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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #120
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission Sustainability Action to Research
Saturday, May 28, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 156A
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Jonathan W. Kimball (Behavior Development Solutions)
Discussant: William L. Heward (The Ohio State University)
CE Instructor: William L. Heward, Ph.D.

Climate change is a problem that is growing exponentially and is already changing life as we know it. Influencing Pro-environmental behavior (PEB) has concerned behavior analysts for decades, and research on the topic of sustainability has increased in recent years. In this symposium, three presentations will describe a different intervention package that targeted, respectively, littering, fuel economy, and diversion of food waste; these packages employed tactics such as feedback, public posting, and social norms. The fourth will present the experience of the Ohio Association for Behavior Analysis in "gamifying" its annual conferences-both live-and virtual- in order to promote a variety of PEB both within and beyond its event. Each presenter is a clinician whose project grew from their personal values and efforts to act locally in response to a global problem; notably, two of the projects were supported by a Behavior Change For A Sustainable World research award from the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy. In addition to sharing their findings, then, presenters will discuss opportunities and barriers for securing support of research involving PEB, the importance to their efforts of community-based collaboration, and ideas for expansion and replication

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): climate change, proenvironmental behavior, sustainability
Target Audience:


Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to identify opportunities for support and collaboration in conducting sustainability research. Participants will be able to identify research design and measurement tools for sustainability related problem. Participants will be able to identify opportunities and methods for broadening the scope, settings, and scale of sustainability interventions.
Diversity submission 

The Differential Effects of Feedback and Prompting on Waste Reduction Through School-Wide Composting

MOLLY BENSON (Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy), Jonathan W. Kimball (Behavior Development Solutions)

Food waste that ends up in landfills contributes directly to climate change when it decomposes into greenhouse gases. Composting is one means of diverting food waste from landfills, but in terms of empirical study it is something that has received negligible direct attention from behavior analysts. We conducted this study of waste diversion—expressed as percentage by weight of trash not sent to a landfill—in the cafeteria of a suburban high school; using a reversal design to compare the results of prompting to those of feedback, and subsequently to assess any differential impact of feedback added to prompting. Schools don’t uniformly compost, though they remain the biggest municipal waste producers in the city, second to the local hospital. The results were presented to City Council as a basis for their consideration of whether and how to expand diversion efforts in 7 additional schools. Grants were awarded to defer costs, and High School Life Skills Program managed composting and research to reduce effort, and as part of a rigorous vocational training and life skills curriculum.

Diversity submission 

An Examination of the Differential Impacts of Signage and Response Effort on Litter Reduction on a Public Bike Path

KAITLYN ARNOLD (Vivant Behavioral Health)

Litter that is left unattended degrades releasing chemicals that can pollute the soil, seep into our freshwater sources and even pollute the air. This pollution contributes directly to climate change by the emission of greenhouse gases. One low-cost strategy to reduce litter is through social norms to influence pro-environmental behavior. Another method that has received attention by behavior analysts is the manipulation of response effort. This is a study of litter reduction on a local 3-mile bike trail, using a reversal design to compare the results of signage and availability of plastic bags to assess any differential impact of including a means for carrying out trash of the trail. The results will be presented to the City’s Environmental Compliance Division as a basis for their consideration whether and how to expand the program to other bike and walking trails throughout the city.

Diversity submission The Use of an Onboard Diagnostic Device to Provide Feedback on Driving Behaviors Related to Fuel Economy
Abstract: Despite the link between greenhouse gases and climate change, drivers in the United States continue to operate vehicles that consume more fuel per mile and emit higher levels of greenhouse gases than the vehicles driven in other developed nations. Intervention packages that include feedback and goal setting are common in behavior analytic research, specifically in the Organizational Behavior Management literature, but are also used to establish and maintain sustainable human behaviors such as recycling and energy reduction. The current study examined the effects of a treatment package utilizing feedback and goal setting to increase fuel economy in three participants who drove a minimum of 15 consecutive miles at least once per day. Feedback regarding average miles per gallon (MPG), moment-to-moment MPG, and MPG in relation to the participants’ goal were provided by the Scangauge-eTM, a small onboard diagnostic-2 device that connects to the vehicles’ electronic control unit and mounted within the car. Results indicated that treatment effects were noticeable in 2 of the 3 participants for increasing overall MPG.
Diversity submission 

Gamifying a Conference to Promote Environmental Sustainability

NICOLE M. POWELL (National Youth Advocate Program)
Abstract: Human behavior must change in order to respond to a warming climate. Unfortunately, climate change often does not effectively motivate change because, apart from extreme weather, its effects are diffuse, delayed, and indeterminate. What if uncertainty itself could induce us to act on behalf of the future? What if the indiscriminable contingencies of games of chance could help promote pro-environmental behavior (PEB) in congregate settings? Conferences provide an ideal setting for exploring these ideas. In 2020, the Ohio Association for Behavior Analysis was the first chapter to gamify an annual live conference; in 2021 we gamified our virtual event. In a game called ConClue, attendees earned points when they were "caught being green," such as bringing reusable cups, selecting sustainable food, or demonstrating behavior outside the event such as evidence of activism or use of public transit. We awarded a variety of prizes to winners who were selected throughout the event by using drawings and spinners; under the contingencies of the game, the chances of producing reinforcement were increased by engaging in PEB with greater frequency and variety. This talk will share the positive experiences of the Ohio Association for Behavior Analysis, in terms of lessons learned and future directions.



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