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.


11th International Conference; Dublin, Ireland; 2022

Event Details

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Invited Symposium #92
Are Single-Case Experiments the Antidote to the Replication Crisis?
Saturday, September 3, 2022
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Area: EAB/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Michael Perone (West Virginia University)

To date, mainstream behavior analysis has not been tainted by the so-called “replication crisis” that has embroiled much of the behavioral and social sciences. In this symposium, we summarize key elements of the replication crisis, identify the methods of behavior analysts that have tended to insulate our field from the crisis, describe trends in published research suggesting that behavior analysts are drifting away from these methods, consider the professional contingencies (for example, from granting agencies) that support these trends, and explore the implications of these trends for the long-term vitality of our field. We suggest that our field’s success may be attributed to its longstanding embrace of rigorous single-case experimental methods, and we caution against the adoption of group experiments and correlational studies that rely on statistical inference, especially those that survey subjects about their potential behavior in hypothetical situations instead of observing what subjects actually do under controlled environmental conditions.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): replication crisis, single-case methods
Is Behavior Analysis Immune to the Replication Crisis?
MARK GALIZIO (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
Abstract: There appear to be several factors underlying the replication crisis that are evident throughout the life sciences. These include limited emphasis on, and publication of, replications (e.g., the file drawer problem) and over-reliance on null hypothesis testing. Because the science of behavior analysis has traditionally eschewed statistical inference and emphasized inclusion of replication both within- and across subjects, it might be assumed that the discipline is immune to the crisis. The present talk will review some of the history and key features of the replication crisis in biology, psychology, and related disciplines and consider various accounts of its causes and potential fixes. This analysis will highlight key factors in behavior analysis that have helped the field avoid the crisis (e.g., single-case research designs), but also will identify issues and trends in our discipline that may lead to vulnerability. The importance of demonstrating validity and replicability of novel behavior-analytic methods will be emphasized.
Dr. Galizio received his BA from Kent State University and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee where he worked with Dr. Alan Baron. In 1976, he joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where he is currently Professor of Psychology. His research interests include behavioral pharmacology, stimulus control/concept learning, aversive control, and human operant behavior. He has published two books, more than 100 articles and his research has been supported by NIDA, NSF and NICHD. He is a Fellow of ABAI and four APA divisions and is a past-president of APA Division 25 (Behavior Analysis) and of the Southeastern Association for Behavior Analysis and served as an At-Large member of the ABAI Executive Council. He has served on numerous NIH study sections and chaired two of them. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.
When Replications Fail
MICHAEL PERONE (West Virginia University)
Abstract: Discrepancies in the results of putatively similar experiments – replication failures – are inevitable features of an active science. If the methods of each experiment are sound, the discrepancies are informative and useful: They may tell us about the boundary conditions of a phenomenon, misunderstandings about the relevant variables, or inadequacies of experimental control. The methods historically associated with the experimental analysis of behavior have supported productive responses to such replication failures: Experiments are conducted to address the discrepancies, resolve them, and advanceour science. Replication failures constitute a crisis when confidence in a research finding is misplaced. The methods of mainstream psychology have contributed to the problem by fostering over-reliance on statistical inference and, along with it, various forms of p-hacking. These are defects in the behavior of scientists, and they cannot be wiped away by raising the sophistication of the scientists’ statistical toolbox. In this presentation, I will discuss the difference between good and bad replication failures, how to identify them, and how to address them.
Dr. Michael Perone is a professor in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University. He has made substantial contributions to behavior analysis through his research, service, administration, and teaching. He is well known for his programmatic research on conditioned reinforcement, avoidance, and transitions from rich to lean schedules of reinforcement, and more generally for the elegance and ingenuity of his experimental methodology. He has secured support from NICHHD, OSHA, and NSF for much of his research. His investigations with animals and extensions of basic mechanisms to humans serve as a prototype for research translation. Dr. Perone's accomplishments in administration, service to the discipline, and teaching are similarly noteworthy. Dr. Perone served for 12 years as chair of the West Virginia University Department of Psychology, one of the foremost programs in behavior analysis. He has served as president of ABAI, SABA, SEAB, and SEABA. He has been appointed to key editorial positions for major journals in behavior analysis, represented behavior analysis on the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, and served on numerous committees. In each of those roles, his skill and humor have been instrumental in bringing a charge to effective completion. Dr. Perone has received numerous awards for his teaching and mentoring, which, along with the successes of his former students, are testaments to his effectiveness in that arena as well.
The Replication Crisis in Translational Research: How Behavior Analysis Might Help Develop Novel Treatments
DEAN WILLIAMS (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Translational research on neuro-behavioral disorders (e.g., schizophrenia; Autism) is in a replication crisis. Rather than failing to replicate results across experiments, positive results from laboratory models fail to reproduce similar results in clinical trials with humans. This problem is so severe that no novel treatment for any behavior disorder has come from animal models in the last 20 years. In this replication crisis, the fault lies less in the design and statistical inference of the laboratory research than it does in the assumptions made about human and animal behavior, and the failure to engage in proper cross species replication at intermediate stages of treatment development and testing. This paper will argue that the fault lies largely in the "behavioral assays" used to test animal models. These rely largely on formal similarity of behaviors across species (face validity) rather than functional similarity of the behavioral process operating in the laboratory and clinical settings. Using single-subject designs, behavior analysis readily replicates results across animal and human subjects because it stresses functional models (similarity in subject's reactions to common environmental variables) rather than formal models. This emphasis of cross species replicability can be of tremendous use to translational research to produce novel treatments.
Dean Williams, Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at the University of Kansas, received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1989. His work is a model of bi-directional translational research in which his parallel animal and human studies have contributed to the design of treatment programs for clinical populations as well as to the analysis of basic principles of behavior. For more than 25 years, Dr. Williams’ research has been continuously funded by the NIH for his innovative research in stimulus control, behavioral pharmacology, schedule change-over effects, and issues of broad interest in the behavioral, social, and biological sciences. His creative synthesis and integrative approach to research have built connections between behavior analysis and a number of scientific disciplines. Through his publications in a wide array of leading journals and numerous conference presentations, Dr. Williams has made his work visible to a broad community and served as an effective ambassador for behavior analysis.



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