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 #344
CE Offered: BACB
Investigating the Impact of Behavioral Jargon on Critical Stakeholders
Monday, May 29, 2023
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center Mile High Ballroom 3C
Area: AUT/DDA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Videsha Marya (Endicott College)
Discussant: Kimberly Marshall (University of Oregon)
CE Instructor: Kimberly Marshall, Ph.D.
Abstract: Technical behavioral terms are important for allowing behavior analysts to effectively communicate with each other. However, technical terms have also been shown to be problematic in the dissemination of behavior analysis. The studies in this symposium evaluated the impact of technical behavioral terms on two critical stakeholder populations: parents of individuals with disabilities and teachers. Findings from these studies show that behavior analysis terms were problematic to behavior analysts’ communication with stakeholders, evoking negative emotional responses from parents, and decreasing recall and accurate implementation of behavior analysis procedures by teachers. Further, teachers were less likely to select therapists to work with when they used technical terms, indicating that opportunities to communicate may be limited based on the use of technical jargon. Practical recommendations are made for avoiding behavioral jargon and improving communication with critical stakeholders.
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): communication, jargon, service delivery
Target Audience: Target audience is any behavior analyst working in educational or clinical settings. Anyone working with teachers, parents, other caregivers would be interested in this symposium, since the symposium presenters will be talking about how the behavior analysts communicate with their clients.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) orally describe potential problems with jargon-rich communication with clients; (2) orally give examples of jargon and non-jargon terms from our field; (3) when given a term/procedure that is in jargon language, will orally present a non-jargon reinterpretation of that term
Effects of Jargon on School-Based Consultation
SHANNON MARTIN (Autism Support Now), Thomas L. Zane (University of Kansas), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech), David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas, Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment)
Abstract: Behavior analysts often use specific terminology and jargon when describing and implementing behavioral interventions. However, the use of jargon can be confusing to individuals without similar training, which could be a hindrance to successful interdisciplinary practice , such as consulting with school teachers. A three-phase study was conducted with school teachers to test the effects of jargon using a within-subjects design. For the first phase, participants watched videos of behavioral interventions described in technical or non-technical language and selected the therapist with whom they would rather work. The second phase employed an alternating treatments design in which technical and non-technical descriptions were alternated and participants recalled what they had read. During the third phase, treatment fidelity was assessed by having participants implement both a technical intervention and a non-technical intervention with a confederate. Results indicated that participants without prior experience with a behavior analyst were more likely to prefer a therapist who used non-technical language. Additionally, participants correctly recalled and implemented more components of an intervention when it was written without jargon. The results indicated that behavior analysts should avoid using jargon when consulting with teachers who are unfamiliar with behavioral principles.
The Emotional Effect of Behavior Analysis Terms on Parents
CHAD FAVRE (Northshore Autism Center/Endicott College), Kimberly Marshall (University of Oregon), Mary Jane Weiss (Endicott College), Thomas S. Critchfield (Illinois State University)
Abstract: Behavior analysts are concerned with developing strong-client therapist relationships (Rohrer et al., 2021; Taylor et al., 2019). One challenge to the development of such relationships, may be a reliance on technical language that stakeholders find unpleasant. Previous research suggests that behavior analysis terminology indeed evokes negative emotional effects (Critchfield et al., 2017). However, most relevant research was conducted with individuals from the general public and not individuals with whom behavior analysts are most likely to interact. The current study evaluated how parents of individuals with disabilities responded emotionally to 40 behavior analysis terms. We report two key findings. First, in keeping with past studies we found that the majority of behavior analysis terms were experienced as unpleasant. Second, word emotion ratings by our stakeholder sample corresponded closely to norms obtained from the general public (Warriner et al., 2013). Together, these findings suggest that published word emotion data, from any source, are likely to be a useful guide to how stakeholders may react to behavior analysis terminology.



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