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.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #429
Power and Privilege: Synthesizing Behavior Analytic and Feminist Perspectives
Monday, May 28, 2007
3:00 PM–4:20 PM
Cunningham B
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Christeine M. Terry (University of Washington)
Discussant: Madelon Y. Bolling (University of Washington)
Abstract: Power and privilege often operate invisibly and have powerful impacts on opportunities for behavior as well as on actual behaviors of individuals. Feminist writers have examined the impact of power and privilege on individuals. However, from a behavior analytic perspective, feminist conceptualizations of power and privilege suffer from over-reliance on mentalistic causes for behavior, leading to pragmatic as well as theoretical difficulties in understanding behaviors such as resistance and oppression. Behavior analysts have also examined issues of power and privilege, but to a much lesser degree than feminist theorists. Though they do not suffer from the same pragmatic and theoretical difficulties as feminist conceptualizations of power and privilege, behavior analytic conceptualizations tend to ignore how the individual making the analysis impacts the very analysis they are creating. Additionally, behavior analysts have struggled to understand issues of power and privilege from a systemic/process approach. This symposium will examine power and privilege from each perspective, behavior analytic and feminist, more thoroughly discuss problems associated with each perspective’s conceptualizations of power and privilege, and finally, suggest an application of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) that synthesizes both perspectives.
Power, Privilege, and Prejudice: Inconspicuous but Prevalent Sources of Behavioral Control.
MARIA R. RUIZ (Rollins College)
Abstract: For behavior analysts to speak about power is to speak about sources of control. Those who hold social power have access to resources and can arrange consequences and set the stimulus conditions under which they operate to select behavior. The powerful are also in a position to determine what behaviors will be shaped/selected within a social group. In our culture, disproportionate levels of power to control contingencies of reinforcement have been managed by members of certain social groups historically designated on the basis of sex, race, ethnic background etc. Members of powerful groups, for example Caucasian males, have in turn been benefactors of disproportionate levels of resources thus maintaining systems of power and privilege. Well established systems of social power are not only self perpetuating, but they are often subtle and invisible even to those who administer them. A powerful example is the differential reinforcement of behavior emitted by male children (Sadker & Sadker, 1994) in American classrooms, particularly when contrasted with the reinforcement received by black females for equivalent academic behavior (Irvin, 1986). A related and consistent finding is that teachers are typically unaware that the child’s sex and race are exerting discriminative control over their classroom practices. We will discuss why this state of affairs regarding power, privilege and prejudice should be of concern to behavior analysts.
Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP): A Context to Analyze and Work with Issues of Power and Privilege.
CHRISTEINE M. TERRY (Washington State University), Madelon Y. Bolling (University of Washington)
Abstract: Feminist writers argue that power and privilege are significant influences in generating and maintaining behaviors both on a societal level and within the therapeutic context. In the therapeutic context, blindness to power and privilege in the therapist’s life as well as in the client’s can lead to ineffective behavior change strategies. While feminists have discussed power and privilege at length, behavior analysts have only begun to explore these issues, primarily at the macro-level (e.g., Mattaini; Biglan) and behavior analytic conceptualizations of power and privilege tend to ignore how the individual making the analysis impacts the very analysis they are creating. One barrier to using a feminist perspective in a behavior analytic context is the reliance on mentalistic concepts. A non-mentalistic behavior analytic approach to phenomena of interest to feminists can help correct blind spots and contribute understanding to both traditions. With a new understanding of power and privilege, the question of how to apply this new understanding arises. This paper will first briefly review the fusion of behavior analytic and feminist perspectives in understanding power and privilege and then suggest an application of the combined approach in an adult outpatient behavior therapy, Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP).



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh