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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Paper Session #103
The Underdiscussed Ethical Concerns Surrounding Extinction
Saturday, May 27, 2023
5:30 PM–5:55 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom H
Area: PCH
Chair: Jessica Emily Graber (Nationwide Children's Hospital)

The Underdiscussed Ethical Concerns Surrounding Extinction

Domain: Service Delivery
JESSICA EMILY GRABER (Nationwide Children's Hospital), Abraham Graber (Wexner School of Medicine The Ohio State University)

Ethical concerns surrounding the use of punishment in applied behavior analysis are widely recognized (e.g., BACB, 2014; BACB, 2020; DiGennaro, Reed & Lovett, 2007). Comparatively little attention has been paid to ethical considerations regarding the use of extinction. Nonetheless, many of the same concerns that arise with regard to punishment are relevant to extinction. Ethical concerns have been raised regarding adverse side-effects associated with punishment (e.g., Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007). Similar concerns arise regarding extinction, with side effects including increases in problematic behaviors and the emergence of aggression (Lerman, Iwata, & Wallace, 1999). Ethical concerns about the limited efficacy of punishment (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007) and that punishment fails to teach replacement behavior (Pokorski & Barton, 2021) may also arise with extinction-based approaches. Appropriate use of extinction requires accurate identification of functional reinforcers maintaining target behavior(s); however, research suggests minimal use of gold-standard function-based methodologies in common practice (e.g., Oliver, Pratt, & Normand, 2015). Concerningly, improper use of procedures such as planned ignoring are at high risk for adverse side effects, concerns which have also been raised by autism advocates (e.g. Just1Voice, n.d.). This paper discusses comparatively underappreciated ethical concerns surrounding the use of extinction.




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