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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #382
CE Offered: BACB
Compassion, Accountability, and Social Justice in Behavior Analysis: Considerations for a Path Forward
Monday, May 27, 2024
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Marriott Downtown, Level 3, Liberty Ballroom Salon A
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Joseph D. Dracobly (University of North Texas)
CE Instructor: Joseph D. Dracobly, Ph.D.
Abstract: Increasingly, individuals within and outside behavior analysis are questioning how behavior analysis can contribute to a better world. This has led to discussions about how behavior analysis balances some of the practices in science that benefit from objective, dispassionate analysis with the unique needs and perspectives of organisms in the world. As behavior analysis has grown and matured as a discipline, these discussions have expanded into a variety of areas, including clinical practice, education, and collaboration. In this symposium, the three presenters will discuss how considerations of compassion, accountability, and social justice interact with different areas in behavior analysis. In the first talk, the presenter will discuss the role of a compassionate, constructive approach in clinical practice. In the second talk, the presenter will discuss considerations and strategies for balancing compassion and effective educational practices in online education. Finally, in the third talk, the presenter discuss how a focus on social justice can facilitate collaboration between seemingly different worldviews, behavior analysis and Catholicism. In each talk, presenters will discuss a conceptualization of each consideration, how this relates to the area in behavior analysis, and suggest potential paths forward.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Accountability, Compassion, Social Justice, Teaching
Target Audience: The target audience is all behavior analysts, including practitioners and researchers.
Learning Objectives: 1. Describe how a constructional approach can enhance compassionate practice. 2. Describe methods to balance accountability and compassion in education. 3. Describe points of overlap between behavior analysis and Catholic social justice that can facilitate collaboration.

A Compassionate Approach to Behavior Change: Why You Need to Be More Constructional

CAMERON MONTGOMERY SCALLAN (University of North Texas), Jesus Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas)

Applied behavior analysis is concerned with producing socially significant behavior change that leads to improvements in quality of life. Yet, in recent years, behavior analysis has sometimes been accused of being insensitive to client needs and producing more harm than good. As a result, behavior analysts have begun investigating new ways to increase empathy and compassion in their practices (Rohrer & Weiss, 2022; Taylor et al., 2019). However, there are some old (and often forgotten) ideas from behavior analysis that can also give current practitioners new perspectives on how to be more compassionate. This presentation will identify three critical features of compassion and discuss these features in the context of the constructional and pathological approaches to behavior change (Goldiamond, 1974/2002). Next, the presentation will illustrate how the four questions of the constructional approach provide a framework that behavior analysts can use for developing and providing compassionate behavior analytic services. Using the constructional approach allows practitioners to develop personalized programs that consider an individual’s critical reinforcers, find starting points that help the learner succeed from step one, guide learners through programs in a manner that promotes confidence and success, and help their learners find and contact natural communities of reinforcement.

Balancing Accountability and Compassion in Online Education
KENDA MORRISON (University of North Texas), April Linden (University of North Texas), Julianne Marie Olivieri (University of North Texas), Cameron Montgomery Scallan (University of North Texas), Micah Hope (University of North Texas and Endicott College)
Abstract: Students seeking to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts often must balance schoolwork, employment, and families. These are conditions that may occasionally lead to excessive extension requests for graduate assignments and sometimes even academic misconduct. Demonstrating compassion and flexibility towards our students is not only kind and just, but it can also help them to successfully complete their coursework. In addition to student success, it is our responsibility to those who they will eventually serve to prepare our students to be compassionate, ethical, and effective behavior analysts by modeling these qualities. This requires us to teach these skills and to foster the expectations of accountability and responsibility. Therefore, faculty must draw boundaries if situations such as academic misconduct and excessive extension requests should arise. In this talk, we will provide rationales for higher-education faculty both to demonstrate compassion towards their students and to require accountability from them. To this end, several types of strategies will be suggested, such as teaching communication strategies, setting expectations, and creating antecedent interventions likely to lead to student success. We will especially focus on a strategy both to provide students flexibility and to minimize extension requests. Creating a balance between accountability and compassion will not only help our students to graduate, but it will also help our students to partner more effectively with and support those whom they serve.

Behavior Analysis and Catholic Social Justice: Finding Common Ground to Expand Our Reach

JOSEPH D. DRACOBLY (University of North Texas)

Recently within behavior analysis, there has been increased focus on compassionate care (e.g., Taylor et al., 2019) and expanding our reach (e.g., Normand & Kohn, 2013). Much of this work has been focused on the social justice aspects of applied behavior analysis. Outside of behavior analysis, Catholicism has one of the most well-established and far reaching conceptualizations and practices of social justice (e.g., Aquinas, 2017; Pope Leo XIII, 1891). Historically, some have suggested some incompatibility between behavior analysis and Christian worldviews (e.g., Galuska, 2003). However, this may be more of a misunderstanding than an incompatibility. The misunderstanding may be most apparent in the application of the science of behavior to address socially significant behavior. In this talk, I will compare behavior analytic and Catholic approaches to compassion, dignity, and social justice. I will then focus on major points of overlap, including suggestions for how collaboration could benefit both groups, and expand the impact of effective, evidence-based practices to broader communities by leveraging the strengths of both behavior analysis and Catholic social justice.




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