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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Panel #85
PDS: Cultivating Student Repertoires to Produce Societal Change: Why Are We Not Teaching People to Save the World?
Saturday, May 27, 2023
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center 406/407
Area: TBA/CSS; Domain: Theory
Chair: Samantha Denegri (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology - Chicago Campus)
SHARLET D. RAFACZ (Western Michigan University)
ANDRESSA SLEIMAN (Florida State Unviersity)
ROCCO G CATRONE (The Chicago School Professional Psychology)

B.F. Skinner’s ample optimism in the adoption of behaviorism had, apparently, almost vanished by the time he asked, “why are we not acting to save the world?” (Skinner, 1982; Skinner, 1987). The newfound cynicism seemed rooted in the observation that society had seemingly evolved inclinations for unhealthy choices, extreme views, and a general penchant for self-serving behaviors (Chance, 2007). Decades later, Dixon et al. (2018) echoed the question, asking why we still were not acting to save the world, noting that the research surrounding Relational Frame Theory (RFT) provides empirical tools and technologies that did not require another thirty years’ wait to act. For example, RFT research has yielded applications across diverse topics such as examination and reduction of stigma and racism, understanding psychological processes that may lead to acts of terrorism, enhancing multicultural training, and increasing compassion. In addition, general applications of behavior analysis have also informed cultural science, applications to health and safety, and workplace improvement. Broad application and adoption of these techniques likely requires many fluent change agents. Skinner (1987) saw education as a key dimension of transmitting such scientific practices for widespread dissemination. Therefore, behavior analytic graduate programs could play a key role in promoting scientific skill sets and well-rounded professional repertoires well equipped to meet the mainstream, encourage collaboration, and tackle daunting societal issues facing society. However, to date, many program offerings seem to be structured around the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential and related applications, rather than these wider aims. Thus, this panel will attempt to reframe the original question and ask the following: why are we not training people to save the world?

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Mainstream, Organizational-Behavior-Management, Relational-Frame-Theory, Societal-Change



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