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

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Invited Paper Session #346
Behavioral Economics: Bridge Between Behavior Analysis and Government Policy
Monday, May 31, 2010
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Ballroom A (CC)
Area: EAB; Domain: Theory
Chair: Timothy D. Hackenberg (Reed College)
STEVEN R. HURSH (Institutes of Behavior Resources)
Dr. Steven R. Hursh (Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1972) is the President of the Institutes for Behavior Resources and Professor of Behavioral Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Hursh has over thirty-five years experience as a researcher, is author of over 65 articles, book chapters and books and is a former associate editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.
Abstract: A fundamental tenet of behavior analysis is that operant behavior is strengthened by its consequences and that the strength of a reinforcer determines the strength of the behavior it supports. Behavioral economics provides a framework for understanding and measuring reinforcer strength, and by implication, the strength of the behavior it supports. The demand curve is a standard tool used in economics to define how reinforcer consumption varies as a function of the requirements to obtain the reinforcer (price). A model is now available that describes the shape of such curves and provides a single parameter that scales the sensitivity of consumption to cost. Coupled with this model is a related model that effectively categorizes and quantifies interactions between reinforcers—an economic foundation for choice. Together these tools provide an economic framework for translating the findings from laboratory and clinical research to governmental policy. Government policy is often concerned with how to increase or decrease behavior—be it the use of illegal drugs, over-eating, excessive use of alcohol or tobacco, unsafe operation of motor vehicles, inadequate use of preventive health care resources, or risky sexual behavior. Government policy is often about arranging various conditions that affect the cost and benefits of these behaviors, through penalties, taxes, refunds, tax deductions, or opportunity costs. Furthermore, government agencies are required to do an economic analysis of new regulatory requirements, so the framework relating economics to policy already exists. What is missing often is hard data defining the relationship between those costs and the changes in behavior sought by the regulation. Behavior analysis provides the empirical tools to define these relationships and behavioral economics provides the bridge between those data and the economic implications of regulatory initiatives.



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