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.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #322
CE Offered: BACB
Telling Secrets: Behavior-Analytic Investigations of Private Events
Sunday, May 24, 2020
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Marriott Marquis, Level M1, University of D.C. / Catholic University
Area: PCH/VRB; Domain: Translational
Chair: Devon Wendtland (Arizona State University Department of Psychology)
Discussant: Carmen Luciano Soriano (University Almería, Spain)
CE Instructor: Victoria Diane Hutchinson, M.S.

Private events and behavior-analytic perspectives concerning them has been in discord with traditional psychological accounts for decades. Interestingly, however, behavior analysis hasn't wavered much in its conceptualization of them as predominantly verbal in nature. To that end, the present symposium takes a unique look into the interestingly-sparse empirical literature relative to private events and subsequently posits progressive approaches to changing our relation to private events given a delay discounting empirical investigation. Findings are discussed and a trajectory of ABA relative to private events is provided.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): delay discounting, impulsivity, private events
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: Define 'private events' in objective and measurable terms. Identify measurement systems used in the literature to measure private events. Attendees will be able to describe how to use delay discounting to measure the effects of defusion in the lab

Can Altering Private Events Change Personality?

(Applied Research)
AMANDA CHASTAIN (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

Previous research has suggested that impulsivity is character trait and thus, cannot be changed. However, recent research has demonstrated that Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) can change how people make choices when given selections between smaller-immediate vs. larger-delayed rewards. No research to date has evaluated the effect of ACT interventions on choice making when given a choice between avoidance vs. engaging in an aversive activity to access a reward. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the effects of defusion exercises on participants’ choice making on a computer task which presented choices between a negative reinforcer (i.e., avoidance of an aversive sound) or a positive reinforcer following the presentation of an aversive stimulus (e.g., access to money following the presentation of an aversive sound). Defusion is a behavior analytic procedure that trains participants in how to respond in more flexible ways to aversive private events, rather than engaging immediately in previously negatively reinforced behavior. In this study, a multiple baseline design across participants was used to measure change in discounting before and after a brief ACT session (data in this submission is presented as discounting curves but will be presented as both curves and as a multiple baseline in the conference presentation). In general, participants discounted less steeply (i.e., selected to listen to the sound in order to earn money more often) following defusion training when compared to baseline.

Examining the Exploration of Private Events in Behavior Analysis: A Systematic Review
(Applied Research)
VICTORIA DIANE HUTCHINSON (Saint Louis University), Laurel Giacone (Saint Louis University), Alexis Kennison (Saint Louis University), Jessica Laughlin (Saint Louis University), Alyssa N. Wilson (Saint Louis University)
Abstract: Behavior analysts have long debated the theoretical nuances of ‘private events’ while exploring experimental ways to predict, describe, and control emission of such events. For instance, clinical behavior analysis (including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy [ACT]) has been established as a behavior analytic approach targeting private events. Systematic reviews have been conducted on aspects of clinical behavior analysis, including Relational Frame Theory (RFT), ACT, and other behaviorally based strategies. However, to the authors knowledge, no systematic review has been conducted on private events. Therefore, the current project conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature on private events published from 1945-2019. Researchers utilized search engines, such as PsycInfo and EBSCO, and included “private events” and “behavior analysis” as search terms. Given the exploratory nature of the study, articles were included in the analysis if private events were the focus of the article. To date, of the 270 articles found, only seven met inclusion criteria. Five were conceptual, and two were experimental. Participants used included children with autism. Additionally, 17% of the articles used RFT and 83% used Skinner’s theories. Implications of these results will be discussed as they impact future research in targeting private events within behavior analysis.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh