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 #498
CE Offered: BACB
Behavioral Perspectives on Free Will and Resilience in Contemporary Society
Monday, May 27, 2024
3:00 PM–3:50 PM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 203 AB
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Chair: Asude Ayvaci (Brock University)
Discussant: Kieva S. Hranchuk (Brock University)
CE Instructor: Kieva S. Hranchuk, Ph.D.

The field of behavior analysis offers a unique perspective for describing various socially significant domains in contemporary society. This involves examining concepts like free will and resilience from a behavior analytic framework, highlighting the extensive applicability of behavioral science and philosophy. By including behavior analytic definitions of various societal concepts, we highlight its extensive scope and ability to offer distinct insights that go beyond what is currently known. The purpose of this symposium is to feature two complementary talks that expand the application of behavior analysis to two relevant concepts, traditionally found within the domain of psychology by: (1) offering a radical behaviorist perspective on free will, advocating for a new approach to understanding choice-making and its relevance in areas like health, neuroscience, fashion, beauty, political and social freedom; and (2) providing a behavior analytic conceptualization of resilience and defining its components into measurable skills that can serve as a guide for behavior analysts in their future research on this subject. The discussant's commentary may offer attendees additional insights into research on this topic, the practical application of findings, and future research directions.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): free will, radical behaviorism, resilience, society
Target Audience:

Attendees will benefit from having previous training in the philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis and radical behaviorism, along with familiarity with the prevalent concepts in contemporary psychology, often examined through a mentalistic perspective.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) examine and describe free will through the lens of radical behaviorism within a diverse range of socially significant domains, including neuroscience, health, fashion, beauty, religion, and social and political contexts; (2) discuss radical behaviorism’s transformative framework for understanding free will as choice-making through the interplay of phylogeny (i.e., evolutionary history), ontogeny (i.e., learning history), and current environmental contingencies; (3) redefine resilience from behavior analytic lens, considering ontogenetic factors, reinforcement schedules, and knowledge transfer to convert resilience components into practical and measurable skills for prospective research and clinical endeavors.
The Devil Wears Prada Because He Lacks Free Will: Redefining the Assumption of Free Will in Modern Society Using a Radical Behaviorism Lens
Asude Ayvaci (Brock University), Andreas Dimopoulos (Brock University), EMILY BULTEN (Brock University, Applied Disability Studies), Kieva S. Hranchuk (Brock University), sara tanasichuk (Brock University), Kristin Grant (Brock University)
Abstract: B.F. Skinner once remarked, “Freedom is an illusion, but a valuable one." This statement implies that the commonly held belief in our ability to make choices and exercise free will is unfounded. The notion of free will posits that individuals can make independent choices driven by internal mental processes preceding observable behavior (Baum, 2017; Johnston, 2014; Kane, 2016). This perspective aligns with the philosophy of mentalism, which attributes behavior to an inner agent and disregards the influence of external factors (Baum, 2017). The reliance on an unobservable inner agent, however, presents a challenge for empirical investigation, as it exists beyond the constraints of space and time, making it impervious to scientific inquiry. To address the ontological dilemma of free will, this paper advocates for a paradigm shift towards Skinner's radical behaviorism—an encompassing scientific approach to investigate choice making (Skinner, 1971). Specifically, we aim to introduce the premise behind Skinner’s novel Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) in the context of free will and explore how this theory holds true today across a variety of socially significant domains, including health, neuroscience, fashion, beauty, political and social freedom, and spirituality.
Bouncing Back: Redefining Resilience Using Behavior Analytic Framework
EMILY MARIE HOUSTON (Brock University; Mackenzie Health CBHS), Taylor Manuge (Brock Univeristy), Samantha Wallbank (Brock University), Caroline Villanueva (Brock University), Kieva S. Hranchuk (Brock University), Kendra Thomson (Brock University )
Abstract: Resilience is a term that is becoming ever-present in psychology literature but has not yet been explored within behavior analytical literature. We reviewed multiple definitions and studies regarding resilience and found that the term is used across disciplines; most frequently within positive psychology. Some controversy exists regarding resilience as a process or an outcome (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013; Hadad, 2011). Current definitions of the label resilience lack objective, observable behaviors, which may prevent behavior analysts from further researching this concept. In this paper, we propose a behavioral conceptualization of resilience by exploring variables that act on an individual level: ontogenetic factors, reinforcement schedules, and knowledge transfer. Using these behavior analytic perspectives, we (1) provide an objective behavioral definition of resilience, and (2) translate the seven components of resilience, described by Ginsburg (2006), into measurable skills that can guide behavior analysts’ interactions with clients and other professionals. With the term resilience gaining popularity, we hope these proposed strategies will lay the groundwork for future behavior analytic research to approach the topic with a more technological lens.



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