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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Invited Paper Session #436
CE Offered: BACB — 
The Constructional Approach at Fifty
Monday, May 27, 2024
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 300 Level, Ballroom B
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Alison Cox (Brock University)
CE Instructor: T. V. Joe Layng, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: T. V. JOE LAYNG (Endicott College & Generategy, LLC)

It has been 50 years since Israel Goldiamond wrote the groundbreaking article, A Constructional Approach to Social Problems: Ethical and Constitutional Issues Raised by Applied Behavior Analysis. In that article he cites a familiar inspirational phrase and rewords it: “‘There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come” translates into the power of an ‘idea which rationalizes contingencies whose time has come’ or increases their probability.” Such is the case with the Constructional Approach and its rapidly rising popularity and application. Recent concern with consent and assent makes the Constructional Approach more relevant than ever. Using the United States Constitution as a referent, Goldiamond explored the ethical and humanitarian responsibilities of behavior analysts. He argued against using procedures whose primary goal was decelerating the frequency of behavior. Instead, he advocated for programs that “establish behavior, the absence of which is the problem.” The client has a right to their disturbing pattern, which is likely maintained by important personal consequences, though at some cost to the individual and those around them. The goal is to find the sense in the disturbing pattern, by identifying the consequences maintaining it, and finding a way to provide those consequences, without the, or at greatly reduced, cost. All of this is accomplished in partnership with the client. Goldiamond emphasized that disturbing behavior could best be understood in the context of alternative patterns or contingencies available to the individual, a Nonlinear Contingency Analysis, showing that a simple ABC analysis is often inadequate. Had the field adopted the Constructional Approach much of today’s criticism of applied behavior analysis, from within the field and outside of it, could have likely been avoided. This presentation will briefly describe the research history behind the Constructional Approach and Nonlinear Contingency Analysis, the major components of the approach, and a range of intervention strategies, both topical and systemic that are being used today. It will describe how such an approach gives greater insight into complex behavior including emotions and other private experience. A series of cases will be provided that demonstrate the depth and remarkable breadth of the Constructional Approach and Nonlinear Contingency Analysis. They will show that no other approach is so universally applicable. These cases include adult psychiatric/psychological interventions, the treatment of autistic children including difficult to treat reactive and phobic patterns, large scale organizational intervention, and even building repertoires in zoo and other animals. The Constructional Approach and Nonlinear Contingency Analysis provide the tools behavior analysts can use to understand complexity and provide interventions that go beyond many currently popular behavioral and “third-wave” cognitive-behavioral approaches restrained by their focus on pathology and the linear analysis upon which they rely.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts who can understand complexity and provide interventions that go beyond many currently popular behavioral and “third-wave” cognitive-behavioral approaches.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the five components of the Constructional Approach; (2) Distinguish between the linear and nonlinear analysis of behavior; (3) State why the typical ABC analysis is often insufficient; (4) Describe the rational for why building or constructing repertoires is more likely to be maintained than the elimination of patterns; (5) Describe how changing contingencies can change the thoughts and emotions of which they are a function.
T. V. JOE LAYNG (Endicott College & Generategy, LLC)
T. V. Joe Layng has over 50 years of experience in the experimental and applied analysis of behavior with a particular focus on the design of teaching/learning environments. He earned a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences (biopsychology) at the University of Chicago. At Chicago, working with pigeons, he investigated animal models of psychopathology, specifically the recurrence of pathological patterns (head-banging) as a function of normal behavioral processes. Also working with pigeons, Joe collaborated with Paul Andronis and Israel Goldiamond on investigating the production of untrained recombinant, complex symbolic repertoires in pigeons from simpler behavioral components which arose from the arrangement of nonlinear consequential contingencies, a process they described as contingency adduction. Joe has extensive clinical behavior analysis experience with a focus on ambulatory schizophrenia, especially the systemic as well as topical treatment of delusional speech and hallucinatory behavior. He was a Dean at Malcolm X College in Chicago where he founded the award winning Personalized Curriculum Institute. In 1999, he co-founded Headsprout where Joe led the scientific team that developed the technology that formed the basis of the company’s patented Early Reading and Reading Comprehension online reading programs used by millions of children, for which he was the chief architect. Joe is a Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and was the 2020 recipient of the APA: Division 25 Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award. He is widely published including coauthoring a self-instruction book on Signal Detection Theory, and the book Nonlinear Contingency Analysis: Going Beyond Cognition and Behavior in Clinical Practice.



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