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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Paper Session #220
Theoretical Issues in Behavior Analysis II
Sunday, May 26, 2024
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Convention Center, 200 Level, 201 C
Area: PCH
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Chair: Andres H. Garcia-Penagos (California State University, Chico)
Against Determinism in Behaviorism: Removing a Needlessly Committing Metaphysical Postulate
Domain: Theory
FREDRIK ANDERSEN (Østfold University College, Norway), Jon Arne Løkke (Østfold University College)
Abstract: Delprato and Midgley (1992) lists determinism as one of the fundamentals of Skinner’s behaviorism. However, it is unclear what determinism means in behaviorism, and how it connects to other concepts such as materialism, free will, and law-likeness. Slife, Yanchar, and Williams (1999) aim to clarify the meaning of determinism for behaviorism, and separate determinism into multiple meanings. We argue that the only meaningful application of the term “determinism” is the metaphysical meaning, which implies that for any given causal set-up, there is a unique and exclusive resultant. This is the classical implication of the term from LaPlace (1814) and onwards. In contrast to determinism, central behaviorist concepts, such as reinforcement and punishment, are described in terms of probability raising/lowering. Probabilities and determinism are fundamentally different and thus behaviorist theory would benefit from clarifying which behaviorally relevant causal relationships should be viewed as deterministic, if any, and which should be viewed as probabilistic. Our position is that there are no behaviorally relevant causal relations that are deterministic. Furthermore, we will argue that the postulate of determinism is generally inapplicable when understanding behavior. We will finally show how prediction, control and law-likeness can be preserved within the theory in absence of determinism.
Applied Behavior Analysis: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff
Domain: Theory
MICHAEL VOLTAIRE (Nova Southeastern University)
Abstract: Abstract: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has an impressive record of providing reliable and effective interventions that are rooted in the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (EAB). The United States Surgeon General, David Satcher, stated in 1999, "Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior." However, there has been a blurring of the line that separates approaches that are ABA and those that are not. Behavior analysts must better inform consumers of what ABA is and juxtapose it to other approaches that have gained popularity and consumer support, specifically Positive Behavior Support and the Developmental, Individual-differences, Relationship-based model (aka DIR/Floortime). What is the Lovaas method's main characteristic compared to more naturalistic behavior modification approaches? How effective are those approaches compared to ABA? This presentation will delineate aspects of each approach and the circumstances that have prompted (1) the development of the behavioral model, (2) its variants, and (3) other non-behavioral models of behavior modification.
Rule-Governed Behavior and the Explanation of Human Behavior: A Case History of the Rise and Fall of a Construct
Domain: Theory
ANDRES H. GARCIA-PENAGOS (California State University, Chico)
Abstract: While interest in the effects of verbal instructions on human behavior can be traced back to their use in applied settings, renewed attention came to the topic with B. F. Skinner's introduction of the notion of "rule-governed behavior" as opposed to "contingency-shaped behavior," which coincided with the rise of cognitivistic approaches in experimental psychology. The concept, in its many guises, inspired much research and theorizing during the following decades, often advanced as the key theoretical construct in defending a radical behaviorist approach to the phenomena that cognitive psychologists were studying in their labs. In the last few decades, however, research on rule-governed behavior has become more and more rare, for a variety of reasons to be discussed in this paper, a decline that was accompanied by an increase in research in the area of stimulus equivalence as the dominant paradigm in the experimental analysis of human behavior. This paper will explore the rise and (apparent) fall of this research tradition in the general context of the parallel rise and (apparent) fall of interest in the experimental analysis of human behavior in general, and in light of recent interest in mainstream psychology and cognitive science on related phenomena.
What It Means to Be “Nonlinear’: Some Applications and Implications
Domain: Theory
PAUL THOMAS ANDRONIS (Northern Michigan University)
Abstract: Recent interest in nonlinear contingency analysis (NCA) has raised questions about exactly what is meant by “nonlinear.” This presentation will distinguish the term as currently used in contingency analysis from its perhaps more familiar usage in mathematics and related fields, and also distinguish between linear and nonlinear contingency analyses. Laboratory work on cooperative behavioral interactions between pigeons will illustrate how nonlinear analyses of complex behavioral relations can resolve issues arising from more conventional linear formulations of these. Such issues may include positing private cognitive variables to explain phenomena when familiar environmental variables or not readily apparent, a problem even more pronounced in applied settings, particularly clinical ones. A brief discussion of a few clinical examples will address some theoretical and practical implications of viewing complex clinical problems as outcomes of resolving nonlinear contingency matrices. The formal model describing nonlinear contingency relations is readily translational in making useful clinical assessments and designing interventions.



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