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 #444
CE Offered: BACB
Racism, Bias, and Behavior Analysis
Monday, May 28, 2018
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Marriott Marquis, Marina Ballroom G
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Elizabeth Hughes Fong (Saint Joseph's University; Multicultural Alliance of Behavior Analyts)
Discussant: Ali A. Mahamat (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
CE Instructor: Ali A. Mahamat, None

Racial discrimination is widespread and exists in all culture as social contingencies in different forms (Guerin, 2003). Verbal behavior may provide one of the form of racism as well as the possible solution/prevention for the forming racism. The school and community may need to act differently toward the racism language to reduce the value. Racism may be conceptualized from many perspectives similarly, the contingencies which maintain racism may be just as varied. On a basic level, behavior analysts believe that racism is a learned behavior and maintained through consequences on reinforcement, punishment and extinction. Is it possible to apply those same contingencies to change racist behavior, or does the behavior come into contact with punishers far too infrequently to extinguish it? Could it be that even our behavior principles are biased when working with non-Western European American? Take for example, teaching a tasks analysis is directly opposite of the holistic learning approach commonly used in Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, Arabs, and some Asian Americans cultures (McIntyre, n.d.). In another example, the "task oriented" concept of the Premack Principle, favors Western European Americans as opposed to "people oriented" cultures (McIntyre, n.d.)

Keyword(s): culture, racism, radical behaviorism, RFT
Target Audience:

BCBAs, BCaBAs, RBTs, clinicans

Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will be able to identify the contingencies which shape racist behavior 2. Participants will be able to identify how relational frame theory relates to racism 3. Participants will be able to identify how radical behaviorism can help address social validity and racism 4. 1. Participants will be able to identify the contingencies which shape bias in individuals
Shaped Racism
KATHERINE J. SAINT (Fox Valley Autism; The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)
Abstract: From a radical behavioristic perspective racism can be explained on a cultural and ontogenic level (Babbitt, and Campbell, 1999). Culturally families have trained generations to label groups by feature function and class into relational frames. These relational frames can have positive correlations or negative colorations.  On a cultural level racism does not have to be learned from direct contingencies. Racist statements or actions can be socially reinforced and maintained.  From an ontogenic level racism can be learned through experiences and direct contingencies (Conger, Dygdon, and Rollock, 2012). Many soldiers come back from war pairing the country they fought against with extremely punishing events like death and violence. Dixon, Dymond, Rehfeldt, Roche and Zlomke (2003) use relational frame theory (RFT) to explain terrorism as well.  Other people are exposed to people with certain features and because of the punishing behavior of those people a generalization is made that all people with those features will act in that way. The process of pairing others with the same features can serve as surrogate motivating operation for racist behavior.
Racism, Relational Frame Theory, and the Application for Society
KOZUE MATSUDA (Children Center Inc)
Abstract: The United States media often presents racism as one racial group pitted against another and blamed history and the government regulations for the situation (Feagin, 2013). Racial discrimination is widespread and exists in all cultures as social contingencies taking different forms (Guerin, 2003). In general, the number of racially related incidents has increased in the United States and around the world. (Maussen & Grillo, 2014). However, racism often discussed within only within the context of black versus white and rarely is discussed in terms of within-group hate. For example, while the Japanese and Koreans share similar physical features, Japanese people have conducted hate crime towards individuals of Korean descent. Similarly, verbal behavior has also used “hidden racism”, with the majority of incidents of racial discrimination and prejudice practice unnoticed. While certain terms have been tightly restricted in some public forums, other behaviors remain in the society. Behavior analysts can help societies become safer places by implementing different contingencies using Relational Frame Theory to eliminate racism in local communities. The school and community may need to provide different contingencies for racist language to reduce its use, and avoid attributions of cause to ‘racism’ and ‘racists.’



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