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 #129
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission From the Tyranny of the Few to Survival of All: Culturo-Behavior Science for All
Sunday, May 28, 2023
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 2B
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Nanni Presti (Kore University)
Discussant: Anthony Biglan (Oregon Research Institute)
CE Instructor: Anthony Biglan, Ph.D.

Periodically, social upheavals challenge well established cultural rules and practices. A sampling of current tensions includes what is observed between those who accept social stratification as inevitable and those who labor for social justice, between conservative, progressive, and libertarian agendas, between those who would grant remarkable power to businesses and those who would limit those powers in favor of public health and climate justice. Culturo-behavior scientists have advanced a number of strategies grounded in evolutionary, prevention, and behavior sciences, Skinner’s philosophy of science, and contemporary approaches to language and cognition. Advances in conceptual and empirical evidence for the planned use of interlocked behavior contingencies suggest that it is not too late to create a sustainable economy in which all humans matter, all voices are heard, and all can access basic goods and services. In this symposium, Giovambattista Presti, Francisco Perez, Thomas Szabo, Yukie Kurumiya, and Dennis Embry discuss these advances. At the end, Tony Biglan will provide commentary.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Cultrobehavior Science, Radical Behaviorism, RFT, Social Change
Target Audience:

Board-certified behavior analysts, teachers, and psychologists

Learning Objectives: Learning objectives are required and should take the following format: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) analyze competing cultural contingencies; (2) describe interlocked behavioral contingencies; (3) assess intrinsic versus extrinsic variability and the implications of these assumption.
Diversity submission 

Engineering the Upswing - A Behavior-Based Blueprint for Reframing Our Culture

FRANCISCO IGNACIO PEREZ (University of Texas Health Science Center - Houston School of Public Health), Henry S. Pennypacker (University of Florida)

Putnam and Garrett in The Upswing document the evolution of the United States from a We to an I culture over the last 125 years. They examined how “economic inequality, political polarization, social fragmentation, cultural narcissism, racism, and gender discrimination” evolved. They concluded that these changes are constructed by “human agency.” Skinner warned us that “great changes must be made in the American way of life to prevent a potential catastrophic future.” He urged us to “use our knowledge about human behavior to create a social environment” so we can live productive lives and not jeopardize the future for those who follow us. We have been asked “why are we still not acting to save the world?.” We propose that positive change can be managed. We now have a matured science of behavior and the technologies to engineer the next steady upswing. We propose that behavior analysis is a truly unifying science. It brings together, with behavior as the thread, evolutionary, social and biological-neurological sciences within the context of selection by consequences. We propose that together, we can ignite a commitment to initiate a behavior-based cultural evolutionary process that will reframe our culture towards the greater good.

Diversity submission 

Breaking the Silence: Applying Skinner’s Conception of Variability to Social Change Actions in and Beyond Our Field

THOMAS G. SZABO (Capella University)

Behavior analysts have long done what Putnam (2001) said America does; that is, we have gone “bowling alone.” Our commitment to an inductive, within-subject research tradition perplexes others. They leave us be, so long as we stay clear of social and psychological issues. Yet these troubles have turned up at our own door. We struggle with issues regarding race, gender, neurodiversity, and aversive technologies. If behavior analysis is to withstand these storms, we will need to break our silence on matters all but forgotten in our history. In this talk, I chronicle the climate in which Skinner advanced the experimental analysis of behavior. I discuss the deductive approach to analyzing variability in data and its connection to the British and American eugenicists. If, as eugenicists argued, behavioral variability is intrinsic, there is reason to cease helping those who will never do well. In contrast, if behavioral variability is extrinsic, then environmental experiences can be engineered to assist all those who live. The eugenics movement went underground after WW2, but its impact on science and the helping professions remains. I argue that now is the time to break our silence and show the world that all people matter, that everyone belongs.

Diversity submission 

Cultural Evolutionary Perspectives: Creating Service Delivery and Educational Environments for the Future of Behavior Analysis

YUKIE KURUMIYA (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

In recent years, behavior analysts have focused research attention on professional burnout (Brown, 2021; Daunavi et at., 2019). It seems ironic that behavior change agents that establish nurturing environments for others are not nurtured by their professional environments. One explanation for this phenomenon is that graduate programs teach behavior analysts to engineer behavior change at the level of the individual and the service industry reinforces practice at this same level of analysis. However, decades of studies show that by combining contingency management with both compassionate attention to emotions and the transmission of sustainable cultural practices, service delivery and service environments transform for the good of all. In this presentation, I will discuss training behavior analysts to engineer their service environments into nurturing, collaborative spaces with tools borrowed from culturo-behavior science, evolutionary science, and prevention science, each tethered in a quadrilateral matrix to the overarching philosophy of radical behaviorism. This approach is consistent with Skinner’s view of parallel selection processes that can be yolked together to create an appetitive, sustainable, and evolving professional field of applied behavior practice.

Diversity submission Using Behavioral Science for Population-Level Peace, Productivity, Health, and Happiness
Abstract: Take a breath, several times. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) cannot create population-level peace, productivity, health, and happiness conducting individual functional behavioral assessments and individual behavioral therapies. Accept that. Many Americans take psychotropic medications and yet much of life still sucks. ABA was never conceived as just palliative procedures to help individuals. I know better, as among the fading generations of students of Don Baer, Todd Risley and Montrose Wolf. I chose to do population-level multiple baselines to reduce the third leading cause of death of preschool-age children. I conducted a randomized trial to reduce medically coded violent injuries of children by applying relational frame theory to ABA strategies. Today, my colleagues and I have population-level RCTs that reduce just about any behavioral disorder with ABA principles. We do this as a global business—not dependent on soft monies. ABA has become a guild, depressing a slim set of levers—never imagined by Baer, Risley or Wolf. Thus, my talk and work explain how ABA can create a vibrant “Carbon Valley” (life) versus a “Silicon Valley” to better the world. Nobody lives a good life based on silicon chips; rather we die or thrive in live based on daily human interactions.



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