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 #216
Diversity submission Some Empirical Investigations in Culturo-Behavioral Science at the University of North Texas
Sunday, May 26, 2024
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Marriott Downtown, Level 3, Liberty Ballroom Salon A
Area: CSS/PCH; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Carlos Lopez (University of North Texas)

Behavior analysis has always sought to apply the science for the benefit of human welfare and interests. Perhaps because our subject matter is rooted in the individual organism, those applications in which we have been most successful in this endeavor have largely focused on contexts in which contingencies governing the behavior of individual organisms can be individually assessed and manipulated. While community, organizational, and social work in behavior analysis has taken initial strides into the task of influencing larger scales of behavior between and among many individuals, the science has not yet realized the anticipated potential of its early years in efforts to address widespread culturo-behavioral phenomena in a manner that can address some of our most pressing problems related to justice, sustainability, and equity. There is therefore a lingering opportunity for new research in this area to take few steps toward understanding how to better address such problems. In this symposium, we present some basic and translational empirical investigations into culturo-behavioral science recently conducted at the University of North Texas.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): common pool, culturo-behavioral, metacontingency, social
Diversity submission 

Seeking Natural Lines of Fracture in a Metacontingency

DARSHINI DEUTSCH (University of North Texas), Carlos Lopez (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

The metacontingency, a concept often used to investigate certain kinds of social interaction, is defined as the contingent relation between recurring interlocking behavioral contingencies (IBCs), together with their aggregate product (AP), and the selecting environmental events or conditions. The concept of the metacontingency has spurred the development of various conceptual papers and experimental studies. Researchers suggest that the "culturant" is the primary unit of analysis in the metacontingency. This culturant comprises interlocking behavioral contingencies and their aggregate product, functioning as a cohesive whole susceptible to selection. Because the culturant as an analytical unit functioning on the cultural level is not universally accepted among behavior analysts, a direct investigation into the question is called for. The behavioral approach toward identifying natural lines of fracture between units has historically involved applying secondary change processes to see whether natural units are affected as a cohesive whole. Our study asks whether classes of interlocking behavioral contingencies show the features of natural units within the metacontingency when exposed to secondary change processes. This talk will focus on the results of our study while also highlighting its implications in the study of phenomena consisting of multiple individuals.

Diversity submission 

Self-Governance in a Common Pool Resource Game: An Empirical Assessment of Elinor Ostrom’s Eight Design Principles

ALEXANDRA ZACHARY SMITH (University of North Texas), Ian S. Paterson (University of North Texas), Darshini Deutsch (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

Nobel laureate and economist Elinor Ostrom earned a Nobel prize in economic sciences in 2009 for her research on a community’s ability to self-govern a common pool resource (CPR) with the use of eight design principles. While Ostrom’s accumulated efforts to analyze these principles and apply them to community resources have earned widespread recognition, these principles have yet to take off on a grand scale as a blueprint for self-governance systems globally. There is also a gap in existing empirical evidence that supports these principles, as empirical investigations have yet to manipulate the principles individually or as an intervention package as independent variables. The purpose of the present study is to empirically test Ostrom’s eight design principles in a tabletop game model of a community utilizing a common pool resource by implementing as well as removing the principles within an adapted version of the board game Catan®. In four groups, the CPR almost always fully depleted in baseline but not when Ostrom’s principles were in place as game rules. Results indicated that Ostrom’s design principles may organize participant responses and maintain resource levels over time more effectively than without Ostrom’s rules applied.

Diversity submission 

The Effects of Implementing a Reward-Based Version of Ostrom's Eight Design Principles as an Intervention Package on Responses in a Common Pool Resource Game

IAN S. PATERSON (University of North Texas), Alexandra Zachary Smith (University of North Texas), Darshini Deutsch (University of North Texas), April M. Becker (University of North Texas; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

The aim of behavior analysis has always been to apply technologies rooted in basic behavioral principles to problems of societal importance. One such problem is the Tragedy of the Commons - a phenomenon arising from systemic failures among a community, leading to the total collapse of a critical resource. Elinor Ostrom’s Eight Design Principles were developed to provide a framework for the self-management of common pool resources (CPRs). When applied as an independently manipulated variable, Ostrom’s design principles have shown strong effects in the management of CPRs within the context of a tabletop board game Catan®. This preparation included both rewards (i.e., positive reinforcement) and sanctions (i.e., positive punishment) as a feature of the independent variable. However, it has been well documented that punishing and coercive contingencies can lead to problematic outcomes for individuals and societies. This study evaluated the effects of utilizing only rewarding consequences in lieu of sanctions in an effort to produce the previously observed control over self-management of a CPR, utilizing the previously adapted rules of the Catan board game.




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