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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

Previous Page


Invited Paper Session #534
The Tyranny of Small Decisions: Behavior, Biology, Culture, and the Fate of Our Society
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
103AB (CC)
Area: EAB; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: Raymond C. Pitts (University of North Carolina, Wilmington)
WARREN K. BICKEL (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)
Warren Bickel is Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in the College of Medicine and College of Public Health (COPH) and holds the Wilbur D. Mills Chair of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Prevention. He serves as Director of the UAMS Center for Addiction Research and as Director of COPH’s Center for the Study of Tobacco Addiction at UAMS. In these roles, he oversees the development of research addressing addiction and tobacco dependence. Dr. Bickel received his Ph.D. in developmental and child psychology in 1983 from the University of Kansas, completed post doctoral training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1985, and then joined the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1987, he relocated to the University of Vermont where he became a Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology and Interim-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry. He serves as Principal Investigator on several NIDA grants. His recent research includes the application of behavioral economics to drug dependence with an emphasis on the discounting of the future and the use of information technologies to deliver science-based prevention and treatment. Dr. Bickel is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Joseph Cochin Young Investigator Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), the Young Psychopharmacologist Award from the Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse of the American Psychological Association, and a NIH Merit Award from NIDA. He served as President of the Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse, American Psychological Association and as President of CPDD. Dr. Bickel was Editor of the journal, Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, has co-edited three books, and published over 200 papers.
Abstract: Over the past 40 years there has been unprecedented increases in a wide range of challenges and problems for humanity including increasing addiction not only to drugs, but to gambling, internet, and videos games. This has escalated debt, global climate change, and ever expanding problems of obesity. Traditionally, our scientific approaches to these and other related problems have considered each problem to be distinct and separate phenomena requiring its own solution. In contrast, in this talk I make a strong case that these diverse challenges are in fact the results of common processes. The process is the inability to value future events. Individuals who can value the future can work for future outcomes and consequences. When this process is inadequate or fails to operate, individuals only value the immediate option be it getting high, eating food, playing videogames, purchasing items to satisfy today’s needs, or consuming energy at ever increasing rates. The ability to consider the future or to ignore it derives from our biology, our evolutionary history, our developmental trajectory, and are strongly influenced by our culture and our local environments. Fundamentally, this talk suggests that human history and our collective future is about whether we consider the future or will only consider the present and in doing so be trapped by the tyranny of small decisions. This talk will provide a new framework for evaluating our human problems and suggest new ways to redress them.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh