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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Special Event #221
The Story of ABAI
Saturday, May 25, 2024
10:00 AM–12:50 PM
Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Grand Ballroom Salon H
Domain: Theory
Chair: Mitch Fryling (California State University, Los Angeles)
Discussant: Marcus Marr (Georgia Tech)

This session looks back on the 50-year career of the Association for Behavior Analysis with an eye to its future. The first presentation is focused on the development of ABA as organization, describing the challenges it has faced and overcome throughout its history. The second presentation looks at the mission of ABA and its role in the development and implementation of the organization’s strategic plan. The evolution of the science of behavior analysis, as reflected in ABA conference presentations over its history, is provided in the third presentation. The fourth presentation describes ABA’s longstanding commitment to the preparation of successive generation of behavior analysts as evident in its efforts to develop and sustain quality education programs. Following these presentations, the speakers will participate in a discussion with the audience, focusing on these and related issues as well as the aims and objectives of the Association for Behavior Analysis International going forward.

Instruction Level: Basic

An Inside Perspective on ABAI

MARIA MALOTT (Association for Behavior Analysis International)

I have had the honor and the privilege of serving ABAI for over 30 years as Executive Director/CEO. Since its inception and especially, during the last three decades, the field of behavior analysis, like other disciplines, has been impacted by significant socio-economic changes. ABAI has successfully adjusted to those constantly evolving vicissitudes, while remaining committed to preserving, developing, and disseminating the science of behavior with the ultimate objective of contributing to the well-being of society. With that vision in mind, ABAI has grown from a small membership association to the largest in our field; from producing a convention and a journal to offering a great variety of products and services; from having no employees to establishing a competent and caring team. This presentation offers an inside perspective of ABAI’s growing pains, conflicts, and successes—an account that only a few members in its leadership have benefited from living firsthand. As well, it offers some reflections for future directions.

Since 1993, Dr. Malott has served as Executive Director/CEO of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and Secretary Treasurer of the Society for the Advancement for Behavior Analysis. Previously, she was vice-president of manufacturing in a Midwest company in the United States. In addition, for more than 12 years, she worked as a consultant for a variety of businesses in service, retail, manufacturing, education, government, and others. She has served as affiliate faculty member at five universities and on five editorial boards. She coauthored a textbook on principles of behavior and authored two editions of a textbook on culturo-behavioral change. She has published dozens of peer reviewed publications and hundreds of presentations in 22 countries. In all applied and theoretical work, she specializes in cultural analysis and the management and improvement of behavioral systems. Dr. Malott is a fellow of ABAI and was the recipient of the 2003 Award for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis, the 2004 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organizational Behavior Management, and the 2012 Award for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis. She also received the 2002 Outstanding Alumni Award from the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University.

The ABAI Mission

CAROL PILGRIM (University of North Carolina Wilmington)

The mission of the Association for Behavior Analysis, International is “to contribute to the well-being of society by supporting, developing, and enhancing the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis.” Indeed, the statement of our mission has remained a relative constant since ABAI’s inception in 1974, even as the field of behavior analysis has grown in number, diversity of interests, and professional and educational identifications. For this increasingly complex and varied discipline, it is essential to ensure the strength of, and support for, scientific behavior analysis and the philosophy that underlies it. As ABAI has worked to balance the many, and sometimes competing, priorities of its constituencies, our mission has provided the compass. This presentation will: 1) describe ways in which major challenges for ABAI throughout its history have often involved pressures to deviate from its central mission; and 2) review the role of our mission in determining content and implementation of the organization’s strategic plan as well as the decision-making of its Executive Council over the past 50 years.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim is professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dr. Pilgrim has contributed substantially to behavior analysis through her leadership, teaching, and research. She has served as president of its major organizations, including ABAI (as well as its Southeastern ABA chapter), the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis, and Division 25 (Behavior Analysis) of the American Psychological Association. She also served as secretary of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and as a board member of that organization. She has advanced the dissemination of behavior analysis and the vitality of its journals in her roles as chair of the Publication Board of ABAI, editor of The Behavior Analyst, co-editor of the Experimental Analysis of Human Behavior Bulletin, and associate editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. She has served on the board of directors of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies and other organizations, and chaired numerous committees. Dr. Pilgrim is known, in addition, as a stellar teacher and mentor. She served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UNCW for nine years, and has been recognized with numerous awards, including the North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching and the ABAI Student Committee Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award. Dr. Pilgrim's research expertise and contributions traverse both basic experimental and applied behavior analysis. Her health related research has brought behavior analysis to the attention of scientists and practitioners in cancer prevention, and she is noted for her innovative work on the development and modification of relational stimulus control in children and adults.

The Program

LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)

A science is identified by the products of its scientists as these are presented at its conferences and appear in its journals. The status of a science at any given time is especially evident in its conference presentations because these ordinarily (and ethically) precede their published appearances. The aim of this address is to examine the identity of the science of behavior analysis as revealed in the conference presentations of its scientists over the past fifty years. A retrospective analysis of these products, categorized in accord with present day program areas, will be presented. Changes to submission procedures, speaker invitations, and other relevant administrative actions will be noted as they occurred. The aims of these actions will be described, and their outcomes assessed to the extent possible. Some comments on the status of behavior analysis as a scientific enterprise at the present time will be offered along with some thoughts about its possible futures.

Linda J. Parrott Hayes is a distinguished international professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba and her graduate degrees from Western Michigan University. She was a member of the behavior analysis faculty at West Virginia University while completing her doctorate, after which she returned to Canada, taking a position at St. Mary’s University. Dr. Hayes co-founded the Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, on a self-capitalization model and served as its director for more than a decade. She has received numerous awards for her contributions to the training of behavior analysts including the Fred S. Keller Award for Teaching of Behavior Analysis from the American Psychological Association’s Division 25, an Outstanding Teacher Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Colleges and Universities, an Outstanding Alumna Award from Western Michigan University, and for the program she founded a Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis Award for Enduring Contributions to Behavior Analysis. Dr. Hayes also founded and directs UNR’s Satellite Programs in behavior analysis, aimed at meeting the ever-growing demand for qualified practitioners in regions where appropriate training has been unavailable or inaccessible. Her efforts in this regard have earned her an International Development Award from the Latin Association for Behavior Analysis and Modification, a Global Engagement Award from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a SABA International Development Award. She is a Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International and has served the association in many capacities including coordination of its Practice and Education Boards as well as multiple terms on its Executive Council. Dr. Hayes’ scholarly interests range from the experimental analysis of animal behavior to the logic of science. She is best known for her contributions to behavior theory and philosophy.

Higher Education and the Future of Behavior Analysis

MICHAEL PERONE (West Virginia University)

The vitality, development, and growth of behavior analysis depends on many factors. Perhaps most important is the quality of the educational programs that prepare successive generations of behavior analysts. ABAI’s commitment to education started early in its history with the establishment of the Education and Evaluation Committee in 1977 (just the fourth year of the association’s existence), progressed to the accreditation of graduate and undergraduate programs and, in collaboration with the Behavior Analysis Certification Board, verification of graduate course sequences. This presentation will focus on the development of the accreditation system, the challenges it faces today, and the role that ABAI accreditation plays in securing a future for behavior analysis as a science and profession.

Dr. Michael Perone is a professor in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University. He has made substantial contributions to behavior analysis through his research, service, administration, and teaching. He is well known for his programmatic research on conditioned reinforcement, avoidance, and transitions from rich to lean schedules of reinforcement, and more generally for the elegance and ingenuity of his experimental methodology. He has secured support from NICHHD, OSHA, and NSF for much of his research. His investigations with animals and extensions of basic mechanisms to humans serve as a prototype for research translation. Dr. Perone's accomplishments in administration, service to the discipline, and teaching are similarly noteworthy. Dr. Perone served for 12 years as chair of the West Virginia University Department of Psychology, one of the foremost programs in behavior analysis. He has served as president of ABAI, SABA, SEAB, and SEABA. He has been appointed to key editorial positions for major journals in behavior analysis, represented behavior analysis on the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, and served on numerous committees. In each of those roles, his skill and humor have been instrumental in bringing a charge to effective completion. Dr. Perone has received numerous awards for his teaching and mentoring, which, along with the successes of his former students, are testaments to his effectiveness in that arena as well.



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