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.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Special Event #470
Presidential Address: Why Be a Behavior Analyst?
Monday, May 26, 2008
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Grand Ballroom
Chair: Janet S. Twyman (Headsprout)
Presidential Address: Why Be a Behavior Analyst?
Abstract: In her 2007 Presidential Address, Janet Twyman urged us to think objectively about the status and health of behavior analysis as a science. For me, the most profound and important question she posed was this: “Why be a behavior analyst today and not something else?” Although in some respects our field has changed dramatically in recent decades, I believe the answer to this question has not. Consider that today’s behavior analyst has access to conceptual tools, behavior change strategies, and measurement and evaluation tactics that are more powerful and sophisticated than ever before. As a result, behavior analysis has a greater capacity than ever before to help make the world a better place. Several examples of how behavior analysis is contributing to the betterment of humankind will be presented to illustrate this potential. In sizing up the contributions of contemporary behavior analysis, current and potential, it is easy to overlook the fact that the behavior analyst’s toolkit, while quite different on the surface than that of several decades ago, is derived from fundamental principles and techniques that have long been part of our field’s heritage. All behavior analysts, whether they work in the conceptual, basic, or applied branches of the science, share a common empirical and philosophical ancestry. One way to understand and communicate this heritage is to examine some of the wisdom about the study and practice of behavior analysis from our field’s founders and pioneering researchers. These axioms will be well known to this organization’s veteran members (though it won’t hurt any of us to review them). Such a review takes on special urgency in a growing organization with one half of its members having entered the field in the last decade. Some of ABAI’s younger members—those whose work will determine the future directions, vitality, and usefulness of behavior analysis—may have had limited exposure to these timeless lessons about science, behavior, and the science of behavior. The process of examining some of the contributions of contemporary behavior analysis alongside the wisdom of those who made such advancements possible answers the question, “Why be a behavior analyst?”
WILLIAM L. HEWARD (The Ohio State University)
Dr. William L. Heward is Professor Emeritus of Education at The Ohio State University (OSU) where he taught for 30 years. Internationally recognized for his work in applied behavior analysis and special education, Dr. Heward has served as a Visiting Professor of Psychology at Keio University in Tokyo and as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Portugal. His publications include more than 100 journal articles and book chapters and nine books, including the widely used texts, Applied Behavior Analysis (co-authored with John O. Cooper and Timothy E. Heron) and Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education, which is in its eighth edition and has been translated into several foreign languages. In 1985, he received OSU’s highest honor for teaching excellence: the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award. A Fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Dr. Heward received the 2006 Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award by Division 25 of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Heward’s current research interests include “low-tech” methods for increasing the effectiveness of group instruction and adaptations of curriculum and instruction that promote the generalization and maintenance of newly learned knowledge and skills.



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