clinical implications and future directions.


Thriving in the Face of Adversity: A Review and Behavioral Conceptual Analysis of Research on Promoting Resilience

LAUREN SERVELLON (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

Resilience is a construct that refers to one's ability to continue living and even thrive, despite having experienced significant adversity. For example, veterans who return from war and report good quality of life and satisfaction in their normally daily non-combat lives are said to have good resilience. Veterans who struggle with depression, substance abuse and/or report low quality of life and/or happiness might be said to demonstrate low resilience. As a hypothetical internal causal construct, resilience has little to recommend it. However, response to adversity certainly differs among people and at least some of that difference must be due to learning history and therefore it seems likely that it must be possible to arrange interventions where adaptive responses to adverse circumstances can be strengthened. Research in clinical psychology has begun on treatment approaches designed to increase resilience, however little or no behavior analytic research has attempted to analyze or improve repertoires referred to as resilience. This presentation will review research on interventions designed to increase resilience and present a behavioral conceptual analysis of some of the repertoires that might contribute to adaptive responding in the face of adverse life circumstances.


Microaggression, Intimate Partner Gender-Based Violence, and Behavioral Flexibility Training in Sierra Leonean Couples

(Applied Research)
THOMAS G. SZABO (Florida Institute of Technology), Hannah Bockarie (Commit & Act, Sierra Leone), Ross White (University of Liverpool), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Corinna Stewart (National University of Ireland), Beate Ebert (Commit & Act International)

Gender-based violence and a response class that may serve as its precursor, microaggression, are rarely studied by behavior analysts but likely entail a complex repertoire of physical, verbal and arbitrarily applied relational responding. Microaggression is particularly important to the reduction of gender-based violence because it often goes unnoticed and therefore unaddressed, but it predicts other more serious forms of aggression. Like most other operant behavior, it is reinforced without explicit awareness of its occurrence by the speaker or the listener. We conducted a multiple probe study across married couples in which microaggression and overtly aggressive behavior were recorded during and between sessions of a month-long, four-session behavioral flexibility training that was modeled on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The study was conducted in a small west African nation where gender-based violence is reported to be at pandemic levels. Results showed immediate reductions in microaggression occurring within and between sessions. Subsequent reductions in aggression that occurred between sessions were also recorded and partner reports were endorsed by all participants during private communications when partners were not present. Further, collateral behavior that sometimes occurred before or during microaggression and physical assault (e.g., heavy drinking, drug use, and betrayal) were weakened and replacement behaviors strengthened.




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