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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #6
Will Culturo-Behavioral Science Realize Its Nascent Potential? Baby Steps on the Arduous Path to Maturity
Saturday, May 27, 2023
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2B
Area: CSS/OBM; Domain: Translational
Chair: Jonathan Krispin (Valdosta State University)
Discussant: Ramona Houmanfar (University of Nevada, Reno)

Culturo-Behavioral Science is a nascent, and ambitious subarea of behavior analysis, combining known elements of behavior analysis with new concepts (like the metacontingency, cultural cusps, and culturo-behavioral hypercycles) developed from interdisciplinary interactions with other fields, including biology, anthropology, and systems theory, that similarly emphasize functional interactions between constituents over time. While culturo-behavioral science has expressed intentions of addressing the most difficult problems of culture and society with the power of behavior analysis, there is still much work to be done before this goal may be achieved. In this symposium, four papers will present insights derived from theoretical considerations and case study analysis of cultural phenomena, as well as discuss recommendations and challenges facing researchers and practitioners as they study culturo-behavioral phenomena and seek to implement culturo-behavioral interventions in both formal organizations and in society at-large.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Challenges and Opportunities for Research and Practice in an Emerging Culturo-Behavior Science
TRACI M. CIHON (Behaviorists for Social Responsibility), Kyosuke Kazaoka (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Culturo-Behavior Science (CBS), a recently formalized specialization in behavior science, has garnered the attention of many current and aspiring behavior scientists. CBS has strong philosophical and conceptual origins, well-established connections with Behavior Systems Analysis, and several emerging lines of experimental analyses, especially those focused on the concept of the metacontingency. Throughout its history, the concept of the metacontingency and the related experimental analyses have often been subject to criticism. Some of the criticisms have focused on the challenges related to extending basic laboratory research to community and organizational settings and the resultant dearth of applied research and practice derived from the metacontingency. Given the influence of the metacontingency in CBS and the foci of CB:S developing a better ““understanding of how cultural phenomena develop and change over time” and furthering the contributions of a natural science of behavior in the organization of “more effective cultures and systems” (Cihon et al. 2021, p. 1), the focus of this presentation will be to explore some of the challenges and opportunities in bridging experimental analyses of the metacontingencies with applied research and practice in CBS.

The Far-From-Inevitable Relation Between a Good Idea and Implementation

INGUNN SANDAKER (Oslo Metropolitan University/ OsloMet)

Organizations are made of interacting behaviors, which makes them contingencies for the shaping, maintaining and changing of behavior. Implementing new practices, whether technological or social innovations, requires a thorough analysis of the contingencies maintaining the currently prevalent behavior. Successful implementation of new cultural practices does not rest on the inherent novelty or quality of the innovation itself. It depends on how these practices are functionally related to the environment. Rather, success comes from the members of the organization coming into contact with reinforcers for the new practices, while contingencies maintaining the practices to be replaced are changed, from reinforcement to extinction. The processes which are embedded in the functional relations and the structures in which these interactions are framed are critical to implementation. Behavior analysis offers important contributions to implementation theory and practice if communicated in a way that makes it the preferred option.

Do the Pieces Fit? Building an Initial Model of Culturo-Behavioral Complexity
JONATHAN KRISPIN (Valdosta State University)
Abstract: Behavior analysts have been describing behavior as complex for many years. For example, in basic research (see, for example, Donahoe & Palmer, 1994, Hoyert, 1992; Marr, 1996, McDowell, 2004) and in discussions of behavioral systems (e.g., Malott & Glenn, 2004; Sandaker, 2009) the terms “complex” and “complexity” have been used to describe both patterns of behavior and interactions between individuals. Attempts to define complexity often include such criteria as nonlinear interactions between numerous constituents that affect each other via functional relationships (e.g., Axelrod & Cohen, 1999). Recent work in the developing sub-field of Culturo-Behavioral Science has led to the identification of behavioral building blocks from which a behavioral model may be built that describes the complex phenomena. These building blocks include the operant contingency, rule-governed behavior (Hayes, 1989), social episodes (Glenn, 2004), metacontingencies (Glenn, 2004; Houmanfar & Rodrigues, 2010), and culturo-behavioral hypercycles (Krispin, 2019). In this paper, these building blocks will be described in terms of their evolutionary timeframes, processes of selection, and sources of nonlinear dynamics before expanding the discussion to include interactions between these building blocks and across levels of selection, leading to an initial model of culturo-behavioral complexity.



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